Season 2, episode 31: “My Dinner with Mr. Dig”

This one surprised me. I thought for sure it was written by a guest writer, because it was one of those episodes where every line, character choice and plot point felt slightly off. But I was wrong – it was written by Melissa Gould, who wrote 15 episodes for the series.

The unsettling quality kicks in immediately. Lizzie, Gordo, and Miranda all are extremely tired for no reason that’s ever explained. Gordo and Lizzie complain about not having energy and wishing they could nap, and Lizzie says she thought food gave you energy. Miranda says she misses kindergarten and the other two stare at her in confusion. She explains that it’s because of naptime. They stare at her in confusion. She says she thought they were on the same page. They scoff and laugh at her.

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It’s all awkward. It offers no insight into the characters or clever commentary on middle school, and it feels like a first draft or placeholder joke.

This clunky scene leads into the next, even clunkier scene, wherein the trio observe Mr. Dig eating fast food and ask if he gets energy from it. You know, a normal question that real people ask in real life. This serves as a transition for him to complain about how he only eats fast food because he doesn’t know how to cook, which leads into Gordo and Miranda raving about how they love to eat dinner at Lizzie’s house because her mom is such a good cook. (Note that I can’t remember any single episode where they’ve eaten dinner at Lizzie’s house.) This leads to Lizzie saying her mom could cook dinner for Mr. Dig. When he says, “Great! When should I be there?,” everyone is confused and astonished by him interpreting her invitation as an invitation.

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It’s painfully clear that the writers had the idea of an episode about Mr. Dig eating dinner at Lizzie’s house and worked backwards to try to set up a scene that would make that happen. Their solution was a weird bit with the main trio complaining about not getting enough energy from their food and then asking Mr. Dig if his lunch gave him energy, which is about the stupidest setup imaginable. Then Lizzie invites him over in a way that’s played by the actors (and highlighted by Cartoon Lizzie’s interjections) as a crazy accident, because this was obviously intended to be a scene where the invitation just slipped out. But the writers couldn’t quite come up with dialogue to make that happen. It’s just…. bad.

Later that day – or the next day – this is one of those ones where time is super fuzzy – Lizzie tells her family about inviting Mr. Dig to dinner and her parents promise not to be weird. Lizzie begs Matt to be a real child and not a Stereotypical Disney Channel Child Menace with a line that again feels like a placeholder. “That means no burping, belching, or making funny faces!” she says. Burping and belching are THE SAME THING. There was no other word they could think of there? Squirming? Yelling? Making armpit fart noises? This script really feels like it was written in 20 minutes and never edited.

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Lizzie says she wants the dinner over as soon as possible, and Matt responds that he wants the school year over as soon as possible, a forced transition that leads Jo to ask if there’s a problem at school. Matt says that his teacher, Ms. Chapman – because his mom wouldn’t know that Ms. Chapman was his teacher – has been really irrationally mean lately. Sam says women are emotional crazy people and that her bad mood might mysteriously go away one day and Jo is offended but then concedes that he’s right. This joke rubbed me the wrong way, but it’s probably because my crazy PMS hormones are clouding my judgement.

The next day – maybe? it’s set up as if it’s one hour later but I think it’s the next day? – Lizzie comes downstairs with toilet paper on her shoe, Sam immediately spills food on his tie, and Jo drenches Sam and herself when she tries to clean his tie because this night’s gonna be awkward!!!!!!!!

Mr. Dig comes to the door and it is awkward!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy shit!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Anyway, smash cut to the next day, because apparently an episode called “My Dinner with Mr. Dig” doesn’t see any reason to show the dinner with Mr. Dig. I don’t know why I’m surprised, since this is the same writer who gave us a Breakfast Club homage that skipped the part where the mismatched teens got to know and understand each other. Lizzie tells Gordo that the dinner went well and that Sam and Mr. Dig talked about some rock band. Gordo says that music is a very powerful bonding tool, so now Sam and Mr. Dig might become really good friends! And then that’s what this episode is about! Glad we got an extremely on-the-nose explanation of why they clicked instead of actually seeing it onscreen in a scene! “Tell, don’t show,” that’s what they say in screenwriting school!

