Friday, March 24, 2017

Liv and Maddie: Cali Style Reviewed: End-a-Rooney (S5E15; Series Finale)

Au revoir, Bits and Pieces. You were too beautiful for this world.

What is it? 24 minute multi-cam KidCom on Disney Channel, and after close to four years and at 80 episodes the series finale.
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Dove Cameron (and Dove Cameron), Joey Bragg, Tenzig Norgay Trainor, Kali Rocha, Lauren Lindsay Donsiz, with guest appearances by Ryan McCartan, Jessica Marie Garcia, Shak Ghacha and Chloe East
Why are we reviewing this? Well by now you guys should know my love for Liv and Maddie, if nothing else from the post immediately below and hey it's the series finale.

So, that's the end of Liv and Maddie: Cali Style! and, well, the whole thing period. No more adventures of Liv and Maddie Rooney or Joey or Parker or any of that crew from here on out, sorry. No spin-offs like with Jessie-to-Bunk'd, it just ends here. 

Now, of course it's hard to give "closure," so to speak, to a multi-cam family sitcom. With certain shows, and dramas in particular, there's a clear-cut end goal, and it's easy for a drama to simply conclude on whether or not that end-goal is reached for whatever characters (depending on who the characters are, most typically for the good guys vs. bad guys, the end-goals are diametrically opposed to each other, of course). But when you're just watching the daily shenanigans of a random family, it can be hard to define at what point the story should end short of whenever contractual obligations run out or when the network just pulls the plug and you're left with wherever the end happens to fall (ala I Didn't Do It and at least to some extent Best Friends Whenever and even Girl Meets World). About half a year ago I was lucky enough to drop by a novel con with Scott Westerfeld as guest speaker, who said something along the lines of "you get invested into these characters, and at one point the story ends and you're left hanging. The story ends there but the characters go on, and you're left wondering what happens to these characters?" No fictional story can go on forever so at some point it has to end, and it either has to find a natural end point or just settle on what seems to serve as best. So how well does End-a-Rooney serve with that in comparison to some other finales that have come and gone since this blog began?

Most of these Disney Channel multi-cam sitcoms, especially the low-concept ones like Liv and Maddie (and Good Luck Charlie) choose that natural end-point as being when the family pretty much blows up due to everyone leaving, usually when the main star's character leaves for college (again, as with Good Luck Charlie). Well, Liv and Maddie pulled a fast one on us and had Maddie go to college at the beginning of Season 4 and with Liv being busy with her show career, but nonetheless had been steadily building up and setting a point where indeed the whole family will be blown up with everyone going their separate directions - Maddie will be going to build tiny houses for the summer (hey! that episode ended up being an important plot point!); Liv's Broadway career will take place over the summer to not interfere with Sing-it-Louder! Season 2; Joey will go on a stand-up tour over the summer and Parker's going to spend an entire year at the BioDome with Val. Granted once summer is over most of them will be coming back to California - but Karen's coming back to Wisconsin once the house is finished right after summer, meaning there's no way the family will be together ever again. It's a very natural thing for most families, and it really does represent the end not only for the Rooneys but for any real cohesion for the show after that so a suitable finale point it serves.

Before it gets to that point though, Karen wants to spend one last Summer of Rooney, but since the kids' plans now take up the whole summer, yadda yadda just watch the episode to see how it resolves. The important thing is, it does manage to tie up all the loose ends brought throughout the course of the series and in the episode itself and it provides really all the emotional closure you can ask for.

So how does it compare to other finales? Yeah I think it's far and away the best one so far - the only one that comes close is the Austin & Ally finale with its random, dramatic time jumps that show us where the characters ultimately end up and even going so far as to show the families they start (if anything it went overboard in showing us how the characters ended up). The Jessie one was...well, I still maintain pretty lame with its insistence that it spend over half the episode showing us how much Pamela Eells O'Connell regrets she isn't working on Game of Thrones instead, and we all know how much the Girl Meets World finale simply fell into the same exact pattern and expectations that show had overall. 

