Hello and welcome back to, after a long hiatus, Millennial Misremembers, the column in which I confront my increasingly poor memory of my childhood faves to jog yours. This edition, we’re rewatching Disney Channel’s So Weird, which ran for three seasons, beginning January 18, 1999. The pilot episode is called “Family Reunion.” (Fun fact: Shawn Levy of Stranger Things fame directed this episode.)

What I (mis)remember

I was obsessed with this show. Besides my embarrassing childhood crush on Erik von Detten, there was something intriguing about the magic system of the show — nothing felt “so weird” that it couldn’t actually happen. As someone who believes in the inexplicable, this hit home.

So Weird also had incredible pathos for a children’s show. Disney is no stranger to dead parents, but back at the turn of the century, dealing with a kid’s search for meaning in said parent’s passing was. Whether intentional or not, this show pioneered how later Disney content would deal with this subject matter. 

At least, that’s how I remember it.

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Let’s rewatch

Yes! The theme song is a bop. I totally forgot that Mackenzie Phillips sang it. Fun times! It’s also got some vaguely religious lyrics. Interesting.

The episode proper begins with Fi (Cara DeLizia) telling us that while we’ve probably heard of the Great Chicago Fire, we may not be so familiar with the Eastland Disaster. To which I say, presumptuous much? I’ve never even heard of the Fire! (I kid.)

Anyhoo, the Eastland Disaster. In 1915, a cruise ship capsized before even leaving the dock, killing 844 people. Some were never identified. 

Next, we see that Fi is writing this info for her website, So Weird, which is dedicated to the paranormal. In the room next door, her brother Jack (Patrick Levis) is playing his guitar way too loud, and they argue about it. He teases her about searching for aliens. Joke’s on him; she received a video of a UFO from one of her readers. 

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Next, Fi receives a new message. Sadly, it’s just a weird video/gif Jack and Clu (von Detten) planted on her computer. The tour bus shakes. That’s right; they’re on a magic tour bus. Mom Molly (Phillips) finally comes to see what all the commotion is about and tells them it’s past their bedtime. 

The bus arrives in Chicago. Everyone’s excited to finally be in a hotel. But first, Jack’s gotta clear the bus’s windshield of bugs. He passes the job off to Fi. Molly lets him. 

Clu’s dad — Mr. Bell (Dave ‘Squatch’ Ward), is the kid’s teacher, and he assigns them an eight-to-ten-page paper on Chicago history. The kids try to get out of it. Before the kids go off to check out the “historical mall,” Molly pulls Jack aside to ask him how he thinks Fi is doing being on the road (🙄).  

So Weird Millennial Misremembers -- Dave Squatch Ward

Molly wants her kids to have a normal life. They were so little when their dad died. Jack cuts her off before she can say more. They’re doing great. Smile. 

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Next, Molly goes straight to the horse herself and asks Fi to help her with soundcheck. The power flickers while they’re doing that, and some weird whale-like noises sound. (Apparently, it’s a kid crying.) Mrs. Bell (Belinda Metz) assumes it’s just interference, but nothing’s plugged in. Then the buttons start sliding on their own.

Then the venue manager, Mr. Belavoe (Jerry Wasserman), comes up and says, “Found one of our ghosts, huh?” He doesn’t actually believe the building is haunted, but other people believing that serves his business well. Fi follows Mr. B and starts asking about electromagnetic fields and the like. He tells her she has to be 21 to be in the building. 

Because the entire part of town had been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, Fi’s convinced she’s got a ghost on her hands. She goes to her message board for answers. She goes looking for more answers in the venue. There, she finds a ghost boy (David Kaye). He’s soaking wet. “Whoa, that is so weird,” she says.

Fi tells her mom she saw a ghost. Jack and Clu overhear and make fun of her. Later that night, Molly goes to talk to Fi. She’s not laughing. Molly doesn’t necessarily believe in the supernatural as wholeheartedly as Fi, but she’s more … agnostic than Jack. 

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After Jack teases her about perhaps having drowned the ghost in her spilled soda, Fi gets an idea: Search for drowning disasters in Chicago. She then finds out about the Eastland Disaster. The building where dead bodies were brought is now the venue where her mom is playing. She even finds the little boy’s ghost in images of the cruise ship pre-sinking. 

Then, his image moves, and her computer starts to flood. The F? The boy mouths, “Help me!” He throws her laptop into the wall and shatters it. 

Fi is way too composed when she interrupts Clu and Jack (the former is eating a “burrito-cicle” btw) to tell them it’s time to look for the boy. We learn now that Clu isn’t quite the non-believer that Jack is. He’s game to search for the ghost. 

Not to be left out, Jack joins in. Fi tells them they need to split up, even though the ghost hates her. Clu thinks the ghost probably has a crush on her ’cause that’s what guys do.

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The ghost comes to terrorize Fi or something. She has her magnetometer, and it’s going wild. There is a room on the other side of the wall. He wants her to go in there, she says. The trio climbs in from under the floorboards. 

So Weird Millennial Misremembers - building facade.

It’s an old storeroom of sorts, filled with rats. Jack wants to leave, but Fi needs to stay to figure out why the 85-year-old ghost is messing with her. Jack cannot figure out why on Earth this ghost would have chosen her. Clu says that maybe it’s because she’s the first person willing to listen. 

And now Jack’s true reticence comes out. He despises Fi’s obsession with ghosts because he wants/needs to believe that when people die, that’s it. Her beliefs don’t change that reality. Just as Jack climbs back out of the room, the ghost boy starts flying around furniture, including an old trunk. What does he want?

The room is capsizing! Then she sees the boy’s parents (David Bloom and Deborah DeMille) and him reaching out to them. Fi starts reaching too. She’s stuck in the moment as the boy falls. She finds his coat. The room stops moving. His name is on the coat. The kids fall through the floorboards.

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Later, Fi checks the list of names of the drowned against the name she found on the jacket. The boy’s previously unidentified body will be moved to join his parents’ graves. 

At the grave, Jack tells Fi that their mom had asked him how Fi was doing. He’ll tell her she’s doing all right if she asks again. Next, he says, “I think about him, too, you know?” (Love!)

So Weird Millennial Misremembers -- Patrick Levis

Molly joins Fi next. She cannot explain what Fi saw, but she never doubted that her child had seen it. And regardless, she did a good deed. 

The ghost family appears together, but when Fi turns around, they aren’t there. She feels their presence, though. 

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Does it live up to the nostalgia?

Totally. How much so surprised me. Sure, there were some cheesy parts, but overall So Weird is pretty impressive for a Disney Channel production of the early aughts. This show is rated TV-Y7, and I can totally see that. It’s not just the spooky scenes. The themes are more mature than other shows, and the series handles them with more nuance than I’d expected. This is definitely one for the rewatch list.  

And that’s it for Millennial Misremembers. See you soon for another edition! 

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