Sure enough, Sam shows up at school to bring Mr. Dig a CD. Gordo tells him to check the teacher’s lounge for Mr. Dig, and Sam responds, “Thank you, David.” That weird detail was one of the things that made me positive it was written by a guest writer, because Sam never calls Gordo by his first name.

Meanwhile, in the equally-badly written land of Matt’s school, Melina says to herself, out loud, that Ms. Chapman won’t be mean to her if she’s wearing a calming color like green. Matt realizes that every kid in his class wore green for the same reason, but he wore red so now Ms. Chapman will be mad at him. A bunch of fourth graders all separately chose studying color psychology as their method of dealing with a mean teacher? On the same day? Matt’s pen runs out of ink, so he gets the entire class in trouble. This plotline is extremely stupid overall, but Ms. Chapman does remind me of a senile nun at my middle school who bullied me so badly my mom had to have a meeting with the principal.

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Lizzie goes downstairs late at night in her pajamas and in a very unflattering face mask and messy updo. Guess what happens next!! Mr. Dig is there!!! He’s hanging out with her dad. A parent befriending a teacher is legitimately a very awkward situation, and it’s not even particularly far-fetched, but this episode is just so dang sloppily written that I can’t get on board with it at all.

This episode has exactly one good joke, and it’s Lizzie reacting to her teacher seeing her in a face mask by screaming, “I’m cleaning my PORES!” and badly attempting to cover herself with a towel.

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Ms. Chapman becomes a parody of a mean teacher by making the entire class wear dunce caps. Matt realizes she’s probably just lonely. Wait, is this a Clueless rip-off now? What is it with this writer and badly bastardizing classic teen movies? Is Matt going to set his teacher up with Wallace Shawn?

Lizzie finds Mr. Dig in her house when she gets home from school the next day. She tries to talk to her dad about it by asking why he doesn’t just hang out with the Two Big Gay Guys and their chimp, but Sam says they’re on vacation. Boy, this show loves a good convenient vacation to get rid of actors and characters they don’t want to deal with.

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Lizzie talks to her mom about it and Jo is gobsmacked at her discomfort. But Jo says she thought Lizzie thought Mr. Dig was cool, so Lizzie starts to rethink her opinion. That never really goes anywhere, and it’s pretty weird. Note to parents: if your daughter tells you she’s uncomfortable with an adult male in the house, you should listen to her! In Jo’s defense but not the writers’, Jo says she wants everyone to be comfortable… and Lizzie realizes it’s her dad’s house too so he should be allowed to have friends over. What?

Matt invites Ms. Chapman over for dinner in the hopes that she’d bond with Jo and become less bitchy. Wow, I can foresee about a million ways that would backfire. It begins to immediately, with Sam cracking a joke and Jo saying “My husband’s always joking!,” to which Ms. Chapman icily replies, “I wouldn’t know. I don’t have a husband.” Fuck, this episode is so lazy! That doesn’t even make sense! Jo should have said something like “You know husbands can’t take anything seriously!” or some other generalization that assumes Ms. Chapman has a husband. I feel furious that I have to spell this out! This show makes me want to light something on fire sometimes!

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I think the writers wanted to make sure it didn’t seem like the McGuires were actually insulting Ms. Chapman and that she was just a crazy irrational nightmare, because next Jo reveals that she made steak and potatoes and salad with homemade dressing and Ms. Chapman replies that she doesn’t eat meat or carbs or salad dressing. I don’t eat meat either, and I have to say that going over to dinner at someone’s house without letting them know you’re a vegetarian is some assholery.

Sam mentions that he’s friends with a teacher, and I can’t tell if this dialogue is supposed to be awkward or if it’s just the writing because every scene so far has been equally badly thrown together. This conversation leads to Ms. Chapman realizing the McGuires know Mr. Dig. She raves about how she used to know Mr. Dig and that he actually inspired her to go into teaching because he was just so amazing. It’s pretty obvious that she has the hots for him, but I’m confused because it also seems like Mr. Dig was her teacher? She looks older than him but maybe she’s not and it’s possible. But still weird! What is it with this show and female characters having crushes on their teachers??

