Monday, October 26, 2015

Liv and Maddie Reviewed: "Cowbell-a-Rooney" (#3.05) and "Grandm-a-Rooney" (#3.06)

Ok, so what's the plan, Getting Worked Up Over Something Stupid-Guy?

What is it? We've already done Liv and Maddie so just look it up the first time.
A quick review of two episodes at once because, uh, we're falling behind a little now. Cowbell-a-Rooeny was excellent. I've said before that Liv and Maddie, especially post-Season 1, is incredibly hard to review not so much because it's so consistently good, but it's so consistent. Everything that's been said about the previous episode still applies to the next. Of course Dove Cameron is going to remain spot-on in both roles. Of course Joey and Tenzig are going to have their best chemistry off each other (at least that's what I think, they play off each other really well and it emphasizes their strengths). Of course...uh, extra characters. 

Cowbell-a-Rooney is about Liv introducing her new Voltage costar to Steven's Point and basically shoving him off to Maddie to have him "wade in the deep end of the cheese pool." Long story short, Josh is replacement Diggie, so in a lot of ways it ends up being the Meet-a-Rooney we never got in the first place. There are actually a few parallels to how both Mosh and Miggie formed - Miggie was during a co-ed game and Mosh was, uh, this cowbell week thing.


There, now we got it out of our system.

So Cowbell Week involves putting cowbells around all the other students until there are two left standing in which they have to basically dunk a cowbell onto a suspended stuff bull's head from a basketball hoop so, yeah, it's pretty much exactly how Maddie met Diggie. The path to a girl's heart is through competition, guys.

The B-plot is about Joey feeling insulted over how everyone knows him as Catshirt Guy (that's totally not fair! Everyone should know you as Rocket Geek Guy!) so he hands over all his cat threads to Parker who's absolutely convinced it's just a phase (you get just one guess as to whether or not he's right, because that's all you need). It doesn't get a lot of screen time but they make effective use of it, unlike other shows (*coughPretty Much Everything Else On the Network cough*) so we're left with the meat of Maddie discovering Josh and admittedly Cowbell Week does look very fun on screen.

Then there's a potentially budding romance between Dump Truck and Andi. It's nice for Andi to finally get over Holden (something I theoretically should know something about but am incapable of). I also like Andi. And I like Dump Truck. Which is why I'm a little nervous about this pairing. We've seen what happens to relationships on this show. This show chews through ships faster than a Nazi U-Boat wolfpack or, uh, that plague on The Last Ship I guess.

Also, Maddie is a complete psychopath. Liv acknowledges this. Josh thinks this is specifically what's hot about Maddie. Actors, amirite?

Final Grade: B+. It's good but it's not Rate-a-Rooney or even Kathy Kan-a-Rooney good. Very close though.
Episode MVP: What's His Face, the guy who plays Josh. He really does make the episode, and Cowbell Week. Also, this gif:





And off to Grandm-a-Rooney (I know it's not the exact title but it totally should be). This episode received literally zero hype from the network itself (I could insert a comment here revealing my bitter jealousy over Girl Meets World but I guess that's not very productive) but third-party media outlets help make up for that. See, there was once this actress named Patty Duke who used to have this show called The Patty Duke Show about this Patty Duke actress who is decidedly not a twin but played twins anyway, and Dove Cameron has outright said that a network executive in turn outright came up to her and told her they were reformatting what was then Bits and Pieces into a 21st century Patty Duke Show clone. So to have Patty Duke on Liv and Maddie is just, by a little, kind of sort of a frikkin' big deal. There is no explanation for why this episode guest starring the frikkin' actress who inspired the whole frikkin' show would receive so little promotion from the network itself unless there was some sort of weird legal wrangling that prevented Disney Channel from specifically naming Patty Duke as a guest on promotional material (and given how weird Hollywood contracts can be, that might actually be the case). But anyway, Patty Duke plays Liv and Maddie's maternal grandmother...and their great-aunt. Yup they're having Patty Duke pull a Patty Duke, complete with a shot from the original show serving as a period photo of Grandma and Great-Aunt. 

