Season 2, episode 5: “Working Girl”

Readers, I will be honest with you. I was very worried watching the first few episodes of season 2. The acting and characterization had suddenly gotten better, the costume design was less obnoxious, and I even begin to feel for Lizzie. Lizzie McGuire! The selfish screaming nightmare tween! Maybe this show was actually going to be good in the second season. What would I write about if that were the case?

I’m not worried anymore, guys. Ol’ Screamin’ Lizzie is BACK and she’s bitchier than ever!

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This episode concerned me for the first minute since it begins with Lizzie jumping around being bubbly and sweet and nice to her parents. It turns out this was all a trick because she is only doing so to butter them up before she asks them for a raise on her allowance. When they say no, she busts out her old habit of screaming at the top of her lungs and stomping her feet. Isn’t it weird that the writers would actually include a scene where the protagonist is pleasant and likeable only as setup for a punchline that she’s actually an awful human being?

Lizzie screams that she deserves more money because she’s fourteen now and she needs more freedom and independence. Plotlines like these always rang extremely hollow to me, as I grew up in one of the strictest households in America. Here, for instance, I would have rolled my eyes because I didn’t get an allowance at all. However, I will point it out that it’s some bullshit that Sam slips Matt money for no reason when the brat has racked up 10 months of advances on his allowance.

Lizzie, who lacks freedom and independence due to her oppressive parents, meets her friends for an unsupervised hangout session at the Digital Bean where they all get to spend their own money and not do any homework. Those poor kids! Lizzie complains that her parents clearly want “complete and total control” of her life forever. Clearly.

Now seems like a good time to point out that this episode is absolutely jam-packed with obnoxious bits, extended jokes, and over-the-top reaction shots. A lot of this is clearly over-direction by this week’s director Anson Williams, which is a problem I’ve had with him in the past. However, most of the blame should probably go to Nina Bargiel, who co-wrote this episode with Jeremy Bargiel, one of the Two Big Guys and I think maybe her brother. Nina is responsible for some of my least favorite episodes –  the bra one, the Aaron Carter one, the one where we learned it’s dumb to care about the environment, and now this one.

Anyway, in this scene, Miranda keeps trying to tell Lizzie to get a job, but Lizzie keeps talking over her! Then Gordo tells her to get a job and Lizzie says “Good idea!” And Miranda’s all like “oh brother.” That’s the caliber of bit I’m talking about.

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The Digital Bean is looking for a busboy, so Lizzie inquires and gets the job. She tells Gordo and Miranda to visit her during her shift, saying that it would be fun and she would get them free drinks. I sure hope her expectations about working aren’t unrealistic!

Matt plays with some kid we’ve never seen before named Reggie. Where’s Lanny? Or Oscar? Reggie is only in this one scene, which is good because both his diction and his line delivery are godawful. Here he yells, slushily, “Matt is something up with YOU! You didn’t! Even! Notice! I threw! The ball.” Matt says he’s depressed because Melina the Demon Child has been wrecking shit with some other prepubescent punk so she must not like him anymore. Reggie says Matt should get a girl’s advice and tells him to talk to Lizzie, and Matt yells, “Ewww! Lizzie’s not a GIRL – she’s my SISTER!” I fucking hate lines like that on kids’ shows. They’re so pandering.

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Lizzie tells her parents that she got a job at what Hilary Duff is still calling “the Dijjadull Bean” because the word “digital” is still tripping these actors up after 12 episodes of Digital Bean plotlines. Her parents yell at her but let her keep the job, though it took me a while to process that because there’s another zany bit crammed into this scene, much to the detriment of the dialogue. Lizzie takes her dad’s plate off the table before he’s done eating, so whenever she turns to address him he tries to get some food, but she always turns to talk to her mom every time he almost gets the food! Sam’s all like “oh, brother.”

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Matt tries to talk to Lizzie but she runs off. Jo says she can talk to him, but he says he needs to talk to a GIRL! We get exaggerated reaction shots from Jo and Sam.

At work, Lizzie serves customers food, which I wouldn’t think would be a busboy’s task, and gets yelled at a lot by her comically mean boss. Lizzie accidentally knocks a whole bunch of silverware on the floor. She also responds to every order from her boss with sarcasm and responds to any reprimand from her boss with snarling rudeness. It’s all extremely unprofessional.

Matt arrives – how do these kids get to the Digital Bean? – and sits at the bar. “Juice, no ice, keep ’em comin’,” he says, and someone keeps sliding little shots of juice down the bar at him. Lizzie can’t talk to him while he’s working, but Gordo and Miranda arrive. “Hitting the juice pretty hard there, aren’t ya, Matt?” says Miranda. I hate jokes like this in kids shows too! It’s so clearly something adults think is funny, but kids don’t.

