Season 2, episode 3: “Mom’s Best Friend”

Did anyone else watch The Weekenders? It was a vastly superior show to Lizzie McGuire in every imaginable way and it was one of my favorite shows as a kid. The Weekenders had this running gag where every weekend the local pizza place renovated and became a different themed pizza place.

My point is that Mr. Dig now seems to be the only teacher in school and a better show would make a running gag out of this lazy casting. This week he’s teaching English and assigns the boys a book report on the real book A River Runs Through It and the girls a book report on the fake book The Orchids and Gumbo Poker Club. The boys’ book is about father-son relationships and the girls’ is about mother-daughter relationships, so fuck anyone in this class with a nontraditional or dysfunctional family.

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Lizzie ends up totally enchanted with The Orchids and Gumbo Poker Club and its terribly designed prop dust jacket as she reads it aloud in her room, fighting back tears and mispronouncing words like “divan.”

Matt and Lanny are bored and a chimp jumps through the window. If I had a dime for every time a chimp jumped through my window as a youngster, I would have zero dimes. In Jake Thomas’ AMA – which I highly recommend reading – he describes this chimp as “creepy” and describes the whole experience of filming this episode as “fuck that.”

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The chimp wrecks Matt’s entire room, then jumps back out the window right before Sam runs in to reprimand Matt for wrecking his room. There is some kind of boy-who-cried-wolf lesson to be learned here, like if you ruin shit for everybody all the time then no one will believe you when someone else ruins shit and you get blamed.

Lizzie continues tearing through The Orchids and Gumbo Poker Club. There’s this nice choice to leave her windows open with a breeze softly blowing her curtains, which heightens the romantic feel of Lizzie’s reading scenes but also made me worry that the chimp was going to jump through the window.

We get a really delightful imagined scene of Lizzie and Jo as the central characters in her book. Hallie Todd does a great job with the melodramatic acting style and old-fashioned Southern accent, and I loved the intentionally terrible dialogue here too.

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Lizzie runs downstairs and announces she wants to be friends with her mom and Jo is of course delighted. Hallie Todd is super cute here, too! She’s not being super corny or over-the-top like Jo was sometimes forced to be last season. Sam keeps interrupting their conversation to tell them to shut up while he’s watching TV and scream objectifying things like “Look at her – she is gorgeous!” and other shit that creeped me out until the punchline of the scene revealed that he was watching a dog show. You can tell it was a punchline because it was accompanied by no less than three goofy sound effects.

The chimp wrecks the whole damn house, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage. Sam tries to ground both Matt and Lanny for it, but realizes he can’t, so he grounds Matt twice as long. We don’t always get continuity on this show, but at least they decided to keep Sam’s abusive, irrational punishments consistent.

Lizzie brings her mom to the Digital Bean to hang out with her friends, confusing everyone. Miranda and Gordo have this terrible dialogue exchange when Jo leaves the table:

Gordo: Parents scrape and sacrifice to provide us with shelter, support and guidance, and in return, we have as little to do with them as possible. It’s nature’s law.

Miranda: Yeah. It’s like you come home and they ask, “What did you do today?” and we say “Mmm, nothing.” And they ask, “Well, what are you doing tonight?” and we say, “I dunno!” And they ask, “Why don’t you ever talk to us?” We say, “Why can’t you just leave me alone!” And you run upstairs.

Gordo: As little communication as possible. It prepares us for marriage.

It’s crazy how Disney Channel had no qualms presenting really fucked-up lessons to their viewers as facts. Lizzie says maybe it’s okay to be kind, not antagonistic, to your parents and that parents might have good advice sometimes. Tell that to Season 1 Lizzie, Lizzie!

So Lizzie and her mom take a pottery class so they can bond by themselves. There is a super weird bit with them wishing they could sculpt from a live model and they both squeal “Denzel Washington!” What middle school girl has a crush on Denzel Washington? Girls in my middle school had crushes on babyfaced CW actors.

Jo gets a call and answers it even though her hands are gross.

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The call stresses her out so Lizzie badgers her to tell her what it was about since they’re friends now. Jo tells Lizzie that her grandparents are considering getting a divorce – apparently Lizzie’s Nana wants to leave her husband and live life more. Jo says it’s nice to be able to talk to Lizzie about this sort of thing even though Lizzie is really disturbed by this.

Gordo and Miranda decide to try hanging out with their parents.