The A-plot is about Maddie being suspicious that Grandma is actually Great-Aunt pulling a Switch-a-Rooney and trying to prove it and in classic sitcom fashion going crazy over it once her methods start proving unsuccessful. But then surprise surprise! it turns out Maddie was right, it really is Great-Aunt posing as Grandma, but only because Grandma couldn't make it to the awards ceremony to present Liv with the Porcupine of the Year Award or something. But surprise surprise! the real Grandma can make it after all! And Parker finally gets his $20.

Yeah, the A-plot was a bit soft, especially for this show. The B-plot is about Joey and Artie trying to get girls to view the passing of the "Love Comet" with them as supposedly anybody who views the Love Comet will fall in love with whoever they were viewing it with (the last time the Love Comet came around, Joey fell in love with fruit peels - which is a copout since everyone loves fruit peels or you just ain't human/American - Alex [remember her?] fell in love with her chemistry set and Artie fell in love with...I forgot). Artie actually does some pretty clever scheming, tricking Joey into asking out as many girls as possible and then inviting Willow so that Willow will chase Joey right into her hands and Artie can scoop up the girls to himself - or if that fails, the girls will simply run into each other and conclude Joey's been playing them, again drawing them right into Artie's hands. I always love a clever evil plan with its own inherent built-in backup. 

Well, needless to say Joey's night gets ruined, but the girls aren't too thrilled about Artie either, so it just ends up being Joey and Willow viewing the comet together much to Joey's torture, then Grandma Whatever Karen's Maiden Name Is tells Joey he has a lovely girlfriend.

Episode Grade: Eh, B-. This is practically an F for Liv and Maddie, which speaks volumes for the kind of show it's evolved into. Then again, there's a reason why this show is getting a B- and not an actual F. It's still a basically solid episode.
Episode MVP: Audrey Whitby. Sorry Patty, but I felt she was pretty much just an extended prop/gimmick. 

...Actually can I do strikethrough text in Blogspot? No? Oh, great, thanks Blogspot. Anyway 1960sPoster convinced me it should be Joey Bragg, though I guess Audrey Whitby would be close. As 1960sPoster also pointed out she's Joey's real life girlfriend! Although she's also currently contracted to Nickelodeon with The Thundermans, which is another review that should be forthcoming.

Take it away, Mike and Nick. 

Hey, Unknown. I agree with everything you said. Liv & Maddie is very consistent and is the best show on Disney Channel in terms of quality and comedy. I like this show better than Girl Meets World right now for numerous reasons:

1. It is like the good old Disney Channel comedies (considering it began at the bear end of the age of great comedy: July 2013). The episodes have some unrelateable and relateable dialogue, but still pullets it off. JUST LIKE WIZARDS OR GOOD LUCK CHARLIE OR HANNAH MONTANA OR EVEN JESSIE SEASON 1 & 2.

2. It isn't unbelievably preachy like Girl Meets World which tends to take its preachiness and life lessoning too far within the Disney World concept.

3. The show keeps improving. The writing department is amazing for the show. John Beck and Ron Hart are the best writers on Disney!

...I have to sleep right now because school tomorrow. Ugh high school nights. But I'll finish the review tomorrow. Sorry!

Don't worry, I can just take over again in the meantime :)

There's a thing about "unrelatable" dialogue, or at least "realistic" dialogue - "realistic" dialogue actually really sucks from a storytelling and entertainment standpoint. There's a lot of pregnant and empty pauses, a lot of "ummmms" and a lot of words that are just flat-out misspoken or misused that wouldn't make any sense. In the heat of the moment our brains are actually capable of filling in the missing or correct details, but on a script it would just come out like the pile of poorly-formed nonsense it is. This is why "realistic" dialogue actually tends to be the mark of am amateur. 

This is why "relatable" dialogue is so important. It's the difference between being called the next Larry David and carrying home a bunch of rewards and being called a hack and making people write lengthy articles about why the network exec that greenlit your show should face defenestration (look it up :p ). Good relatable dialogue basically fools your audience into thinking its realistic. Mike brought it up about how Dan Schneider was really good at it before he lost his touch. Right now I'd say LaM is the best at it, on either network, by far.

