Professional reviewers have compared The Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie where Chloe “Dove Cameron” Hosterman plays two sisters brought together by studio magic, to 1960’s classic The Patty Duke Show, where Patty Duke plays two identical cousins with wildly different interests, personalities, and even accents. However, the shows are so different that the comparison is unwarranted. For one thing, Liv and Maddie is in color, whereas The Patty Duke Show was in black and white. Another minor quibble is that Hosterman’s portrayal is a little different from Duke’s. For one, while the characters are different from each other, it’s not because they’re two believable people with different personalities. While Liv is believable as a slightly ditzy teen actress, Maddie is, like every other main character on the show, a gratuitously active and awkward caricature of a middle school student.
As for the show itself, it is very much another iteration of normal live-action Disney Channel or Nickelodeon preteen comedies. There are a lot of physical gags, silly situations, and more regrettable puns than usual. A big difference from most shows of this fairly monolithic genre is that this one has a high level of compartmentalization. Liz and Maddie not only have their own interests, but they also have their own friends and subplots. This goes beyond the two characters as well. Joey and Parker, the onscreen younger brothers of the titular twins are also rarely onscreen with their sisters and most of the subplots involving them are largely unrelated to the action in the foreground. Sometimes it feels like we’re watching three TV shows at once.
This isn’t bothering the critics, though. Those who have picked up the pen have done so in support of Cameron’s performance. They cite her comedic talents, some of the charm of the supporting cast, and Dove’s singing abilities (demonstrated on and off the show in small doses) as the show’s strong points. Users on Metacritic and IMDb give it between 6 and 7 points out of 10. This means it holds the highest of esteem among the group of tween live-action sitcoms that have sprung up on cable television in the last couple of decades. It has even beat out iCarly in terms of fan ratings. This is quite an achievement considering that iCarly is considered one of the greatest shows in the field since Kenan and Kel left the air.
In terms of viewer numbers, Nielsen reports that Liv and Maddie is regularly being watched by almost two million viewers. This is comparable to the most popular children’s show on television, Henry Danger, which, while having amazed children’s TV pundits with its 2.6 million viewers for the season 2 finale, is not very different with respect to the number of people watching it during a typical week. Disney Channel executives have nothing to complain about in Cameron’s ability to draw crowds comparable in size to those of its bitter rival, Nickelodeon.
Hopeful fans question whether the show can survive into season 5 and further. This is unknown, but the prognosis is not very positive. The end of season 3 saw Maddie move to Los Angeles to pursue further education. Fans thought this oddly-timed example of shark-jumping signaled the end of the show, but it came back for a 4th season and was even given a subtitle: “Cali Style.” The ratings are still good and the interest is moderate, but children’s shows of this ilk don’t last very long, not least of all because the producers seem to prefer to cast very young actors who can give very energetic and silly performances. We’ll have to wait and see if Cameron will be allowed to fulfil her role into next year.
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How do you think this Disney Channel offering stacks up? Do you think Liv and Maddie will stay in California permanently? Do you think the show will get a proper season finale? What do you think will happen if it does? Share your opinions with us down below.