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Lamentation of the Disney Channel

Carrie Turek | Monday, February 20, 2012

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl who grew up without the Disney Channel. She didn’t spend Saturdays with Lizzie McGuire or nights anticipating DCOMs. She grew up wondering what “Zenon” was and what Johnny Tsunami was all about. She made it through childhood, but there was still a part of her that wondered what she had been missing.

As a child who grew up deprived of the Disney Channel, I entered college hoping to make up for lost time. Sadly, though, when I flip to channel 50, Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable have been replaced by cartoon fish and dancing preteens. What happened to the good old days of “Even Stevens” and “Lizzie McGuire?” Did Phil ever return to the future?

I remember growing up watching recorded versions of Disney Channel Original Movies on VHS. My best friend would tape the specials, and I would watch them after they aired. I still remember a very young Hilary Duff in “Cadet Kelly” and a pre-scandal Lindsay Lohan in “Get a Clue.” Today though, all that’s left are sour Lemonade Mouths and triple-threat stars who can neither sing, dance nor act. Where has the quality gone?

For some reason, I always had this idea that the Disney Channel “release” of an original movie was a big deal — something that called for popcorn and late-nights. As I got older (let’s say somewhere around age 18), that idea began to wear off.

Still cable-less at home, college gave me a much anticipated opportunity to see what I had been missing. As I soon learned, it wasn’t much.

I experienced my first Disney Channel release in real time during the first few weeks of college freshman year. It was Sept. 3, 2010. I watched “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.” Epic, I know.

But “Camp Rock 2” did not come with popcorn. I don’t think it even came on during the night, when all real movie-watching takes place. The child in me was disappointed. But still I held on to hope that “Camp Rock” was just a fluke — that the real joy and magic of the Disney Channel would still come to light.

My new college friends laughed at me as I tried to catch “Hannah Montana” and “Suite Life.” They could not seem to understand my need to prove how great the Disney Channel was. But even I became disillusioned.

Soon, even “Hannah Montana” left the air. Zack and Cody were relegated to the 2 a.m. slot and new shows featuring identical dancing children cropped up. “Fish Hooks” aired much too often, and “Shake It Up” was a mystery to me.

“Phineas and Ferb” was the channel’s only saving grace. The hopeful Disney fan in me is just plain sad that all of Disney’s talent lies in two (very cute) cartoon boys.

So, Disney Channel, bring back the favorites and “getcha’ head in the game.”

Contact Carrie Turek at cturek@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.