I don't think Girl Meets World is all that preachy in Season 2. In fact, I don't think it was preachy at all to begin with. Now, heavy-handed, that's a different matter. Meets Crazy Hat and Meets Demolition were preachy, with Evelyn Rand giving Farkle and Aubrey a stern talking to. I mean, that's about as literally preachy as you can get. Meets Game Night was just heavy-handed. The difference is largely execution of delivery as well as message: it's being preachy by having a character either lecture a stand-in for the audience (Farkle/Aubrey/hell whatever character happens to be standing around, Sarah In The Background getting a stern talking to by Evelyn Rand about why it's bad for her to steal Darby's lunch and why she should feel bad) or just look at the camera and directly preach to the audience about why something is bad, and why the character/audience should stop doing it, and why the character/audience should feel bad. Just one of the reasons why Boy Meets World was so powerful a show in its time and genre was because it specifically avoided this when this type of storytelling was contes de jour for everything else of this genre and time period, in addition to avoiding being so heavy-handed (I guess time and/or staff changeovers have not been well to the show, at least for GMW Season 1). Being heavy-handed is when you have the scriptwriting and directing equivalent of a giant neon sign having large arrows pointing at a metaphor, symbolism or direct message because you're afraid that subtlety will fly right out the window with your audience (i.e., you have no real respect for your audience whatsoever). Kind of like how the characters in Meets Game Night kept insisting that the game they were playing was a metaphor for life every two seconds only because they had to use those two seconds to catch their breath. 





A visual metaphor

So GMW isn't really preachy on the life-lessoning, just heavy-handed. 

I HATE "Girl Meets Game Night." That episode was embarrassing the first time I saw it. It deserves a good thrashing sooner rather than later.

I need to get on my Liv & Maddie kick soon. I was wary of it at first because it looked like vapid garbage, but it seems like people can't stop praising it so I should see if it's worth the hype. 

And yes, the show keeps improving, in fact it's improved massively. Hey, did you know that, at least IMHO, Liv and Maddie actually kind of sucked in its first season? I hated the early episodes so much I was actively rooting for its failure and I was happy that first season was just a short order at 20. Looking back on it...I'm still glad the first season was just a 20 episode short order because it meant a longer backlog for Season 2, which for the most part was excellent. There's a reason why this show's getting so much buzz, and why a lot of it only popped up once Season 2 started getting hot. 

Even I still can't get over that Jessie exists in animated form, and the character designs are just so ugly (the Marvel Universe cartoons in all honestly kind of really blow).

18 comments:

  1. I think Disney didn't adverstise it much cuz they figured no kid has heard of patty duke so they wouldn't really care. It's a lame excuse, but it's all i got. Anyway, i quite like Liv and Maddie. I don't love it like you guys seem to, since it still has that classic modern disney channel stuff in it and a few annoying/dumb elements, but it's still decent and follows in the steps of the good shows. While it's consiwsst, it still enough mixed elements to be worth analyzing.



    Haven't seen Grandma yet but Cowbell was pretty good. Subplot was fine but a bit typical and nothing too special.

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    1. It's a lot less annoying than, say, some of the things Austin & Ally or KC Undercover has to offer. The most annoying elements of Liv and Maddie S2-3 are still less annoying than the most annoying elements of GMW S1-2. As for quantity, I'll leave that up for debate.

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    2. I'd say the most annoying elements, are on par with them most annoying elements in those shows. No better no worse. Typical Disney channel annoyance, really. Honestly, the dumber elements of A&A never bugged me too much, except in spefic episodes. The same can be said for htis show. (I do think Liv's voice can be a bit annoying in some episodes, although i suppose they have to do that to differentiate her from maddie during some scenes)

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    3. I'm with you overall, I just brought those up as examples. They are more annoying in comparison, but they don't really bother me (except for Austin & Ally's Prom Date, that was that show's version of Meets Texas Part without the actual surprise quality).

