The year is 2006. Brangelina are together, everyone is wearing low-rise jeans, you’ve yet to see a moustache finger tattoo and you don’t have a care in the world. You settle down to watch the 23rd episode of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” Season Two and hopefully, take shelter from the summer heat. “HOW DO YOU LOSE A WOMAN!?” Moseby (Phill Lewis, “Raising Hope”) asks, more enraged than we’ve ever seen him. Cue Cody (Cole Sprouse, “Riverdale”): “You forget to cherish her.” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” is full of quips like this classic line that still make me smile after all this time. London’s (Brenda Song, “The Social Network”) keep-it-real face is forever etched into my brain — if only I could replicate it.
Even the more minor characters enhance the lovable quality of the show. Muriel (Estelle Harris, “Promoted”), for one, embodies the laziness we all feel with her catchphrase “does it involve moving?” I can truly never say enough about Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramirez (Adrian R’Mante, “Even in Dreams”), but in Zack’s (Dylan Sprouse, “Tyger Tyger”) words, “Who’s got the time?”
Lance’s (Aaron Musicant, “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”) merman exploits never fail to make me giggle, and every time Arwin (Brian Stepanek, “The Loud House Movie”) is on screen, you can’t help but smile. His inventions frequently go awry –– always in a cloud of smoke if not a full-blown explosion –– which hits a little too close to home. However, Arwin is also a hopeless romantic with a heart of gold, and cynics like me could follow his lead to dream a little bigger. When Carey (Kim Rhodes, “Supernatural”) rejects Arwin for the first time, he says “I should probably stick to admiring from afar. It’s much less painful,” and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. But I would be remiss to leave out Carey’s response: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So true Carey. I’ll think of you as I suit up for my twelfth Tinder date of the semester.
The show is also chock-full of famous guest appearances that bring the term “nostalgia factor” to a whole new level. In season one, “Suite Life” had Jesse McCartney (“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip”) guest star in an episode playing himself — for Gen Z-ers for whom this is only a vaguely familiar name or means nothing at all, seeing McCartney on TV in 2005 would be the equivalent of seeing Justin Bieber on TV in 2011. Personally, I had “Beautiful Soul” burned onto a CD (which also contained “Since U Been Gone” and “Year 3000”), so for me hearing the familiar voice sing the chorus all these years later brings about a warm feeling in my chest and reminds me of a simpler time.
Zac Efron (“Down to Earth”) also guest starred on the show about two weeks after the Disney Channel release of High School Musical and just before his meteoric rise as the biggest heartthrob of the early 2000s. I wore my Troy Bolton t-shirt on the regular, and I’m not the least bit ashamed of it. His appearance famously inspired the most heated and intensely delivered line during the show’s run: “Do you want to kiss me as much as I want to kiss you?” and its response “I’m surprised someone as smart as you would have to ask!”
His HSM costars Vanessa Hudgens (“Tick Tick Boom”), Monique Coleman (“A Christmas Dance Reunion”) and KayCee Stroh (“Celebrity Fit Club”) also made appearances on the show. They played minor characters, fellow students of London and Maddie’s at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, which I still can’t say with a straight face. Tons of other now-familiar faces appeared on the show before they shot to stardom, such as Joey King (“The Kissing Booth 3”), Victoria Justice (“Afterlife of the Party”), Moises Arias (“The King of Staten Island”), Selena Gomez (“Only Murders in the Building”), Nathan Kress (“iCarly”), Justin Baldoni (“Jane the Virgin”), Jaden Smith (“Life in a Year”) and more. “Suite Life” is basically the Grammy’s of early 2000s television — anyone who was anyone was there.
The Season One episode “The Ghost of Suite 613” is hailed far and wide across the internet as the best Halloween episode of all time, and I’m here to join in the chorus singing its praises. I have a confession to make: I’ll watch it any time of the year and enjoy it just as much as I do during Halloween. It brought us my now-favorite lines “I hate pizza! It reminds me of my unfaithful husband!” and “There’s no such thing as ghosts. If there were, my mother-in-law would still be haunting me.” There are some things about this show you just appreciate more when you’re grown.
As for the twins themselves, the center of the Suite Life Cinematic Universe, I can’t imagine anyone else bringing our two favorite youngsters from script to screen. Although Dylan and Cole are fully grown now, both having graduated from NYU and amassed many other achievements, such as the establishment of All-Wise Meadery and a decently long run on “Riverdale” respectively, they will always have a special place in my heart as Zack and Cody. They embodied what I like to imagine as the angel and devil on my shoulder, but rather than either being purely good or unabashedly evil, the brothers influenced each other –– leading to our favorite shenanigans such as dressing up as “Tyreesha” to compete in a pageant or to tender moments such as preparing Arwin for a date with their mom. Truthfully, the shenanigans and sweet moments are often one and the same, and both Zack and Cody ultimately grow from the experiences. Nine times out of ten, their intentions were pure.
Through the character of Carey, “Suite Life” shows the challenges of being a single mom but makes sure that viewers are left with one feeling: the enormous love that Carey has for her boys. In one episode, their father comes back into town, highlighting how she always has to be the firm hand because Kurt is either gone or refuses to do it. Zack ran away to be on tour with his father and escape his mother’s nagging only to find that he misses her and the stability and caring she provides. “Suite Life”’s Carey is a tribute to single moms everywhere — we salute you.
London, for all her selfishness, still cares so much for her chosen family. In brief moments of select episodes, we’re reminded that London’s chosen family is all she has. For viewers with an absent parent, London imparts a feeling of sorrow but serves as a reminder that love surrounds us regardless — that we’ll be okay. Not to mention that although the show aired from ’05 to ’08, London’s style was so impeccable that many of her iconic outfits are fire to this day.
Finally, a Marion Moseby appreciation moment is necessary — not only do we relate to him and his exasperation more than we relate to the kids these days, he’s also responsible for many of the funniest and sweetest moments on the show. Early on in the show’s run, it’s Moseby who accompanies London to the father-daughter dance when her dad fails to live up to his promise. When the time comes, it’s Moseby who teaches London how to drive, despite the obvious perils of the job. London’s dad nearly always lets her down, but Moseby never does. Even though the show doesn’t hammer you over the head with it, Moseby also stands in as a father figure for Zack and Cody, doing everything from accompanying them to a Sox-Yankees game and trying to catch a ball for Cody to dispensing the appropriate wisdom when they need it most. Moseby is the dad we all wish we had, and when we escape to the Tipton, he can sort of be ours.
To the Tipton — thank you for being such a warm home to return to this winter and always.
TV Beat Editor Emmy Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.