I don’t know why I’m surprised to see the finale air twelve episodes early, considering the pilot aired four episodes late. But I was bummed to find this out when I first started looking over the airing order and thought it would be annoying to end the project on a relatively low note, with a random episode.
I was relieved, then, to realize that this finale is hot garbage and it’s best to get it out of the way as soon as possible.
I remembered the finale as being very dramatic and important. So I was surprised to revisit it and find a goddamn clips episode. It’s written by someone who never wrote for the show before – in fact, it’s written by someone who had never written before, period; this is the first writing credit on their imdb.
It’s insultingly bad TV. Lizzie seems like a caricature of herself, and all of the tension you think they’ve been building about Gordo and Lizzie is resolved in the most treacly, forced way.
AND THERE’S NO MIRANDA. It’s an injustice. I wonder when exactly the production team found out that Lalaine was leaving. Since the airing order was nonsense anyway, I wish they could have just filmed the finale earlier in the season and cut Miranda out of a more useless episode, like “Those Freaky McGuires” or “The Longest Yard.”
I can basically summarize the entire episode by saying “Gordo and Lizzie look back on middle school,” since that’s all it is. If the world needed a collection of clips that make the show look happy and fun and gloss over its annoying and problematic parts, we could just watch the “I Can’t Wait” music video!
Call me crazy, but I would think the Lizzie McGuire finale would start with Lizzie McGuire. We’ve gotten cold opens that focus on Lizzie getting ready for big days before, like “Picture Day” or “I Do, I Don’t.” Ideally she would be on one of her morning three-way chats with Gordo and Miranda about the last week of middle school, but since that’s not possible, we should get her talking to her mom or something.
But no, this episode starts with Matt. He’s sleeping on the floor partially inside the fridge because it was too hot in his room the night before. Sam and Jo pick him up, tell him to get ready for school, and say he can go swimming in the public pool later. Matt’s subplot barely counts as one this episode.
Lizzie comes downstairs for one of the famous McGuire sibling lame insult exchanges. “Pardon me, Your Royal HEINOUS!” says Matt, which isn’t too bad, but Lizzie responds with “Bug off, FRIGID AIR!” which doesn’t function as an insult and doesn’t make sense since she never saw him in the fridge. She gloats about going off to high school soon, and Sam says, “Not yet, young lady! You have to graduate first!” and no one says “And don’t forget about the big class trip to Rome that I’d think you’d be a lot more excited about!”
Jo is very weepy about Lizzie growing up. This series started with Jo trying so hard to get through to Lizzie and guide her through her middle school years, but that gets chucked out this episode for this bit about how moms are so emotional and crazy.
Lizzie blows off her mom’s feelings by snapping, “I don’t have time for this! Yearbooks are coming out, and I’m going to have to sign ‘You rock. Don’t ever change’ like 800 times.”
That’s very important to this episode: everyone at this school writes that in yearbooks.
At school, Lizzie is super excited about starting high school and Gordo is a wet blanket and complains about her being excited. They get to their lockers to find that high schoolers have left flyers with a threatening list of rules for incoming freshmen, which freaks Lizzie out. Kate shows up to say that rules don’t apply to girls like her, only to people like “Gor-dork” and “Lose-y.” That insult alone gets this episode a “Kate sucks at bullying” tag from me.
Principal Mr. Moseby makes an announcement that yearbooks would be available the next day – so why was Lizzie rushing to school to sign them that day? – and Kate says Lizzie won’t even get two signatures because Miranda’s gone. Lizzie very angrily retorts, “Kate, she had to leave early to vacation with her family in Mexico!” Wow, that exposition was smooth as butter. Honestly, since this is a clips episode, we should get a whole clip montage dedicated to Miranda. Instead, her existence is mostly ignored.
I’m picking apart these early scenes because they’re the only real scenes this episode. A whole lot of nothing is coming up.
Lizzie says that Kate’s right and she is a loser, even though I thought they’d gotten past caring about Kate. Isn’t Lizzie supposed to be all confident in eighth grade? Gordo says high school will be great, because he’s already been there, and we get a clip of him in high school from “Movin’ On Up.” The entire rest of the episode is like that. It’s especially lame because the dialogue is so clunky and unnatural. “Remember when this happened?” *clip* “Oh yeah! I do remember when that happened.”
