Milo Murphy’s Law is a show I wish got more love than it deserved. I went in for the same reason I’m sure others did, the novelty of “Weird Al” Yanovic voicing the character, but that only goes so far. I had heard of Phineas And Ferb, the previous and highly popular show by the same creators, Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, but I never really got into it. The adventures of Milo and his friends however I could very much get into.
The show follows Milo Murphy, the ancestor of the first victim of Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong and usually spectacularly. While the curse seems to only affect the men (Milo and his dad are hit with it while Milo’s sister doesn’t and his mom only married into the family, plus we see one of his cousins denying he deals with it) the curse is rather hilarious to watch in action. Additionally, Milo ends up crossing paths with a pair of time travelers (voiced by the creators), secrets are learned about his friends, and running gags play the long game. The “llama incident” gets brought up numerous times in season one before being revealed halfway through and the yacht the school bought plays a part in season 2…by of course being destroyed.
Why didn’t the show do better. I thought the jokes hit well, the lore was silly but easy to follow, rare for anything involving time travel, the songs were good whether done by the usual team or Yanovic himself, and even when you know the characters would be fine the interest comes into HOW they deal with Murphy’s Law. There’s a video YouTube keeps wanting me to watch about “Why Milo Murphy’s Law Couldn’t Find An Audience” and partway through I decided this would be a good topic.
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I can’t speak much to Disney XD since we had gotten Toon Disney in our package sometime before the change to Disney XD so I already had and still have access to the shows. The pilot also premiered on YouTube and was a Saturday Night Showcase here at the Spotlight, so I did my part. It’s possible that this was a factor since at least some of the other XD shows that was popular also ended up on Disney Channel, like the Ducktales reboot and Gravity Falls would head back there. I haven’t run the numbers so I’ll take what he says at face value.
However, I don’t agree that there were no stakes. Since when is DEATH the only stakes? The day could be ruined, the fact that people don’t get hurt is often thanks to Milo’s planning, explained as his babysitter being Batman levels of prepared and him learning from here how to better control Murphy’s Law, aided by his friends Melissa and Zack as well as his family and the various friends he makes. We also see how dealing with the craziness caused by Murphy’s Law, and the lore of Murphy’s Law itself that actually gets explained during the Phineas and Ferb crossover, affects those around him for the better. Scott the Undergrounder starts opening up to the upper world again, Cavendish and Dakota learn WHY pistachios went extinct and why the future was actually better off for it (even if they don’t get rewarded for their new mission of protecting the world from evil pistachio people), and other characters learn to become better people, except for Bradley who just ended up unfortunately being a punching bag. Having the most growth of the supporting cast is Amanda, who takes longer to learn that her obsession with scheduling and order can actually help Milo (like helping plan a birthday party) but could lead her to trouble (like the school dance where someone else had fun for her until Milo inadvertently showed her that sometimes you need to just go with the flow). There was evidence that she and Milo might even become a couple, thus helping to explained why his mom would date the disaster zone that is his father.
That leads into his take on the characters being static. The thing is none of the problems the gang deals with require them to change. You fight a bunch of pistachio people out to conquer time and space today, tomorrow you’re attacked by a stampede of llamas. The focus of the stories are the ways the gang comes up with to deal with whatever Murphy’s Law sends at them. Cavendish and Dakota become better friends by the end of the series. I mentioned Amanda learning to use her skills rather than be overwhelmed by chaos. A substitute teacher learns to enjoy teaching again. Milo’s sister learns to temper her obsession with Dr. Zone, the not-Doctor Who series she and Milo are fans of. Zack learns to embrace his past as a local celebrity boy band member and gets back into music with his friends while his old band turn into jerks. Melissa gets over her fear of the roller coaster. Doofensmirtz reforms because of this show, not the old one, and then must learn how to be a good person and eventually become Professor Time. Admittedly Milo is basically there to be both the cause and solution of the problem, but it’s through his actions that his friends overcome their own issues and start embracing life and the madness that surrounds them.
And through it all they don’t take Bradley’s path of simply avoiding Milo and his curse like so many other do. They see him as the great guy he is, some warming up to him immediately like Melissa and Zack, while others like Amanda and Cavendish dealing with their own issues because of Milo. People’s lives are made better, or at least more exciting, because they met Milo and survived their adventure. It’s not a huge change for most of them (except maybe Amanda) but it is still a learning experience and a fun adventure.
I also disagree on the art style. I get what they were going for with Phineas and Ferb basically looking like the first letter of their name but it’s something I never really liked about their design. It just looks weird versus everybody else. As for the humor, not every joke needs to make me fall down laughing. The comedy here goes more for humor that out loud laughs (although the show has those as well) and I’m okay with that. I think these come down to personal taste really. How do you not remember “Rooting For The Enemy”?
