I don’t know that these opinions are going to be extremely popular. Other sites have attempted to make (trash) lists of their favorite episodes or even a (respectable) ranking of all of them, but those writers aren’t coming from a place of intense exasperation with and hatred for the show.
Think of this as the curmudgeon’s guide to Lizzie McGuire. The first draft of my list of “worst episodes” naturally ran far over 10 and my “best of” ran under, but I think I’ve finally been able to figure out where I stand.
The 10 Best Episodes of Lizzie McGuire
The first evidence of the second season that Lizzie’s character was being reworked a bit to be more likeable, and a chance to see just how lovely Hallie Todd could be in an often thankless role.
An aggravating A-story is redeemed with themes of friendship and support, which are for once not communicated via a sappy lesson that the characters learn after treating each other like shit. Throw “I Can’t Wait” over the Wall of Togetherness ending and you could have a solid finale, one where Lizzie learns that she might as well get along with Matt and where the middle school cliques are revealed to be ultimately meaningless.
Was this episode insane? Yes. Was it good? Debatable. But y’all, I will stand by this: this episode features Hilary Duff’s actual best acting of the series. She commits and I respect her for it.
If Lizzie McGuire only ever had one celebrity cameo, it should have been this one. Granted, it undermines the entire point of the show, but it was a fun episode with an actually charming love interest for Lizzie. One plotline giving her a brush with fame over the course of the series would have been acceptable.
Had this episode aired earlier (instead of two years after the finale), I think it would be more well-known and beloved. Though the ending was typically weak, the goofy central dilemma is enjoyable and Miranda and Lizzie’s sadly underdeveloped friendship gets a rare chance to shine.
The show was always at its worst when putting Lizzie in extraordinary situations or giving her previously undiscovered talents, all the while insisting she was average and relatable. This plot is the opposite – Lizzie feels untalented and insecure when contemplating her future – and ended up being the only episode to hit home for me personally.
I am confident that I am the only person on earth who’d put “Grubby Longjohn’s Olde Tyme Revue” this high on a list of best Lizzie McGuire episodes. Readers, I considered putting it at #1. That’s how enchanted I was by the pile of in-world garbage that was Grubby Gulch. This episode was fun and funny and I almost never considered the show at large to be either of those things.
3. “Pool Party”
Ah, the show that might have been.
Ah, the show that this show sometimes was. The top two on my list explore legitimate middle school issues with a lot of heart. This one shows a non-bratty side of Lizzie with lots of enjoyable awkwardness.
Yeah, I’m surprised I picked a conventional, classic Lizzie episode for the #1 slot too. This one earns its place by showcasing the best of what the show could be: a warm, friendship-focused middle school show with some wonderfully nice moments that kids could aspire to.
Now onto my favorite part!!
The 10 Worst Episodes of Lizzie McGuire
Shockingly, Lizzie McGuire didn’t handle the topic of cultural sensitivity with a lot of grace. Add in a fully nonsensical plotline about competing on a Mexican game show and you’ve got a real throwaway episode.
Show this one to anyone who ships Gordo and Lizzie. Their fake marriage is dysfunctional enough to make me worry about Lizzie spending even a month dating Gordo down the line.
The lesson presented at the end of this episode about Gordo filming people’s most humiliating moments without their consent with the intent of broadcasting the footage in public was that Miranda was crazy for not trusting Gordo. It’s bullshit. Gordo is bullshit. This show’s pro-Gordo agenda was bullshit.
Just an all-around unpleasant episode. It’s got everything – secondhand embarrassment, too much of Matt’s grating presence, and no redeemable qualities to Lizzie’s characterization.
6. “Aaron Carter’s Coming to Town” (sometimes called “Here Comes Aaron Carter”)
This one is a pretty good example of how not to feature a celebrity cameo in your show about a normal middle school girl. Nothing about the plot particularly tracks – from the revelation that Lizzie’s dad somehow works with Aaron Carter to the kids finding out the music video shooting location from Lanny to Aaron kissing Lizzie out of the blue – and it threw off the rest of the series from that point forward. Never again did Lizzie’s complaints about being average and unnoticed hold any weight.
Sometimes this show was just so fucking lazy. Nothing exemplifies that better than this extremely half-assed John Hughes homage, in which we viewers have to see lots of Kate’s bitchiness but all the resolution and understanding apparently happen off-screen.
Kate is the worst part about the show. Nothing about her character works, and her truly terrible casting brought down the entire series. So Kate-centric episodes are never pleasant, but this one – which focuses on the gang helping Kate – is the worst.
What a disappointment of a finale. I’m not saying that the show deserved better, but the elements were certainly there to create something touching and moving. This wasn’t it. Quality-wise, it should be at the top of the worst list for its lazy, sloppy writing and execution (it’s a clips episode, for crying out loud!) but it’s at #3 because I like “I Can’t Wait,” honestly.
This episode sucks. It makes me mad how much it sucks. It’d be a clusterfuck even without the gratuitous Steven Tyler cameo. This is the hackiest of sitcom writing and I hate it.
There might be worse Lizzie McGuire episodes, but there aren’t any creepier ones. And there aren’t any that are bad in more ways: its problems range from the Scottish character having a wavering semi-British accent to the bizarre assertion that Lizzie and Miranda have never had a crush on the same guy to the weird running theme of people loving and celebrating Robert Burns. It’s all the continuity and production problems you could hate in the show, all surrounding an uncomfortable Lolita-adjacent cringefest of a plot.
Readers, tell me: what’s your #1 best and worst episode of Lizzie McGuire?