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Miranda asks what’s wrong, and Matt says she wouldn’t understand, because he needs to talk to a GIRL! The joke is just as unfunny the third time.

Matt says Melina likes someone else , and Miranda says, “Melina doesn’t realize how great she has it. Matt, you’re a great kid.” Bullshit! I literally cannot think of one non-harmful thing Matt has done to date in the entire series. But Miranda tells Matt that if Melina doesn’t appreciate him, she’s not worth it. That’s okay advice, I guess. However, Matt somehow interprets it to mean that Miranda likes him.

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Lizzie keeps squirting herself in the face with ketchup all throughout this scene, so Gordo and Miranda leave and say, “I guess we’ll catch up with Lizzie later,” and in an episode jam-packed with terrible jokes and dumb bits they surprisingly don’t do anything with the phrase catch up sounding like ketchup. They also drop the setup for Lizzie to get in trouble getting them free drinks that I thought was being clearly outlined two scenes ago.

Gordo and Miranda come over later that night and Matt gives Miranda a creepy card with their faces on it. If you’re hoping that this subplot will have any feminist message about women always dealing with unwanted attention from men, you can let that hope die right now.

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The next day, Gordo and Miranda hang out at the Digital Bean to wait for Lizzie’s shift to be over, and Matt stalks Miranda all decked out in his stalking best, a giant pin with her face on it, and a custom I ❤ MRNDA tag on his Razor scooter. This leads to the only good joke of the episode when an amused Gordo reads the tag out loud: “He hearts you, Merrnda!” Merrnda gripes, “I need a drink,” because this episode really loves doubling down on its bad gags.

Here’s another moment where it feels like the director wanted to throw in a bit for a bit’s sake. Gordo laughs at Miranda, so she makes a fist at him and chases him.  I’m blaming the director because I can’t imagine how this would have been scripted. There can’t have been a line written here because Lalaine just ad-libs, “Oh, I’mma kick!”

Kate and Claire are at the Digital Bean too, so they spill their drinks just so Lizzie will have to clean them up. Lizzie screams at them because she has no concept of customer service. Her boss reprimands her for this and we’re supposed to find it very unfair to Lizzie. She then snarls at her boss and snaps some more at her customers, which I guess we’re supposed to think is logical and acceptable.

Note that there is a really bad extra in this scene who is supposed to be at a computer but is instead watching the action and making very bold reactive faces.

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Later, I guess on the weekend, Lizzie lies in bed ignoring her alarm and Sam comes in to ask if she’s going to work. She says she has to and he says she could just quit because she’s so unhappy there. Lizzie says, “It’s called a job because it requires a little work.” What? That doesn’t make sense. It should be “it’s called work because it requires work.”

Sam says Lizzie is just a kid and needs to focus on having fun. I assume they decided that Sam and not Jo would be the one to give this talk because Sam’s only character trait besides confusion is his wish to abandon his life. Remember when he confessed that he wanted to escape his family every day? Remember when he turned a request for advice into a monologue about how much he longed for his lost youth?

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Matt goes full-blown stalker by somehow filling Miranda’s room with balloons with his face on them. Miranda is very upset about this but when she calls Gordo to complain, he just laughs at her because he doesn’t respect women’s feelings or boundaries. Matt calls Miranda but Miranda doesn’t say “Stop doing this shit, you weirdo.” Instead she says yes when Matt asks her out. Ladies, don’t be afraid to hurt men’s feelings!

At work Lizzie gets a bunch of terrible customers, except they’re actually all pretty standard customers. All customers are pretty bad. And anyway, Lizzie doesn’t even give any of them what they’re asking for and is instead a complete asshole to every single person who asks for her help. Her boss gives her a task to do and she snaps at her. Again, we’re supposed to sympathize with Lizzie even though she’s being a terrible employee and person.

Kate and Claire spill their drinks again and this time, of course, Lizzie slips on the spilled drink and falls. This sends her over the edge, and she goes into a full rant, yelling at Kate and Claire, insulting every customer she had that day to their faces, shoving a bagel into a customer’s mouth for asking her for a clean utensil, and telling her boss off for “always telling me what to do and asking me for things.” It’s all completely irrational.

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She also explains that she wanted the job so she could get freedom and independence but working there didn’t make her feel free or independent. I thought for sure that this was Lizzie’s Jerry Maguire moment, and this speech was leading to her quitting, but nope! She cheerily says, “I feel a lot better now” and goes back to work, only to be gobsmacked when her boss fires her. Getting fired in front of everyone, including Kate and Claire, humiliates Lizzie and we’re supposed to feel bad for her even though she just displayed the worst customer service of all time.

This can’t have been in the original script, right? Why would the writers include a scene of her dad inspiring her to quit right before a scene where she snaps and lists everything she hates about her job but doesn’t quit? Do you think the Disney people said that Lizzie would be a bad influence if she gave up? But they didn’t object to all of the other instances of Lizzie being a terrible influence throughout this episode, and indeed this whole series?