So yeah, I thought it was pretty fitting. If you want to know any more thoughts I have about the finale or the series overall...I think I pretty much already covered that in my last post down below. So, uh, take it over Mike!

Episode Grade: A. It did what it needed to do and it did it rather well. I hesitate to say it did it superbly, but I feel very comfortable giving it that full A.
Episode MVP: Man, everyone is just expecting to give it to Dove Cameron automatically, aren't they? Yeah, it is, but I really want to give it to Joey Bragg. I'm really, really tempted to just pull one of those "I'll name everyone" bits because it's really become a whole ensemble with the cast which is more than I can say for other shows where you clearly have distinct, separate archetypes fulfilling roles rather than players and characters meshing together to create something bigger as is what I feel is the case for this show. 

...ah, what the heck. Episode MVP gets to be the entire core cast. Better in Stereo, and yadda yadda.

Series Grade: A-. Again, I hesitate to give it higher...but I really hesitate to go so low as a B+ even. 

...aw, heck with it. I'm giving the entire series a full A too. If you really want to know why, read the blog post immediately below this one, and after all that I can't see myself justifying going any lower. It really was a show that grew compared to what people might typically expect on this network (and indeed, like a lot of other shows). Stuck in the Middle might get to that point themselves, but not since Good Luck Charlie at least have we seen a show that's managed to really grow in such a natural, familiar way.

Extra thoughts

 - Interestingly enough, Liv and Maddie is joined by Austin & Ally as the only Disney Channel live-action series so far to go four seasons without an hour-long special anywhere in there, including the finale (though the final two episodes of A&A got arbitrarily mashed together into an hour-long special, but that doesn't count especially since they've aired separately in reruns since). The closest it gets to that is actually on a completely different series, with Jessie's Aloha Holidays With Parker and Joey.

 - Speaking of Austin & Ally they seem to be doing a A&A S4 marathon tomorrow right after the End-a-Rooney replay (you get to see pre-Ruby Lauren Lindsey Donzis again!) and yeah, they do list the two episodes that made up the A&A finale separately "Musicals & Moving On;" "Duets & Destiny"). Since this will actually be the first time I've seen them since the finale now over a year ago, I'll record them and take another look-see.

 - So we get an explanation about the so-called "confession cam" segments! And as dorky as I tend to be I think it's actually a pretty nifty one, and it even recalls the original pilot pitch for what would become this show.

- And in the process we get an explanation about the exact nature of Falcon's origin story. Wow they're really hitting it out of the park with closing all these loose threads!

 - By my count pretty much all the fan favorite guest characters were at least included by the penultimate episode, minus Benjamin King who has been a complete no-show this entire final season for reasons I simply am not privy to. We got the entire Dream last time (Andy and Holden) along with Evan and Artie and here we have Diggie and one of my favorites, Dump Truck (who gives us the top quote for this review). Actually, come to think of it, we don't get Josh although he did get his own episode and Dump Truck at least name-drops him.

 - And I see Bunk'd is trying to pull what GMW did to Jessie's finale with an upstaging featuring Lou (probably one of the best characters, or at least one of the ones that comes closest to being "good") potentially leaving the show, except it's a complete fakeout and the execution is less like the actual one single good part of Meets Texas and more like...well, like most of the rest of Girl Meets World

 - Yes I have a tendency to rag on Girl Meets World deal with it

 - So howabout that Disney Channel rebranding? I was kind of wondering why they were holding on to the winter bumpers a week longer than necessary and figured they'd probably wanted to debut the spring bumpers during the LaM finale and Tangled: the Series proper premiere, but I wasn't exactly expecting a complete new graphics language (well, I was, but only since last night when I read about it on Nick and More - which is an excellent resource, BTW, and I highly urge you to check it out). So who wore it better: the new Nickelodeon design language, or the new Disney Channel one? Personally...I swear they're ripping each other off as far as I'm concerned so I'd call it a draw, but it's better than the previous rather forgettable and sometimes even downright annoying (especially during Monstober and Dis The Season or whatever) graphics language Disney Channel premiered with the Girl Meets World premiere (and no this doesn't count as ragging on GMW yet again either) - though I did really like the season-specific bumpers and I'll miss them.