Matt and Melina find out the public pool is closed.
Sam finds Lizzie sulking in her room about the scary high school rules and comforts her by saying that seniors always try to prank freshmen. He says when he was in high school, seniors used to throw freshmen in the trashcans but adds that high school wasn’t bad because he met Jo then. We get a flashback to them meeting while stuffed in trashcans, which is a perfect meet-cute for the founders of this garbage family.
Sam says Lizzie really grew up in middle school and points out that she tried running for class president, doing rhythmic gymnastics, saving the environment, and getting a job so we can get clips of all of those things. Lizzie says she failed at those things so we get clips of her failing at all of those things. Sam says the important thing is that she tried and says she’ll be fine in high school. Why does Sam get this moment with Lizzie? He hasn’t earned this! He’s clueless. It should be Jo.
Lizzie and Gordo pick up their yearbooks and say that they’re glad their Monte Carlo Night stunt got everyone in the yearbook so it’s not just a tribute to Kate. That’s not what their stunt was about! They just made it into a tribute to Lizzie instead, with a 2-page spread of just photos of her. It turns out that that was unnecessary anyway, because the entire yearbook is devoted to her.
They acknowledge Miranda’s existence for half a second when they see a picture of her and then they move on to reminiscing about the “Come Fly With Me” dance so we can get a clip of it. They reminisce about Lizzie falling – weirdly, just once, even though they definitely have dozens of clips for that – so we can get a clip of it. They reminisce about the food fight so we can get a clip of it.
Tudgeman asks Lizzie to sign his yearbook and she comes up with a lovely, touching message about how unique he is. Let’s be honest, Lizzie is way too basic for heartfelt, well-written yearbook messages, right? She’d be the one to write “You were always SO CRAZIE lol 🙂 ❤ HAGS!”
When he leaves, Lizzie says, “There goes the only boy that ever truly liked me in junior high,” even though she supposedly just found out Gordo liked her so that’s a dick thing to say to him, and even though boys constantly throw themselves at Lizzie. Gordo brings up Ronnie but fails to mention millionaire celebrities Frankie Muniz or Aaron Carter. We get the clip of Gordo consoling Lizzie after Ronnie broke up with her, then Gordo smashes his head against the wall thinking about it because he should have told Lizzie he liked her. Lizzie asks why he’s smashing his head against the wall and he says, “Oh, I just have a headache.” I’m writing about this in detail so you can appreciate that every line of this episode is bad.
At home, in the middle of the day, even though they just established earlier that school isn’t out for summer yet for him, Matt fills the basement with water to make a pool and that’s it, that’s the end of Matt’s plotline. It doesn’t even happen onscreen. That’s the finale we get for one of the worst demon children ever to grace the Disney Channnel? I would think he’d have some Max Keeble’s Big Move-level mayhem planned.
Gordo struggles with composing a message for Lizzie’s yearbook and Tudgeman shows up to console him. Here it’s really clear this writer doesn’t know what the show is like. Tudgeman doesn’t make a zany joke using the first sci-fi reference you could Google and he’s written like Gordo’s close friend instead of a random guy who shows up every fifth episode.
Gordo stares at the yearbook, which contains a picture of Lizzie and Ronnie kissing even though Ronnie doesn’t even go to their school, so we can get another clip from the Ronnie episode.
This page is amazing. It’s called “TOGETHER” and shows Lizzie kissing Ronnie and Lizzie and Gordo having their end-of-“Clue-Less” moment – neither of which could have been photographed unless Lizzie has a stalker – so this seems like a couples page. So then a picture of Orlando Brown with Tudgeman that makes them look like a gay couple from the 50s. And then there’s Miranda.
We get clips of Gordo struggling with his feelings for Lizzie. Lizzie and Ethan exchange yearbooks, and tragically, we get no clips of Ethan. More tragically, this writer decided to make Ethan into a douchebag! Lizzie can’t think of a good message, and Ethan snaps, “Dude. Cheerleaders. Can’t keep ’em waiting,” when he’s never that dismissive of Lizzie. Interestingly, though, he and Lizzie both end up writing “You rock. Don’t ever change” in each other’s yearbooks, and Ethan says, seriously, “Cuz you really do rock. And you shouldn’t change.” And that’s treated as dumb, signaled by dorky sound effects. Keep that in mind.
