Season 2, episode 33: "Xtreme Xmas" -Lizzie McGuire Reviewed

Season 2, episode 33: “Xtreme Xmas”

By a weird coincidence, we get the Christmas episode at just the right time! That hasn’t happened with any other holiday episodes, so I’m pretty delighted about this.

I’m not particularly delighted about reviewing this episode, though.

Sometimes the writing credits are really confusing to parse, especially in the second season. I can’t figure out who wrote this one because all of the writers listed in imdb were listed as producers elsewhere. I want to blame someone for this nightmare, though.

The school is hosting a charity drive and all the students line up to hand their donations to Santa Claus. I guess that’s a thing? It seems backwards, giving presents to Santa Claus. But that’s the setup here, and also the Santa Claus is Steven Tyler from Aerosmith.

And it’s never explained! Santa is just obviously Steven Tyler and no one notices or remarks on it.

Lizzie and Gordo have an exposition-filled conversation revealing that Lizzie is building a float for a Christmas parade and hopes to win the first prize, a skiing trip, for the best float. How would a middle schooler build a float for a parade? The weird thing about this episode is that everyone else who makes a float is from Lizzie’s school, which made me assume it was a school project or contest until I rewatched and realized that it was never specified. Could you imagine a middle school encouraging 13-year-olds to get their power tools together to build a float? I had to build a piñata in middle school and that was difficult enough.

Anyway, Lizzie’s float theme is “Rock n’ Roll Christmas,” which only makes sense as an excuse to have Steven Tyler participate in some way because “Rock n’ Roll Christmas” makes no sense. If it was “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” that would at least be a reference. Nothing about the two renderings Lizzie shows has anything to do with rock and roll, so I guess she’s just hoping a rock star will drop by to bring her dream together. Honestly, if I were Lizzie McGuire, Walking Celebrity Bait, I’d bank on that too.

As a side note, I assume she got her artistic genius brother to do her renderings for her, because that’s way too good.

Kate, Tudgeman, Lizzie, and Gordo work on their floats in some sort of big warehouse space. This float contest keeps confusing me more and more. This scene also made me assume it was sponsored by their school because it would make sense if this was the space for shop class or something, but then Lizzie made a reference to her school as if it were a separate location.

Kate’s cousin Amy hangs around for no reason, and as with Amy’s last appearance, she only gets two lines in the entire episode. The Duff family must have had serious influence behind the scenes if they could just shoehorn Haylie into random episodes like this. This one doesn’t even have Miranda in it, but we get Cousin Amy!

An old man wanders in, and Lizzie recognizes him as one of Santa’s elves from the charity drive. The man begins talking about the North Pole as if he is an actual elf and introduces himself as “Nobby Frostybump.” What the shit kind of name is that? It sounds like a slang term for getting frostbite on your dick!

The other McGuires show up to the random warehouse to help Lizzie with her float, and they end up befriending Nobby. As with Steven Tyler’s nonsensical appearance, Nobby’s whole thing isn’t really explained. Matt believes that he’s a real elf. Everyone else seems to think he’s a delusional old man. But he reveals that Sam wanted a “Quickie Bake Oven” as a child and no one questions how he knew that…so I think he is supposed to be a real elf and everyone is just dumb? (Sidebar: I know they couldn’t use the trademarked term Easy Bake Oven, but they substituted “Quickie”? And I had to hear that with my own ears from a man calling himself Nobby Frostybump?)

Lizzie says she needs a lot of help with her float, but her family blows her off to go hang out with Nobby. They say they’re just going for lunch, but they never come back and Lizzie has to get home by herself somehow six hours later. This all seems like a setup for her family to learn a lesson about the importance of being there for each other, but it’s not, they’re just being shitty.

At home, Lizzie finds out that the McGuires had just been kicking it with Nobby, a strange old man that they seem to think has severe dementia but who they nevertheless signed out of his retirement home for the night so he can eat dinner in their home. I guess Matt learned too much from his last foray with helping the elderly. Lizzie keeps snapping at everyone that she needs help with her float, and for once I think that her bitching is justified. They committed to helping her and now they’ve kidnapped someone’s grandpa instead!

There’s a weird line in this scene, where Matt tells Nobby, “Don’t listen to her – she’s a Grinch!” and Lizzie responds, “I do NOT hate Christmas!” as if he’d actually said that phrase instead. That’s an acting mistake, and not fixing it was a directing mistake, but it’s also a writing mistake because Lizzie then launches into a monologue about how much she loves Christmas that doesn’t fit into this episode at all. She should be like “I don’t have time to get in the Christmas spirit! I need to finish my float!” to set her up to get into the Christmas spirit, but she doesn’t. She says “I love everything about Christmas!” but the episode still makes her learn about Christmas. She doesn’t need to! She needs a more supportive family!