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Miranda goes over to the McGuire household to set that straight, but when she does Melina bursts in to tell Miranda to back off her man. Melina yells at Matt to come with her and there’s a whip crack sound effect. I don’t like the gender politics of this plot line at all.

Lizzie comes home and says she was fired but she doesn’t really care. “If I’m always working, how would I have time to spend the money?” she says. I can’t believe the Disney people didn’t think that gross display of privilege was a bad lesson for kids. Lizzie pulls a cake out of the fridge, somehow without noticing that it says I ❤ Miranda, so Miranda scoops off all the frosting with her hands and shoves it in her face so Lizzie won’t know about her and Matt. Everyone laughs and that’s the end.

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And we’re back to my old rant from season one: why does this show go out of its way to make Lizzie so unrelatable and unlikeable? She was a petulant brat every single minute while she was on the job. She was rude to strangers, rude to her boss, and rude to her parents. She was even rude to her friends when they stopped by to visit her and she snapped at them that they better not make any messes. At least it’s good to know that I’ll have enough anger to carry me through the rest of the series!

Weird never-popular youth culture slang: I think they’re dialing back on this this season!

Unnecessary references: the title is a reference to the movie Working Girl; Cartoon Lizzie turns into Popeye and says, “I’ve had all I can stand and I can’t stand no more!”

Notable fashion moments: I am extremely chagrined to report that Miranda wore two different hairstyles that I actually wore at this time.

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Although I’m pretty sure this show actually inspired the second one. What an ouroboros of fashion crimes. Thanks, show, for helping middle school me realize there was a way to make your hair look like braids, only easier! And shittier-looking!

Miranda wears some American stuff, I guess because someone finally realized she was going extremely overboard with her Anglophilia. This was extremely on-trend at the time, too, because after September 11th everything got super super patriotic for a while.

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Luckily, there is one Miranda look I never sported, which is this extremely Avril Lavigne-adjacent look.

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They’ve started dressing Claire in really sporty looks, which were actually trendy at the time, so again, it really just reinforces that Claire should be the mean girl of the school. She looks cooler and more intimidating!

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Jo keeps wearing really chunky sweaters under the new costume designer’s reign, and they honestly seem extremely unseasonal. Lizzie is wearing a tank top…

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…and Sam is wearing his basic dad uniform, and Jo looks like she should be baking Christmas cookies.

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Other interesting tidbits: Jake Thomas did indeed have a crush on Lalaine during filming! I learned this from his AMA, which, again, I can’t recommend highly enough. Guys, Miranda is definitely a lesbian, right? The character of Miranda, I mean – I don’t want any weird speculation about Lalaine the actress. This is not that kind of blog. But the character of Miranda, the girl wearing a bucket hat and tie and cargo shorts in this episode, she’s definitely a lesbian. Right? In the scene where she tries to break up with Matt, he asked if she was seeing someone else – implying Gordo – and Miranda scoffed at the idea, and my brain said, “No, of course not, she’s a lesbian,” like that was canon.

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9 thoughts on “Season 2, episode 5: “Working Girl”

  1. Interesting note about terrible TV director Anson Williams: He’s was actually pretty damn famous in the ’70s-early ’80s because he played the dorky friend “Potsy” on Happy Days, which was a big hit sitcom set in the ’50s and was clearly inspired by George Lucas’ pre=Star Wars film American Graffiti.

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    1. Yeah, I’ve seen that on his imdb! Some of his episodes have had interesting direction, some have had distracting direction.

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      1. I’m just suggesting that, considering the tone of your blog, it might be appropriate to simply refer to him as “Potsie” any time he shows up in the future. And you may want to share something like this with your readers:

        That’s Oscar-winning director Ron Howard dancing with the Fonz. Williams is the other grown man playing a teenager dressed in girls clothes in the scene.

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  2. When I used to watch this show as a kid, I never fully realized just how big of a brat Lizzie could be – and this episode is possibly the worst. Complaining that her boss is always asking her to do stuff? Seriously? I guess this is why those types of jobs go to college students IRL, and not middle schoolers.

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    1. Thank you for calling attention to something that I didn’t even think to point out – that middle schoolers don’t usually have jobs. I guess I’ve been brainwashed by so many Digital Bean episodes that I’ve started to think of a coffee shop for tweens, staffed by tweens, is normal.

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      1. Haha, no problem. Watching this show when I was 10-11 years old definitely gave me unrealistic expectations of what middle school life would be like 🙂

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  3. Everyone had an allowance raise but Lizzie. Sam could have said that her only jobs were to get good grades, enjoy being a kid, and be too nice to family. Sam should have been the enemy to the friends.

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