Ethan tells Lizzie to watch him play water polo in high school because Clayton Snyder is a water polo champion in real life. I wonder if the writer had originally put a more generic sport in there and Clayton asked to change it. Lizzie complains that Ethan will be a jock and Kate will be a cheerleader in high school and she’ll be nothing. She says she’ll never be as popular as Kate and looks over at Kate, who is yelling about how popular she is to a line of admirers hoping for her signatures in their yearbooks. All of this feels really off. Ethan isn’t a jock, Lizzie hasn’t whined about being unpopular all season, and I thought that it was established by now that Kate isn’t that well-liked. Honestly, what should happen here is someone predicting that Kate will crash and burn in high school because boy howdy, do people who peak in middle school go downhill fast.
Lizzie says, “I really don’t like her!” and Gordo says, “At least she’s gotten her payback a couple of times in middle school!” as a very obvious lead-in to a bunch of clips of Kate falling or getting food thrown on her. Lizzie cracks up as if she could see the clip montage, and Gordo gets all serious and says, “I like it when you laugh.” Every time I had to watch this episode for this review I screamed “UUUUUGGGH” and my whole body cringed. It’s stomach-turningly mortifying.
After school, Gordo hangs out for another extremely on-the-nose chat. He tells Lizzie, “You’ll always have your friends” and Lizzie says “Except for when we’re fighting!” as a very obvious lead-in to a clip of the trio fighting and Gordo says “We always forgave each other” as a very obvious lead-in to a clip of the trio forgiving each other. He says, “Who else could have helped bring me back from the dark side?”as a very obvious lead-in to a bunch of clips from that episode where he got into the dwarf game, which probably could have been omitted from this episode because it was so insignificant and stupid, and then says “Or dive in front of paint for someone?”as a very obvious lead-in to that clip from “Picture Day.” This episode is TRASH.
Then Gordo has a voiceover monologue over lots of clips of Lizzie about how Lizzie is a great person and great friend and is all-around great – I heartily disagree – and that they’d get through high school together just like they got through middle school together because they’re always there for each other. This monologue would make a great yearbook message, so I don’t know why he’s struggling with it.
We finally get to the only part of this episode anyone remembers, I guess because the rest of the episode is meaningless, poorly written fluff. It’s the next day and Lizzie asks for her yearbook back from Gordo, but he says he’s still working on his message. Someone asks him to sign their yearbook so he gives Lizzie back hers and tells her not to read what he’s written, so Lizzie looks at it because she’s a terrible person who doesn’t respect anyone else’s feelings. Gordo wrote: “Dear Lizzie, you rock. Don’t ever change. And only, I really mean it.”
Real talk: that’s pretty lame. We just saw Ethan Craft deliver the exact same message. Of all the things for Gordo to say to Lizzie, we get that badly worded semi-twist on the standard sentiment? Literally just including the words “I like you,” as boring and straightforward as that is, would have caused actual drama. And I think this episode was supposed to air right after “Clue-Less,” which ended on the cliffhanger of Lizzie realizing she liked Gordo and he liked her, so why is none of that energy here? She’s played the whole episode as a friend until now.
Regardless, Lizzie gets OVERCOME WITH EMOTION by Gordo’s moderately nice yearbook message and “I Can’t Wait” starts playing over a billion slow-mo clips of Lizzie and Gordo. It’s interrupted by Principal Mr. Moseby yelling that it’s time to take a graduating class photo. In legitimately the best Kate moment ever and one which belongs in a completely different show, Ethan and Kate look at each other nervously and say in unison, “How’s my hair? Good.”
Lizzie says, “Gordo? Promise me we’ll always stay close to each other, even in high school,” and Gordo says, “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.” And then, in the most dramatic moment of 2003 for people too young to care about other things like Britney and Madonna at the VMAs, LIZZIE KISSED GORDO ON THE CHEEK RIGHT WHEN THE PICTURE WAS BEING TAKEN.
Oh man, I wish they’d let Adam Lamberg laugh or look surprised when that happened. His face looks so goofy and it doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t react to the kiss.