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  2. Well Cowbell was another very good season 3 episode. L&M continues to roll with funny, well acted shows each week so far. It was nice to see Andie back as we hadn't seen her since Holden dumped her near the end of season 2. Pairing her up with DumpTruck will be interesting. So far except for 1 episode where he had some interaction with Maddie, DumpTruck has pretty much exclusively been paired up with Parker and Joey, even though he seems to be a senior like L&M.Truthfully, I don't care for Liv's co-star Josh, but giving Maddie someone else to get involved with while Diggie is off in Austrialia might be interesting. With Andie paired up now it might also be time to revisit Liv and Holden. I think they have a lot of chemistry and Jordan Fisher, the actor who plays Holden is really talented. The B story of Joey giving up his cat clothing was cute, but nothing great, except Willow stealing all of what was left at the end.

    Grade: B+ This didn't do much wrong, but it wasn't quite up to the first few season 3 episodes.
    MVP: Dove L&M had lots of screen time (as usual) and its really enjoyable to see them both played to their extremes this week.

    On to Grandma - well the season 3 run of great episodes ends here. BUT ... this was a season 2 episode that was pulled to fill in during season 3 because "SPARF" was pulled for season 2 for the Sounds of Summer event, so I'll let that slide. Look at how much shorter Parker is again - if you watch each week you can see that this is something done like 6 months earlier than what we have been watching recently. Overall this was ok, nothing great with the A plot. It was interesting to see Patty Duke doing the twin thing again (I'm so old I actually watched The Patty Duke Show when it was new).

    The real story here was the B plot with Joey. It amazes me that Joey still cannot see that whenever Artie is involved in the story, his intentions are never altruistic, but always self-centered. Once again Artie gets Joey to screw up a situation that could have actually worked out for Joey. While Joey has fawned over Alex before, I think Aubrey is really the girl on the show that matches up well with him. They have more in common than any of the other girls he has interacted with. Artie's plot to try and pick up one of the spurned girls doesn't work out for him however. It is equally amazing that Artie hasn't figured out that his self-centered plots, while usually screwing over Joey, never work out for him. Poor Willow once again doesn't get her man. The writers should end this story and give Willow a romantic interest for real.

    Grade: B The A story just wasn't that funny and it took the B story to even get this episode this grade. Otherwise I would have given this a C+
    MVP: Joey Bragg The Joey story was the best, and Joey was on top of his game trying to juggle 3 girls he wanted and the one he didn't.

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    1. I just found out that Joey Bragg's real life girlfriend is Aubrey Whitbey. Perhaps that real life chemistry is why I see those characters together.

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    2. Eh, i wasn't too into Grandma's B story. (Saw it earlier). It was a typical "many dates on some date plot". It was still fun, though.

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    3. I hesitate to give MVP on LaM to Dove - or the main stars of their respective shows MVP - just because they have so many opportunities to take it, especially in Dove's case. Of the four episodes of Jessie we've reviewed so far, Debby has gotten MVP for the very first and very last episodes of that series only (plus Series MVP and co-MVP for Gotcha Day...ok, so....) If I haven't been giving Dove her due though, I'll change that. I have a pretty good feeling the next episode will, though I also have a feeling special guest star Kristen Bell (IT'S FRIKKIN' KRISTEN BELL!) will probably steal the spotlight and MVP award.

      Audrey Whitby was just the first person who came to mind besides Patty Duke, but you're right, it really should go to Joey Bragg. Dove again is a very close second. As for Cowbell-a-Rooney, it would be Dove as runner-up followed by the guy who plays Dump Truck. I really do feel the Cowbell Week plot really did pivot around Josh, and Josh wasn't a total cardboard loser like Brooks Wentworth (sorry Pierson Fode who I guess is attached to Kelli Berglund in real life or something?) When Micheal Higgins Clark isn't around to rescue everything, or when Debby isn't just looking totally gorgeous in that wedding gown to distract the viewer, Brooks is just painful to watch. Hell Caroline Hennessy has enough comedic talent to more or less rescue her scenes with Brooks.

      But yeah, schedule quirks aside (I guess they pulled the same thing GMW did with Meets Fish/Demolition) I guess LaM is finally settling down into Season 3 after the highs of kicking off the season. Not that there's anything wrong with it, I guess, as long as it remains solid. Also, I guess 1960sPoster isn't kidding about his/her username!

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    4. I think Brooks is fine. Kind of bland, but kind of enjoyable and he has his moments here and there that make him passable.

