Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen – A Retrospective

maryI feel like there’s something most young American women around my age can relate to – when we were young, we all wanted to be one of the Olsen twins.  So here’s a quick rundown of notable Olsen shows and movies!

Full House – At 6 months old, the twins were double-cast as Michelle Tanner, sharing the role so as to comply with child labor laws. They were credited as “Mary-Kate Ashley Olsen” for the first 7 seasons. Over the show’s 8 season run, Michelle grew into a precocious troublemaker with a proclivity for shenanigans. While many fans of the show were endeared by her rascally ways, others saw her as obnoxious and were annoyed by the show shifting its main focus to her in the last few seasons.

Our First Video – As the title suggests, this straight-to-VHS movie was the twins’ first. To say more would follow would not just be an understatement, but a total disservice to the media empire the girls would eventually build. This particular video is a compilation of shenanigans in skit- and song-form, including “Brother for Sale” (the girls attempt to sell their older brother at the bargain price of 50 cents) and “Identical Twins” (a lie; they’re in fact fraternal twins.)

To Grandmother’s House We Go – This made-for-TV movie follows twin sisters Sarah (Mary-Kate) and Julie (Ashley) as they run away to visit their grandmother for Christmas. Shenanigans include getting kidnapped by Rhea Pearlman, hooking their mom up with a delivery man and winning the lottery. The movie premiered on ABC with surprising success, indicative of the twins’ budding fanbase.

Double Double Toil and Trouble  – In this Halloween TV movie, twins Kelly (Mary-Kate) and Lynn (Ashley) learn that their mean Aunt Agatha is also a twin, but she used a witch’s magic stone to trap her sister Sophia (both played by Cloris Leachman) in a mirror years ago. Shenanigans ensue as the girls ultimately discover that their love for each other is the key to defeat evil.

How the West Was Fun – Yet another TV movie, this starred the girls as – you guessed it – twins. Susie (Mary-Kate) and Jessica (Ashley) get embroiled in western-themed shenanigans when they set out to help their grandmother save her dude ranch from their selfish uncle Bart.

The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley – A series of musical whodunnits starring the girls as private detectives who solved crimes with the help of their basset hound Clue. 11 shenanigan-filled “episodes” were produced between 1994 and 1997.

You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s… – Another series of musicals. In each of these 10 “episodes,” the girls throw a themed party (Christmas, costume, fashion, etc.) The shenanigans started with Sleepover Party and ended with School Dance Party.

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It Takes Two – The first of two movies from the Olsen Twin Brand to get a theatrical release. Here, the girls don’t play sisters, but identical strangers – tough orphan Amanda (Mary-Kate) and sophisticated socialite Alyssa (Ashley.) The girls run into each other and discover that they each have something that’s missed from the other’s life; Amanda has freedom and friends while Alyssa has security and a father. The girls switch places and end up in all sorts of Parent Trap-esque shenanigans. They also discover that Amanda’s caretaker Diane (Kirstie Alley) and Alyssa’s father Roger (GUTTENBERG!) are a perfect romantic match and scheme to get them to fall in love before Roger marries a gold-digger who plans to ship Alyssa off to year-round boarding school and Amanda is adopted by a slimy family.

Two of a Kind – A short-lived television series starring Mary-Kate as Mary-Kate and Ashley as Ashley, polar-opposite twins raised by their straight-laced professor father (Christopher Seiber) and manic pixie dream nanny Carrie (Sally Wheeler.) Aside from shenanigans, the show mainly focused on Mary-Kate’s laid-back tomboy and Ashley’s boy-crazy priss setting aside their differences in order to get their father and Carrie to fall in love.

Billboard Dad – Emily (Ashley, who also narrates) and Tess (Mary-Kate) want to help their widowed artist father Maxwell get out of depression. They decide to find him dates (and ultimately love and happiness) by pulling a big shenanigan – painting a personal ad on a billboard. After a wacky date montage, Maxwell falls in love with Brooke. His greedy agent Nigel sees his new-found bliss as a threat to his artistic style and plots to foil the relationship. It’s up to Emily, Tess, Brooke’s son Ryan and their friend Cody to make sure Maxwell and Brooke stay together. This straight-to-video is one of the few times that Ashley plays the more tomboyish twin (Emily likes skating and surfing) while Mary-Kate plays the more achievement-oriented one (Tess is a star diver,) and also the only movie in which one sister has a confirmed romantic interest and the other doesn’t.

