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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Lizzie McGuire

I have a confession to make.  And I know that when I make this confession, one of two things will happen.  I’ll either have people come up to me and say, “ know, I never really considered this person to release a song that you like, but I kind of dig that beat, man.”

Or, they’ll say, “You listen to HER?  And LIKE it?  What kind of a blockhead are you?”

Well, okay, maybe they aren’t quite the exact words that they’ll say...but I do think that this particular confession will divide some people.  After all, pop culture disagreements have spawned some rather lively, if not heated discussions.

And, if you’ve read between the lines, you’ll know that this confession involves a song.

Oh, what the heck.  I may as well rip this Band-Aid off and just be out with it.

ARTIST:  Hilary Duff
SONG:  Stranger
ALBUM:  Dignity
DATE RELEASED:  June 25, 2007

Okay.  Here’s the confession.  I happen to find this particular song by Hilary Duff to be awesome, and I am unapologetic in letting people know.

Sure, the song didn’t even crack the Top 90 on the Billboard Charts...but on the Dance Charts, it was a #1 hit during the summer of 2007.  And, I imagine that some of you might believe that I wouldn’t enjoy a song like this, but I’ll also be the first to admit that if you were to really listen to the song, it’s got some decent lyrics.  It was written by Hilary Duff, Kara DioGuardi, Vada Nobles, Derrick Harvin, and Julius “Logic” Diaz, and believe it or not, the song release was chosen by Hilary’s fans.  She posted a question on her website asking people to vote on which single should be the third one to be released from the “Dignity” album (following “Play With Fire” and “With Love”).  As it turned out, “Stranger” – which is reportedly a song that is about her father having an extramarital affair behind her mother’s back – won the popular vote by a landslide.  And, while the song itself didn’t chart well, it was a huge departure from her squeaky clean image that she portrayed in her early career.

(Hey, I liked it, and I typically avoid singles released by Disney Channel stars.)

That said, I see some confusion appearing on your faces.  Isn’t the music day supposed to be Sunday and not Saturday?  Well, this is true, and this hasn’t changed.  The reason why is because today’s blog topic features Hilary Duff in a starring role.  It’s a show that I was forced to watch several times because my niece and nephew used to watch it when they were toddlers...and I’ll put it to you this way, I was definitely not the target audience for this program.  But, since I was given this suggestion by a person who wished to remain anonymous, I thought that I would give it a whirl.

When Hilary Duff released her “Dignity” album, she was only nineteen years old, and she admittedly had a really tough year.  She had split up from her then-boyfriend Joel Madden, her parents had separated, and she had become the target of a stalker’s obsession.  Is it any wonder why “Dignity” was an album of self-exploration and therapy for Duff?  And, you know, I can understand exactly why she would channel her anger and frustration into an album.  After all, I do the same thing with my blog.

Therefore, it’s hard to believe that Hilary Duff was once a little girl, who seemed not to have a care in the world given how raw with emotion “Dignity” was.  She landed her first big role in 1998 when she played Wendy the witch in the film “Casper Meets Wendy”, and won a Young Artist Award the following year for her appearance in the made-for-television movie “The Soul Collector”.  But Hilary almost gave up her acting career after experiencing an incident where she was cast in the sitcom, “Daddio”, only for producers to cut her from the cast before the pilot aired.

Luckily for Duff, she received an offer to appear in a new television series that was going to be airing exclusively on the Disney Channel just one week after being booted from “Daddio”.  And it would be this series that would kickstart Hilary’s career.

Yes, today we’ll be looking at the Disney Channel series “Lizzie McGuire”, which originally ran from January 12, 2001 until February 14, 2004.  The series also spawned a feature film, “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” in 2003. 

And, while I realize that “Lizzie McGuire” is not everyone’s cup of tea (I know that admittedly it wasn’t my favourite), again, I’m doing this blog as a suggestion from someone I’m going to try to be as impartial as possible.

I mean, if the show could have Robert Carradine (brother of Keith and David) playing Lizzie’s father, then that alone has to count for a little bit, right?

(Yeah...I’m stretching here.)