Conveniently, Mr. Dig shows up right then and he and someone who might be a former student of his get straight to flirting. Ms. Chapman becomes extremely nice immediately, so I guess the moral here was that stuck-up bitches just need dick in their lives. They decide to abandon the dinner the McGuires had thoughtfully prepared to instead have dinner together. Ms. Chapman tells Matt not to worry about the extra homework she’d assigned because she had a feeling she wouldn’t have time to grade it, because of how she’s planning on taking Mr. Dig to the Bone Zone.

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Jo asks Lizzie if she still wants her to intervene with Sam and Mr. Dig’s friendship, and Lizzie laughs and says no because her dad is talking to a garden gnome. It doesn’t really make sense. And that’s the end. I guess we’re supposed to assume that Mr. Dig will start avoiding Sam while he works through the entire kama sutra with Ms. Chapman and Lizzie’s problem will work itself out.

If it wasn’t clear, I didn’t like this episode.

Unnecessary references: The episode title is a reference to My Dinner with Andre, except it’s nothing like My Dinner with Andre.

Notable fashion moments: The fashion this episode is compelling, because Lizzie wears some of her loveliest looks and also some real fugly garbage. The first scene, for instance, has her wearing the most horrendous coat with an equally perplexing hairstyle.

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It looks like a leather jacket got eaten by a denim jacket.

She also wears this particularly bad skirt.

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Then there’s this super lovely, girly, Y2k-but-tolerable ensemble for the titular dinner with Mr. Dig:

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And this completely reasonable if oddly tropical blue ensemble:

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But they only serve to lull us into a false sense of security. Because her next outfit struck me as really great…

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…but it was a TRAP. As soon as we got a wide shot of it I died inside.

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Holy hell! Look at that. The random 22 emblazoned on it haphazardly. The bare midriff. The denim-on-denim. And is that shirt actually a trenchcoat? A denim…short-sleeved….trenchcoat? What IS it and why?

I love the hell out of Melina. She’s basically the same character as Matt, but where Jake Thomas plays the Stereotypical Disney Channel Child Menace with nonstop energy, Carly Schroeder goes for a more “dead inside” approach that I admire greatly. She also always looks super cute.

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I don’t know if there’s any costuming motivation for her to look so darling all the time – I suspect that it’s not a subversive attempt at contrasting a sweet exterior with an evil interior, and rather just a fun task for a costumer who wanted to make a very adorable kid look even more adorable.

Examining her outfit in this scene (mostly to contemplate why the costumer didn’t seem to realize that midriff-baring tops are always against dress code, even in the early 2000s) made me notice a continuity error. The desks (and the girl sitting all the way in the back row behind Melina) move in between takes.

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nothing-on-this-show-matters---lizzie-mcguire-reviewed.jpgOther interesting tidbits: Something I’ve been pondering this week is that Hilary Duff was, in real life, super awkward. (Yep, that footage is what made me dwell on this.) Lizzie McGuire doesn’t seem to know how to harness that at all. Part of that is my ongoing beef with costume design that makes her seem confident, bold, and assertive, and part of that is just bad, inconsistent writing, like last week’s episode where Lizzie was the only one composed enough to talk to their hot teacher. This episode gets some good mortified acting out of Hilary Duff, but overall this role never quite lends itself to her natural blend of endearing sweetness and confused awkwardness – even though the character is supposed to be exactly that.

Gordo says he only spends time at Lizzie’s house for her mom’s cooking. When Lizzie asks if he likes her company, he says it’s not as good as her mom’s cooking. Cartoon Lizzie says “If I didn’t like him so much, I’d hate him.” Girl, just hate him! It’s easy and completely justifiable.

I, too, love Cheddar Cheese™️ crackers.

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Great shot, too! The composition isn’t distracting at all!

The faucet malfunction that drenches the McGuire parents actually looks like the faucet became sentient and also learned how to fly. It’s a BATSHIT effect.

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Gordo and Miranda rave about the meatloaf Jo made the night before the episode starts. Jo makes meatloaf again when Mr. Dig comes to visit. Mr. Dig then says he’s excited to stay for Jo’s meatloaf two days later. This family eats nothing but meatloaf.