Matt and Lanny have a zany chimp-hunting montage.

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Gordo’s dad squeezes Gordo in for a short appointment with him as a designated hanging out time. Miranda’s mom is overjoyed at the prospect of her child actually wanting to spend time with her. Both bits are supposed to be funny but they both made me kind of sad.

Jo starts spilling more details about Nana’s crumbling marriage and says it’s as stressful as the time the McGuires had hella tax problems and thought they were gonna lose the house but it turned out to be a mix-up because Sam’s social security number was one digit off from Bill Gates’s. It’s crazy that the government told him that. Seems like that’s enabling some identity thefting.

All this information freaks Lizzie out, so she ditches her mom for some alone time. Sam gets caught in a monkey trap and Matt reveals that that the whole point of the trap was to catch Sam so he could be monkey bait. Dads are suuuuuuuch dummies. Jake Thomas fucks up his line here, by the way. He says, “Lanny knew if that you got caught in our banana trap, the monkey couldn’t resist coming out and laughing at you,” mixing up the “if” and “that,” but they kept it in, probably because his diction is slushy anyway or because they felt bad for him since he was so shaken by having to work with the creepy chimp.

Jo finds Lizzie to tell her that Nana isn’t going to leave her husband after all and Lizzie said she’s glad and must have freaked out for no reason. Jo says she didn’t realize she was freaking out and Lizzie says maybe they just can’t be friends for a few years. Seems like there could be a better compromise here.

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It turns out that the chimp belongs to the two big guys, wearing the same outfits as the last time we saw them. I don’t know how they found out that they were the chimp’s owners but hey, that resolved that plotline.

At the Digital Bean, Miranda and Gordo go over their bonding experiences with their parents. Miranda says her mom was so thrilled to spend time with her that she spent a ton of money on her, which makes Miranda feel guilty. Gordo says his meticulously scheduled fishing trip with his dad was ruined by a skunk. They both sort of shrug and conclude that hanging out with parents is hard even though it seems like Miranda can just hang out with her mom more and Gordo can get years of therapy and they’ll both be fine.

Lizzie’s mom drops her off at the Digital Bean and doesn’t stay to hang out because they aren’t friends anymore, but Lizzie still smiles at her mom so maybe they did reach a compromise of Lizzie not being a total bitch to her 24/7.

This season is definitely better than the first in terms of more coherent episodes and better-flowing dialogue, and the writers seem to be making a deliberate effort to make Lizzie more likeable. She’s almost too sweet in this episode, constantly smiling and giggling, and the scene with her telling her mom that she couldn’t handle being friends with her was actually somewhat affecting. (Hallie Todd, though, is the real MVP of this episode. She’s consistently so good as Jo and really knocks it out of the park here.) Lizzie’s becoming more of the classic Disney Channel protagonist who always Does the Right Thing Even If It’s Unpopular. It’s bland, but it’s definitely less infuriating.

Unnecessary references: Matt calls the chimp “that dang dirty ape.”

Notable fashion moments: Lizzie wears rad pajamas that I thought were covered in shrimp or lobsters but which might be covered in cowboys and cowboy hats? What a Rorschach test of an outfit.

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Jo has different mom hair again and I don’t like it when I was so used to her weird funky style from last season. Hallie Todd’s acting was not as bad as this unfortunate screenshot suggests.

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Lizzie wears this shirt that says PROM with a crown on it, so I guess it meant “prom queen”? Sure, nothing is more relatable to average girls than being prom queen.  That necklace is her new favorite necklace this season. She wears it all the time.

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Jo wears a weird sweater and I’m still not used to her wearing different clothes.

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But boy does Miranda’s mom hold down the funky mom look!

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Lizzie wears a shirt that is ugly as sin.

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Other interesting tidbits: Miranda’s mom is really well-cast. She looks so much like Lalaine even though she’s Mexican and Lalaine is Filipina. This show often describes Gammy McGuire, Sam’s mother, as being a daredevil. However, two episodes now (this one and the pilot) have also painted Jo’s mother Nana as adventurous. I thought it was a mistake before, but now I guess the show just thinks it’s funny if old people like doing stuff. The monkey reads a newspaper and it is very “Awful Typography Destroys Suspension of Disbelief.”

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When Lizzie asks her mom to be friends, she says, “I don’t mean like you drive me to soccer practice and I get you a vanilla scented candle for Mother’s Day.” Lizzie plays soccer? No fucking way.

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