Sure, Al is singing it and later put it in his ultimate discography collection I wish I had been able to get but it was written by the folks that made Zack’s “Chop Away At My Heart”, and while Mekai Curtis nails the boy band bit it’s still memorable to me. Meanwhile the only reason I remember the songs from Scooby-Doo Where Are You is the nostalgia while What’s New Scooby-Doo didn’t have anything memorable at all. Both songs were pretty memorable to me but I don’t usually remember the chase songs in a show anyhow.
Then there’s his take on Diogee. I don’t have the same connection to Perry, though I do know about him. I have seen a few episodes of Phineas And Ferb, including the Marvel crossover, the Star Wars parody, and that movie where they hop dimensions to where Doof is full-on evil. Diogee is a loyal dog who sometimes helps Milo out and sometimes just shows up to see what he’s doing. For a guy who claims to love the character so much I’m surprised that he doesn’t see what Diogee’s role is in the show…another gag and occasional deus ex machina. It’s how Diogee fulfills that role that makes him fun to watch when he’s there, as well as how casually Milo explains “he’s not supposed to be in a nuclear missile silo”.
To that end I didn’t get most of the P&F references but they still show up in a way that at least felt natural, especially when you realize they exist in the same universe. That’s how platypuses look in that world, so that’s what Milo’s platypus jammies look like. Whatever Football X7 is, it exists in that universe. I guess the references are more jarring if you are a fan of the previous show but I wasn’t and they never bothered me. They didn’t feel like references, a problem that shows up too often when Hollywood breaks out these easter eggs nowadays.
And maybe that’s the big difference between his takeaway and mine. Since I was never into Phineas And Ferb I never compared the two shows. Maybe Povenmire and Marsh did want to return to that show. Maybe because of the problems the new show was having getting an audience they tried to talk fans of the previous show into checking out their new concept. Maybe they just really wanted to make a show about Doofensmirtz and Perry so they brought them back to this show. I don’t know. Not connecting to their previous work may have made it easier for me to enjoy Milo Murphy’s Law while Carlile, who still says he’s a fan of both, can’t help but compare the two being similar in style due to the same creators having a particular art and comedic style that they brought into the next project, which isn’t a new thing. I still enjoyed Milo’s adventures more than I did Phineas and Ferb’s and I really wish the show had gotten another season or two. What didn’t work for him usually worked for me and the stuff that worked for both of us still works. The show does deserve more love than it gets because it’s still a fun way to pass the time and quite clever in how it approaches the same topic.
EDIT: Tossing in this video for funzies and because I’m still doing Art Soundoff on the quick post spot.
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So apparently the reference thing does work both ways. Maybe it’s just a shared universe thing? Like Stark Enterprises showing up in a Spider-Man movie that doesn’t have Iron Man.
I’m a big fan of ‘Phineas and Ferb’, and I enjoyed ‘Milo’ a lot as well, so I was sorry to see that it didn’t find as much of an audience.
I do find it odd that the video you cite lists ‘lack of stakes’ and ‘static characters’ as part of the problem, since ‘PnF’ was deliberately formulaic and only rarely had any serious stakes at all (mostly just being kids have fun and their sister trying to get them into trouble). The fact that most episodes followed the same pattern was part of the joke. ‘Milo’ was a much more serial, story-driven show, with season-spanning plot-lines and the characters were generally far more dynamic than in the other show (e.g. Cavandish goes from not knowing who Milo is to thinking he’s the villain to befriending him over the course of several episodes). The characters *did* develop in PnF, but it was much slower and more subtle; you rarely had an episode where a character simply learned something and permanently changed because of it like in ‘Milo’.
So, whatever the reason is that ‘Milo’ didn’t do as well as PnF, those certainly aren’t it. I’ll have to give it some thought and form a theory of my own.
Thanks for sticking up for Milo!
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My article’s title may sound harsher on the host than I intend since he does say he’s a fan trying to figure out why it didn’t connect. It is a reason I disagree on because I’m not sure how much change the characters are supposed to go through since at some point they stop being the same characters. Ebeneezer Scrooge for example undergoes a huge character change but that was the point of the story and only one story from his life (not counting the flashbacks). For a series you can’t be so changed that you aren’t the same person unless that’s the plot.
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[…] BW Media Spotlight posted a good piece defending Milo Murphy’s Law, the sequel series to Phineas and Ferb that, alas, failed to find the […]
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