This episode is one where there are constant costume changes for no reason. Scenes that seem like they should be happening on the same day have costume changes that make it feel like they’re actually on different days.

The CD Sam gets from Mr. Dig is from the world-renowned and definitely real band “Saucer People.”

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The actress who plays Ms. Chapman is terrible. I’ve thought that in every episode she appeared in, but she’s never had a big enough role to warrant me complaining about it.

The Ms. Chapman/Mr. Dig lovey dovey reveal could have been handled ANY OTHER WAY than by her saying “he’s the reason I went into teaching.” She could have just said they had history or that they went to grad school together or ANYTHING that doesn’t make it sound like he might have been her teacher. Seriously, everything about this episode falls apart as soon as you think about it for a second.

Miranda is the coolest. I mean, she’s not really – the character is often extremely annoying as written – but Lalaine brings so much punch to the role. Look at this bitch! I love her!

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8 thoughts on “Season 2, episode 31: “My Dinner with Mr. Dig”

  1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this blog; I always look forward to reading a new installment. Also, just wanted to note how insane it is that in the shot w the denim/leather horror jacket Lalaine is wearing a sweatshirt with a dragon on it that also says “DRAGONS.” Gotta love it.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! I’m so glad you like it.

      Yeah, DRAGONS might be even more inexplicable than the 22 on Lizzie’s denim trench.

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  2. And with this… I’ve seen all the episodes of “Lizzie McGuire”. All that’s left is the movie – and at least we got that! A way better conclusion that the actual finale we got — and the episode that’s clearly meant to be the finale.

    This episode did feel lazily written… and usually I don’t pick up on things like you do (I’m not as astute) but even I could tell here… I did wonder why Sam called him “David” though. And why Lizzie was surprised that Matt was called “Matthew”. She called him “Matthew” in “Bunkies”. Sam called him “Matthew” before in the house when he got in trouble. Matt is a nickname – does Lizzie automatically assume that all people, including teachers, adhere to nicknames? It’s not like she had been calling him Matt his whole life and never heard “Matthew” spoken out loud before.

    & I didn’t even notice the Clueless thing before you pointed it out. Nice catch.

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  3. Also… this episode was directed by William Russ (who played Alan Matthews, the patriarch of the family, in “Boy Meets World”.) He dipped slightly into Disney directing – he did a handful of episodes of Boy Meets World (which ended in 2000) and then did this episode (2003-2004?) and then took a 11 year break until he directed a 2015 episode of “Girl Meets World”.

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  4. I know I’m two years too late for this comment, but “Saucer People” is an unnecessary Simpsons reference! And I kind of love that.

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  5. Funny, this makes three shows I’ve liked that have done My Dinner with Andre-themed episodes. “Frasier” and “Community” did their own spin as well. It shouldn’t come as a shock that they actually handled that concept significantly better (they actually had the conversations that the whole concept is centered around), but it’s just weird how that reference seems to be a thing among shows I’ve watched.

    Ms. Chapman tells Matt not to worry about the extra homework she’d assigned because she had a feeling she wouldn’t have time to grade it, because of how she’s planning on taking Mr. Dig to the Bone Zone.

    First off, LOL. Second, great teaching skills there, Chapman!

    I don’t have the clearest memories of this episode, so I’m guessing we didn’t get a scene of Mr. Dig talking to Lizzie’s parents to confirm the dinner date? ‘Cause if not, I’m pretty sure that should’ve been included at some point, too-would’ve been good to see Lizzie’s parents’ response to the fact that a teacher thinks what seems like an offhand comment from Lizzie in class constitutes an actual dinner invitation. I know my mom would’ve found that a bit odd, no matter how cool my teachers were.

    And yes to Dig just randomly showing up at the house afterwards, too-and at all hours at that! Why is he at Lizzie’s house late at night? He knows she’s got school the next day, he knows that the family would likely be sleeping then, and HE certainly should be sleeping as well, since, again, he’s a teacher. Seriously, what the hell is with that setup?

    I also share in your cringing over the PMS jokes and such. Oof.

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  6. Making armpit fart noises would have worked much better over either belching or burping, and it’s totally something I could see Matt doing. I’m surprised we haven’t seen that from him.

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