 - Yup, still no Tangled: the original Pixar movie and Tangled Before Ever After review, nor no Hunter Street review and we're already halfway through that series. Maybe...some...time.

 - For that matter we never reviewed Mako Mermaids, Backstage, The Lodge or Ride. Well guess what I still have all those episodes on my DVR, and I better get to actually watching them before they expire off it, so maybe one day too. We never reviewed The Other Kingdom either but...I think I still remember that series well enough. I know Mike isn't the biggest fan of it but maybe it means he just remembers it more!

 - Again, if this seems rather skimpy for a review of the finale of one of my most favorite series in the network's entire history, and what may very well be that network's absolute best, refer to the previous post where I think I ended up putting all the best emotional thoughts I really can already.

 - And hey, if Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are going to do major style revamps, why not this blog? Input, ideas, feedback blah blah blah.

10 comments:

  1. You said what I could, so I won't link my "review" this time. I just wish it was an hour long, but it did well for the time they had. Also, no grades, MVP, etc?

    I like the new blog look, although i did like the previous more because orange, nick, it fit. As for the new DC and Nick looks...eh, i can take it or leave it.

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    1. Regarding episode grade and such: d'oh! I was in such a rush I forgot
      As for the blog look...it's temporary as I figure out some of the new templates Blogspot just came out with. The reason why it's this one right now is because other than the original this is the only one I can get to work right now. But it is Disney Channel-ish vs. the original Blatantly Nickelodeon Orange-one. If people like that one, we'll go back to it.

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    2. Oh, and i called the explanation of the confessions thing back when the show started....because Zeke and Luther did the same thing with their similar gimmick.

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    3. Huh, really? How did that work out?

      I wonder if Modern Family will do the same.

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    4. Resident Anon here.

      I actually haven't seen Zeke & Luther before so yeah, I'm curious how that worked out too.

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    5. It turns out they were filming these little bit of them discussing their life to send to some reality show or something which kicks off the plot of the finale, which has Debby Ryan in it btw.

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    6. Wait, Debby's in the Zeke & Luther finale? I thought she was just in the one episode.

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    7. I thought the finale was the only ep she was in.

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  2. Resident Anon here.

    This was a great finale! I seriously loved the whole Bits and Pieces thing, that completely caught me off guard. Not only did I catch the reference (with the show's name alluding to the original title of Liv and Maddie), but did you know that Betsy and Benoit were played by Dove Cameron's mother and Tenzing Norgay Trainor's father, respectively? That was cool. It was really funny to me how meta all of that was, and it can be assumed that every Liv and Maddie episode was a Bits and Pieces episode (Dump Truck references Rate-A-Rooney, for one). They didn't even really *need* to give closure to the whole confessional thing since a good amount of shows do it, but I loved the whole expectation reversal here.

    Nothing else I really want to hit home about because you basically nailed everything. Though I will say, it almost felt *too* coincidental that everyone suddenly got offers to leave in the same day. But of course, that's a minor complaint, and it's not like it was unwarranted for them to do that, because like you said, previous episodes had been building on each of the four characters' threads. It was refreshing to see Dump Truck and Diggie again, too.

    Oh, and I do quite enjoy the new blog color scheme. A lot easier on the eyes, but at the same time, I liked the orange-y color before since it represented Nick's color. But no biggie.

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    1. Thanks, though like I explained to Spongey it's temporary as I play around with some of the new template options Blogspot just released recently (and by temporary, I probably mean "forever because I'm too lazy to change it"). And yeah, the coincidence thing is a lot more forgiveable if, like here, they actually clearly build up to it.

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