The McGuires say that Nobby will be staying at their house for a few days because the plumbing is broken at his retirement home, and we get a montage of generally fun holiday shenanigans that includes Nobby taking the last of the spaghetti before Lizzie can be served so Lizzie has to go hungry. If this happened in real life, “Nobby” would definitely drop the loopy act as soon as the McGuires went to sleep and rob them blind.

Weirdly, the show makes an attempt at being inclusive by throwing a dreidel game in the middle of this montage, which seems like a particularly lame gesture considering it’s set in a room festooned with poinsettias and holly, features a man in an elf costume, and is scored with a rock cover of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Hope you felt included for all of 3 seconds while your eyes and ears were besieged with Christmas indicators, Jewish viewers.

Nobby gets a call saying that the retirement home’s plumbing won’t be fixed in time for Christmas. Does plumbing need to be fixed in time for Christmas? I’d think you’d just want it done as soon as possible, regardless of where that falls on the calendar. Are the retirees worried about missing out on their annual Christmas tradition of flushing the toilet?

Sam gallantly volunteers to fix the plumbing for an entire retirement home, presumably a big task, despite the fact that he can’t even fix a sink. Luckily Jo volunteers to help, and so does Matt even though he’s a child and would therefore be as useless as Sam.

So Lizzie and Gordo work on the float alone the next day in the float-building warehouse that I guess exists in their town. Sam stops by to get a tool from his toolbox so I guess…the McGuires….own the float-building warehouse? He gestures offscreen as if the toolbox is in another part of the warehouse, so it’s not like Lizzie borrowed his toolbox and brought it there.

Sam says they need more people to help with the plumbing problem – I would say “professional plumbers” would be helpful here, but Nobby said that the retirement home “couldn’t find anyone who wants to work around the holidays” which makes no sense because plumbers work year-round. Honestly, I’d think the Two Big Gay Guys would be the best assistants, but Kate already contracted them to build her float for her. Which does make sense, because middle schoolers shouldn’t build parade floats.

Anyway, Gordo ditches Lizzie to help. So everyone leaves Lizzie alone in an abandoned warehouse, where she works all day until she collapses with exhaustion. Bold of Disney to model a Christmas episode after The Little Match Girl.

Lizzie has a dream where Nobby tells her she’s lost sight of what Christmas is all about. Why? Should she be helping fix the plumbing? She’s a 14-year-old girl! The only thing I’d expect her to know less about than constructing mechanized parade floats is fixing industrial plumbing!

This dream is a pastiche of all kinds of Christmas pop culture references. Gordo appears and says he’s “the elf who wanted to be a dentist” – very copyright-safe! He explains that he wants to be a dentist because he really just wants to help people, “because helping people’s what it’s all about.” What?! Hermey doesn’t want to be a dentist because of a frustrated sense of altruism! He just has a career goal that’s crushed by the oppressive career norms of elven society!

Jo shows up as the Ghost of Christmas Past and tells Lizzie to clean her room. “The point is, you should be spending Christmas with the rest of us, but instead you’re obsessed with winning,” she says, as if that conclusion follows from her lecture on cleaning up. The writing is shockingly lazy this week.

Lizzie says that if Christmas isn’t about her float, she doesn’t know what it IS about. Really? By age 14 you’ve at least heard of Jesus, right? Then we get the weird bit that reader Katy mentioned in the comments recently where Matt shows up to quote paraphrased Scripture. It’s definitely Jesus-y, but he doesn’t mention Jesus by name and just ends with talking about “good will toward men.”

This is a weird line to walk, because if you want to insist that Lizzie learn THE meaning of Christmas, it’s about Jesus. But the nativity story is thrown in as a setup for a lesson about helping people. Lizzie says she’s learned that Christmas is about doing good for others, and I guess it kind of is? But Christmas is such a clusterfuck of pagan traditions and Christian meaning and consumerism that it seems hard to nail down one solid meaning like that, especially after just skimming over Christ’s birth. The messaging here feels muddled.

Lizzie starts speaking in Seussian rhyme because she realizes that her dad is having trouble with the plumbing because “the pipes that they’re plumbing are two sizes too small!” I thought this was dream nonsense, but Lizzie then wakes up and sets off for the retirement home somehow (by foot?). She declares the pipes too small and announces, “We need to change out the main lines and use step-down couplings!” Sam says Lizzie’s plan will work and they all talk about Christmas being about helping others. The McGuires and Gordo all hug in an awkward, TV-friendly stage picture.

This episode is nonstop nonsense, y’all. The McGuires meet a man who might be a real elf, because Santa is real and so is Jesus and Christmas is about them both, and Lizzie had a dream where she learned about Jesus and found out that the secret to fixing a retirement’s home plumbing was inside her heart all along, and also Steven Tyler is in town wearing a fake beard and taking donated toys from middle schoolers.