Switching Goals – Sam (Mary-Kate) is a soccer superstar, while twin Emma (Ashley) doesn’t appear to have any athletic talent – her hobbies are fashion and boys. When the kids’ soccer league goes co-ed, Jerry, their father and one of the coaches, is psyched to get Sam on his team, but his wife convinces him to pick Emma first. Another coach drafts Sam before Jerry’s second pick. Emma hates being on the champion team where she’s clearly the worst player while her sister can’t stand playing with the lowest-ranked team. They decide to play swapsies and find themselves way over their heads in shenanigans.

Passport to Paris – Along with Billboard Dad, this is one of the Olsen’s most fondly-remembered video release, and the first of several that has them traveling abroad. They play Melanie and Allyson Porter (guess which one’s which,) two flighty tweens who are sent to visit their grandfather in Paris over Spring Break. While there, the girls ditch their hard-worked chaperone Jeremy in favor of les shenanigans with supermodel Brigitte and cute Parisian boys Jean and Michel. They also learn a little bit about art, international discourse, and clean water. Vive la France!

Our Lips Are Sealed – Teenaged twins witness a theft connected to a powerful mob boss and are placed in the Witness Protection Program. They start new lives in Sydney, Australia as Maddie and Abby Parker and get into all kinds of shenanigans as they learn Australian colloquialisms, try to become popular, fall in puppy-love with a couple of surfer dudes, and evade ineffectual mobsters. Crikey!

Winning London – Goal-oriented Chloe (Mary-Kate) and ditzy Riley (Ashley) travel to London with their school’s debate team for an International Model UN competition in London. They partake in shenanigans around the city. Chloe meets cute with James, the son of a British lord, while Riley gets closer to her man-ditz teammate Ben. To win the competition, the team must learn good sportsmanship and creative thinking. Notable for starring Jesse Spencer as James – you may know him as Dr. Chase on House M.D. Pip pip!

Holiday in the Sun – In what is by far the laziest entry on the list, Mary-Kate plays Madison, Ashley plays Alex, and Megan Fox plays a bitch (shocker, right?) This movie is literally nothing more than a commercial for the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. There aren’t even any good shenanigans. Plus it started Megan Fox’s career, so it’s pretty much a plague of a movie.

Getting There – Sweet 16 for most Americans means a driver’s license and, if lucky, a car. Kylie (Mary-Kate) and Taylor (Ashley) get a hot Mustang for theirs. They and 5 of their friends take off on a road-trip to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, but endless shenanigans and not-so-friendly feuds threaten to ruin the trip entirely.

When in Rome – Mary-Kate’s Charli and Ashley’s Leila go to Rome for an internship with a fashion company. Various shenanigans get them in trouble with the head of the office, Enrico Tortoni, but intern director Julie encourages them to keep working hard. They impress the company’s founder, Derek Hammond, and start flirtations with Roma native Paolo and Hammond’s lazy nephew Ryan. Mamma mia!

The Challenge – Granola girl Shane (Mary-Kate) and type-A Lizzie (Ashley) have been happily estranged since their parents’ divorce. But when they separately audition for the same reality show, the producers cast both twins to boost ratings. They must stop their quarreling and work together if they want to win college scholarships. Pulls the ultimate shenanigan when, just before the end credits, several of the actors who’ve played love interests in previous straight-to-videos cameo for a 4th-wall-breaking gag. It’s bizarre.

New York Minute – The second and last “Mary-Kate & Ashley” theatrical release. Mary-Kate is Roxy, a drummer with rockstar dreams; Ashley is Jane, an uptight over-achiever who plans to attend Oxford University. When both girls travel to NYC (Roxy to slip a demo-tape to pop-rock band Simple Plan and Jane to deliver a speech that could land her a scholarship,) they accidentally get tangled in a black market deal, kidnap a dog, and find love (of course.) Also stars Eugene Levy, Andy Richter, Dr. Drew and Jared Padelecki. The film was a total flop and is generally considered one giant Ferris-Bueller-plot-thieving shenanigan.

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