The cast was also rounded out by Hallie Todd (who played Lizzie’s mother), Jake Thomas (who played Lizzie’s annoying brother, Matt), Lalaine (who played Lizzie’s best friend, Miranda), and Adam Lamberg (who played Lizzie’s other best friend, Gordo).

TRIVIA:  The show also featured recurring actors Kyle Downes (as Larry Tudgeman), Clayton Snyder (as Ethan Craft), Ashlie Brillault (as Kate Sanders), Carly Schroeder (as Melina Blanco), and Hilary’s older sister, Haylie Duff (as Amy Sanders).

The show’s pilot was filmed almost a whole year before it initially aired, in March 2000.  At the time, Duff was only twelve.  When the series was picked up for a full season, production began in September 2000, and the final episode was wrapped up in June 2002 (though the series continued to air into 2004).  And, the show was rather unique in a sense, as to how it was presented.

It certainly wasn’t the first television series to combine live-action scenes with animation.  The technique was previously used in the 1989-1995 American series “McGee and Me”, and the 1997-1999 Canadian series “Student Bodies”.  But the way that the show utilized it was quite interesting, because animated Lizzie (also voiced by Hilary Duff) was meant to serve as the “What is Lizzie really thinking?” moments.  And, believe me, if you’ve ever sat through an episode of Lizzie McGuire, you know she has at least three or four of these moments each episode.  At LEAST.  Here’s an example of what I am talking about below.

I know.  Looking back on it now, it’s incredibly cheesy.  Back in 2001, it was kind of innovative and different (though still cringe-worthy).  I keep telling myself that I was not the target demographic.  In 2001, I was twenty, and this show was marketed towards preteens and teens.

TRIVIA:  According to series producer Stan Rogow, the overall look of the series was meant to be designed after the 1998 film “Run Lola Run”.  I’ve seen the film, and I suppose that there are minute similarities between the two.

As far as the plot for Lizzie McGuire goes...well, unfortunately that’s where the series seems to suffer a bit.  It’s really no different from other shows that were about life at school.  It almost seemed to me like a watered down version of “Saved By The Bell” or “California Dreams”.  It was basically Lizzie, Miranda, and Gordo struggling to make it through junior high school and dealing with various problems such as tests, finding dates for a dance, dealing with homework, trying to get along with bratty siblings, and finding first love.  Nothing really groundbreaking here, but keep in mind, it was a Disney Channel program.

That said, I will give a couple of compliments about the program.

Firstly, I will say that the show’s use of incidental music was quite good.  In the few clips that I watched online to prepare this blog, they use quite a lot of popular songs from the 1980s and 1990s as background music for montage scenes.  And, secondly, the show also seemed to poke fun at movies from the past as well.  There was one episode in which they paired Lizzie, Kate Sanders, and Larry Tudgeman together after all three of them received detention for starting a food fight in the cafeteria.  It was an obvious knockoff of “The Breakfast Club”, which was released in 1985 (a year in which admittedly most fans of Lizzie McGuire never actually saw)...but for us twenty and thirtysomethings and parents who were alive in the 1980s, it was a nice throwback to a memory of the past.  The episode even ended with the Simple Minds song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, which was a really nice touch!

See?  I was positive!

All right, so maybe “Lizzie McGuire” wasn’t my type of program.  It entertained millions of children in the three years it was on the air, and it was nominated for a slew of awards, including a couple of Emmy Awards in 2003 and 2004.

And, the show was successful enough that there were actual plans made to keep the series going on primetime television on ABC, when Lizzie, Gordo, and Miranda were going to begin high school.  But, the deal fell through at the last minute when representatives for Hilary Duff were unable to reach a deal with the production company.  Another spin-off of Lizzie McGuire was planned in 2006, which would have focused around Miranda’s little sister (who would have been played by Selena Gomez), but it too was dropped.

So, that’s our look back at Lizzie McGuire.  And, in the years since, Hilary Duff has gotten married to hockey player Mike Comrie and became the mother of a son in March 2012.  She’s also launched a successful clothing line and perfume, wrote several books, and recently appeared on an episode of “Raising Hope” in February 2013, sparking rumours of Duff reviving the acting career she put on hold in recent years.  Time will tell, I suppose.

You see?  I made this piece mostly positive!  No “playing with fire” on this blog!

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