The next day, all of the principal characters gather for some stock footage of a Christmas parade. Nobby asks if Lizzie wants to meet Santa Claus and it’s still Steven Tyler and still no one notices. A group of random kids and teenagers appear to ask if he’s really Santa, and a boy who’s at least 13 says, “If you’re really Santa, prove it!” It doesn’t seem age-appropriate, but that doesn’t even crack my top 10 list of things that make no sense about this one.

Steven Tyler says “All right, I’ll prove it,” and we get a cut to the next scene. So I suppose he said “All right, I’ll prove it” and stormed off and all the kids went “What was up with that?” Also, Steven Tyler does not prove that he’s Santa Claus. He just proves that he was actually Steven Tyler.

Lizzie’s float is announced and she’s confused because she didn’t finish her float, but she smiles and says “I think I know who did.” And then Steven Tyler performs “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on her float and no one seems really surprised or points out that the lead singer of Aerosmith was the only thing bringing out her Rock n’ Roll Christmas theme that wouldn’t be present otherwise.

“So you’re saying Santa Claus finished your float, then turned into Steven Tyler from Aerosmith to perform on it?” says Gordo. “I did not see that one coming.” And that’s it! The episode ends! What the fuck!

I didn’t think celebrity episodes could get much lazier than the Aaron Carter one, but boy howdy was this one lazy. It felt like six different ideas for a possible Christmas episode all thrown together with no regard for messaging or coherence. Lizzie learned to help people instead of worrying about winning a contest, but she also presumably won the contest. Her family continually ignored and neglected her to spend time with a stranger, even when she begged for their help in every scene, in an episode about helping people who need it. The float contest only seemed to be in the script to justify Steven Tyler’s performance, but that doesn’t explain why he went incognito as Santa at a middle school. I don’t know, y’all. Merry Christmas. Go fix an old man’s plumbing and hope a rockstar will build you a float, I guess.

Unnecessary references: Cartoon Lizzie makes a joke about getting with Freddie Prinze Jr. Again, the show’s hunk shoutouts seem off. At this point Freddie Prinze Jr. was making the live-action Scooby-Doo movies. Who was lusting after him in those?

Notable fashion moments: Lizzie wears a style of belt that was super popular at the time, with lots of fringe down the side. I had a lot of these belts. Why? They’re so ugly!

It bugs me that Elf-Gordo doesn’t dress like Hermey at all.

They once alluded to the show’s location as being California, and that’s pretty obvious from like everything about it. But that means that the costuming is often pretty mixed-up.

It’s easy to see what the idea here was – red and green Christmas colors on the parents and a big cozy sweater on Matt. But the materials are all over the place. Sam looks like it could be summer and Jo looks ready for spring. Lizzie wears the above blue t-shirt in this scene, so either she’s very cold or Matt is very toasty. The family is just as incoherent in the parade scene.

Lizzie wears a skirt and does her hair in elaborate curls on the day of working on her float. That’s not practical!

Stuff like this makes me mad because Lizzie does have more casual outfits. She wears them to school! And yet she dresses to the nines to build a float in a warehouse!

Meanwhile, Gordo is dressed appropriately but confusingly. His sweatshirt says ARGO WRESTLING on it.

Where is Argo? Who does he know who wrestles, besides the team photo he crashed, which was at Hill Ridge Junior High, not Argo?

Lizzie dresses pretty rock and roll for the parade, but she does not ride the float so I don’t know why.

She even has black streaks in her hair! That was so damn edgy in 2002.

Other interesting tidbits: This one doesn’t even attempt to explain why Miranda is gone. No one even mentions it. I wonder if Lalaine was sad she didn’t get to meet Steven Tyler.

Steven Tyler’s attempt to explain how he ended up on the show seems like a prewritten PR statement by the Disney Corporation (right down to the plug for their parks), but I still appreciate that it included the sentence “I’ve been to Israel, Maine, Spain, and Spokane, but I had not seen this Lizzie McGuire show.”

The casting director clearly didn’t think Haylie Duff looked enough like Hilary to be related to Lizzie, and watching this made me wish they’d just cast her as Kate and let her reprise her performance from Napoleon Dynamite. She’s only 2 years older than Hilary, and I’d rather have a Kate that looked a little too old than a Kate who couldn’t act at all.  And anyway, she’s younger than Adam Lamberg!

There’s a short bit with the McGuires singing Christmas songs and Lizzie reluctantly joining in that’s funny to me because she doesn’t even try to sing. It makes sense for the character, but you’d think that if Hilary Duff had an actual interest in or talent for singing, they’d have actually showcased it here, the way they wrote in an excuse for Lalaine to sing the season before.

Cousin RiRi actually shows up! He’s in the parade and the announcer calls him “Reginald Rehoven.” Damn, it wasn’t Bad Gal RiRi after all.

The actor who plays the parade announcer was also Gordo’s driver in “Over the Hill” and also the security guard in “Aaron Carter’s Coming to Town.”

In the spirit of Christmas, which apparently can mean anything, would you like to donate $5 to Lizzie McGuire Reviewed? I would really appreciate it!