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    5. Spongey I agree that the B plot wasn't anything new, but it was handled well. They included 4 recurring characters (something this show does better than any other Disney show) and it was all performed well, even if it had a rather predictable ending. That is why I only gave the overall episode the grade it did. If they would have had Joey pull a rabbit of his hat and actually hang on to one (or more) of the girls, that would have garnered a higher grade.

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    6. Unknown, I can see why you may be hesitant on awarding MVPs to the lead, but I really thought in "Cowbell" she deserved it. L&M were both really amped up to their extremes in that episode and it must be hard for Dove to pull that off because they are almost total opposites. I think that most weeks the characters, while different, are not both written so that they are hyped up to 11. That what was really led me to giving MVP to Dove.

      And yes, I am old. I fondly remember watching "Star Trek" episodes first run, and I mean Kirk and Spock, not Picard and Riker.

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    7. I don't know if Joey could actually do that since 1.) It seems like it's actually setting up Jillow for an end-game and 2.) it would kill all the Jillow gags :( I can imagine seeing some sort of Joey-Willow-Aubrey triangle being milked for gags though.

      Again, a B- isn't a bad grade, even for this show.

      Oh yeah, Dove isn't bad. I didn't think the guy who plays Josh was that bad, for me it was a toss-up between Dove and Josh-guy and I thought Josh-guy did a lot to make himself feel welcome and get really into Cowbell Week.

      And you're as old as my dad :p

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    8. I just don't see Jillo as end game, especially since Willow will be out of high school and into college next season (she gets a college scholarship next episode) while Joey remains a porcupine. I do agree that the Jillo gags are usually funny though and it would be sad to see them go.

      I am assuming that L&M gets a season 4. My guess L&M along with Willow and maybe Holden and Andie go off to the same college and they play it out there while Joey and Artie handle high school with Parker. Though I guess they could stretch out their senior year for 2 seasons, though holiday episodes would screw with continuity.

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    9. Hmm, good point, didn't even think of that one, Stretching out the senior year for two seasons is exactly what Good Luck Charlie did and I'm expecting LaM to do the same. They avoided the holiday problem with GLC by simply skipping them for a year (I think they did Christmas one year, then Thanksgiving another year, and they just skipped Halloween for the second season).

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    10. 1960poster writes:

      " It was nice to see Andie back as we hadn't seen her since Holden dumped her near the end of season 2."

      I write:

      Actually, Andi was in an episode after that called "SPARF-a Rooney". The Summer Festival one where Liv and Andi have a "girls night" to help Andi get over Holden?

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  3. As far as your comments on GMW being preachy or heavy-handed, that may be true, but there is a reason. GMW and BMW before it, besides being a sitcom, is a show that is actively trying to teach a life lesson in every episode. GMW in particular seems to be a little more heavy-handed, but I believe that is because Disney wants their shows that teach to explicitly "Tell, not show", because their target demographic (8-14) is so young. They want to ensure the message is not missed. L&M on the other hand can afford not to do that because the show exists for pure entertainment. Any lessons it teaches seem to be purely coincidental to whatever hijinks is going on that week. Don't get me wrong I love L&M, but it is a different kind of show from GMW and it is written accordingly.

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    1. I think the issue with GMW being like that is that, from what i can tell, BMW grew into being what we know it as, and it started out with simple antics. GMW is trying by all life change-y from the get go instead of letting it happen naturally.

      But honestly, being heavy handed or preachy is almost compliment for a disney sitcom because it shows the are trying.

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    2. You have a point there, about Disney mandating more heavy-handedness because of the demo. I haven't seen the first few seasons of Boy Meets World in a while beyond what they aired on Disney Channel but based on what Christian writes it seems like the first few seasons were a bit wonky and maybe heavy-handed too, but they quickly learned to be more subtle, or at least they delivered some really good storylines (the one where Cory is just learning to drive and he ends up being pulled over is one that sticks with me ever since that episode premiered). I think for the most part GMW S2 is working that out too - the whole heavy-handed reputation was really earned back in S1. Note that all the episodes I named, including Meets Fish, were season 1 episodes (well, Meets Demolition was the 7th episode made during Season 2 - I think they actually had Debby do that after she wrapped up Jessie - but still).

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