They were ruthlessly separated for six minutes at birth.
But then Liv and Maddie Rooney were joyfully reunited in the maternity ward … and remained two peas in a pod all through their childhood. The twins shared everything: a room, clothes, friends, interests. We can only hope they drew the line at toothbrushes.
But then tweenage Liv had to zip off to Hollywood to become all famous and stuff, and a lot happened in the four years she was away. Now, fresh from her completed gig on Sing It Loud, Liv's back in the familial fold—but things aren't quite like they used to be. Liv is now all sequins and lip gloss; Maddie is high tops and hoedowns.
And yet for all their differences, the two find that they still have at least one thing in common: their love for each other.
Yes, Disney's Liv and Maddie is the sort of show that triggers exactly that kind of sappy, Hallmark-style recap. It's that nice. This is Mouse House television at its Splenda best—sweet and even occasionally satisfying.
Infrequent moments of ever-so-slight crude humor do little more here than weirdly prove that this show isn't at all about pushing the envelope. This is a family show that shows family in a flattering light. Liv and Maddie clearly care for each other. They listen to their well-meaning parents and shepherd their younger brothers. And while that care and shepherding can take some fairly outlandish sitcom turns at times, the heart of every episode is predicated on shared love and understanding. The comedy is gentle, not mean. And while the characters have their quirks and faults, those oddities make them more lovable, not objects of ridicule.
But it may be the way this series pushes back at the typical Disney TV clichés of fame-seeking teens that makes it interesting. Hannah Montana, Austin & Ally, Sonny With a Chance, Shake It Up and The Cheetah Girls movies all go gaga over walking the red carpet. Not Liv and Maddie. See, Liv is trying to leave the world of fame and celebrity, not trying to enter it. She breaks up with her pro skater boyfriend. She struggles with people confusing her television character with who she really is. And, most importantly, she's trying hard to adjust to life after the spotlight—fitting back in with a family she loves. In other words, she's headed home, not to Hollywood.
It's an interesting and gratifying twist. Instead of a regular kid trying to become famous, here's a famous kid trying to become regular—whatever "regular" looks like in the wacky Rooney tribe.
Disney's always encouraged young people to follow their dreams, but the implication is often that those dreams need to be coated with far-away stardust. So it's kinda nice to watch Liv and Maddie show us that sometimes dreams can be found and fulfilled right inside your own home.
When Liv and Maddie argue over how to celebrate their 16th birthday, their mother reveals that the two were actually born on different days: Liv late on the 5th of the month, Maddie early on the 6th. It's a shock for Maddie, who chose No. 5 as her basketball jersey number because she thought it was her birthday. To cheer her up, Liv decides to throw Maddie an elaborate surprise party—turning their backyard into a putt-putt course, just like the ones they used to have birthday parties at when they were little.
Maddie almost ruins the surprise, of course, when she comes home early—because when she makes her own birthday wish, she says, "the only wish I had was that we were blowing out the candles together." And she also opts to keep her 5. "That's the day my best friend was born," she says.
There's some necessary subterfuge going on here, of course. People mislead and goad Maddie, for instance. And when her love interest, Diggie, proclaims he wants to make Maddie's "Sweet 16 to be as amazing as it can be," Maddie's dad suggests he should not try to make it too amazing. (It's a wink-wink, nudge-nudge that's either negative or positive, depending on how you look at it.) Maddie's friend Willow has a crush on Joey—sitting so close to him that she can feel his ribs. There's some mild disrespect for his parents coming from the youngest Rooney son. And someone falls down a stairway.
Did I mention yet that coarse talk gets no further out of hand than "pretzel butt"?