This episode was a hacky, phoned-in attempt at closure. Imagine if all of the drama of Gordo’s feelings for Lizzie came to a head with an emotional speech to her, or at least a real heartfelt yearbook message – something of the same caliber as his bit at the end of “Dear Lizzie.” And what if Lizzie could actually come to terms with what her time in middle school meant to her instead of being told what it meant in simplistic lines leading into clips? We could see some acknowledgement of evolution from her, but she whines about being unpopular and unnoticed just like she does in the pilot. I’m astonished at how badly this entire finale was botched. I see why they aired it out of order.
Weird never-popular youth culture slang: “You rock. Don’t ever change” as standard yearbook message. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised that was a thing at one school somewhere once, but it’s so weird how they introduce it like it’s so commonplace. Gordo’s throwaway line”People are just gonna write, ‘Have a great summer! Love ya!'” in “Lizzie’s Eleven” was actually closer to what people write in yearbooks.
Unnecessary references: every single clip in this episode
Notable fashion moments: They gave Kate a good outfit for once!
This is pretty much what she should always look like. Her shirt is actually trendy and flattering and her hair, while slightly obnoxious, still looks cute – especially compared to the giant ratty extensions she usually wears. I have no idea why they don’t dress Kate like this every episode.
Lizzie’s hair looks greasy and limp in her first outfit. I think it’s because the twists in it were created with gel. It makes it look kind of matted.
Her outfits are all really boring. It’s like no one realized this would actually be the finale – which, to be fair, it kind of wasn’t. Lizzie wears an interesting bracelet. That’s about it.
Other interesting tidbits: DUMB GRAMMAR RANT – the title of this post is transcribed from the episode listing on imdb. Grammatically, it should be “Bye-Bye, Hill Ridge Junior High” – “Hill Ridge” is always two words whenever it’s seen in the school – but instead it’s “Bye, Bye Hillridge Junior High.”
The flashbacks to season one are weird because Gordo’s voice deepened a lot by season two.
There’s an “Embarrassing Moments” page in the yearbook that spells “embarrassing” very incorrectly.
Can we just talk about “I Can’t Wait”? Like, forever? What a jam. It’s a cover, which is insane to me, since it seems so tailor-made for Disney. Granted, Disney changed up the lyrics a lot to make it about not waiting to grow up instead of not waiting to be in a committed monogamous relationship for life.
I’d expect the Disneyfied lyrics to be a lot cheesier, and they definitely are cheesy, but the original’s not that great either. For instance, Disney switches “Life goes on/Like a song” for “Life goes on/Then we’ll go,” which is fine because their corny new line at least sort of rhymes and also doesn’t seem to portend death. They also substitute “bullet shoes,” a very specific type of shoe that most people don’t call by that name, for “bowling shoes” because….no one wears bowling shoes.
The really interesting thing, to me, is how similar the two songs sound. Obviously the vocal styles are different, but the original production is pretty similar. Fascinatingly, Disney snatched this song up for Hilary immediately. McClymont’s version hit Australian charts in May 2002 and Hilary Duff’s was on Radio Disney by June.
There was the most minor of scandals around the song at the time, with the LA Times questioning whether it was ethical for Radio Disney to give so much free airtime to someone signed to the Disney label. I guess that was settled by the time Hannah Montana was around. Launching these kids as singers is Disney’s entire business model nowadays.
From what I can tell, they only made a 1-minute music video to play during commercial breaks to promote the song and the show – versions on YouTube chop it up with YouTube fan videos. Disney Channel was not yet the well-oiled child star promotional machine they’d become once Hilary set the standard.
This song is pretty delightful. It’s probably the best song Hilary’s ever done, which can’t be what her manager nowadays wants to hear. It’s like a kid version of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” in that it forces nostalgia for a time that’s currently happening. It’s not dancey or Britney-esque in any way, which is a smart move by Disney considering its audience. I find it interesting that they picked this kind of song for her, especially compared to the songs of the Selena/Miley/Demi era – it sounds like a poppier version of the Barenaked Ladies’ “Pinch Me” or a less beachy version of Sugar Ray’s “When It’s Over.”
Suspiciously, though, it also sounds exactly like Hilary Duff’s 2014 single “Chasing the Sun,” which was written by Colbie Callait but somehow incorporated the exact same chords from “I Can’t Wait.”
Please discuss this song extensively in the comments!!