"Girl Meets World"- A Review
Full disclosure: “Boy Meets World” still ranks as my second favorite show of all time behind only Aaron Sorkin’s “Sports Night”. The episodes from the first season of “Boy Meets World” to the last still hold up for their thoughtfulness and quality and not purely because of nostalgia like other shows from my youth (“Saved by the Bell” comes to mind). Because of this I, like many, was over the moon to hear about the prospect of a follow-up series. On Friday the 13th, the pilot was made available for free on iTunes (it’s also been available on WatchDisneyChannel.com along with other episodes, but only for select cable providers) and finally it was time to see what returning show creator Michael Jacobs had come up with.
The opening scene of the pilot is the same that makes up the first teaser the show released. This awkward scene is heavy on pointing out its roots, using the word “world” no less than half a dozen times in under two minutes. It’s also quick to show us the grown up versions of Cory and Topanga, who appear to cheers from the audience. Unfortunately, this poor attempt to pass the torch sets the tone for the rest of the pilot.
To say the first episode is clunky is putting it lightly. Granted, pilots aren’t easy and even the best shows on television have less than stellar premieres. After all, setting up an entire — pardon the pun — world in 22 minutes while still including an engaging plot that can stand on its own is no small task. Ultimately, “Girl Meets World” tries to take on too much in one episode.
The titular girl in the series is Riley (Rowan Blanchard), daughter of Cory and Topanga (perhaps you’ve heard of them). The episode begins with her being egged on by her best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) to join her in an activity that has previously been banned in the new Matthews’ household — riding the subway. As the two of them attempt to sneak out via the fire escape, they’re stopped by Cory who gives a truncated lecture about how she should make her own choices. Topanga then makes her way in to say that they’ll be there for her no matter what (awwww).
While on the subway, Riley’s eye is caught by a cute boy (Lucas, played by Peyton Meyer) and she awkwardly attempts to flirt. This is where it because very apparent that she is, indeed, a Matthews. As it just so happens, Lucas is a new student in Riley’s class which just so happens to be taught by her father.
To shake up Riley’s — I really need to stop doing this — world just a little bit more, Maya takes it upon herself to lead a revolution against Mr. Matthews’ homework assignments ("Boy Meets World" episode 204 “Me and Mr. Joad”, anyone?) leaving Riley stuck with a hard decision: does she side with her father or her best friend?
Those stories plus (“Sports Night” reference, folks) Riley has a brother who pops in for about 30 seconds of useless cuteness and there’s a boy in her class with the awfully familiar sounding name of Farkle Minkus who claims to be in love with both her and Maya. Oh and Jackée shows up for some reason. Clearly, there’s a lot going on here.
Surprisingly, the best moments of the pilot happen when the adults aren’t around. Riley’s interactions with Farkle, Lucas and Maya are entertaining enough without having to shoehorn in familiar faces. In fact, Riley’s neuroses ridden, rapid-paced dialogue is on par with anything in her father’s series. It’s just too bad that the same can’t be said for many other scenes.
Perhaps the most egregious scene comes when Cory confronts Maya about her behavior near the end of the second act. In the scene, Maya drops a “bombshell” that further sets her up to be the new Shawn Hunter. Where as in the original series this would lead to heartfelt talk and resolution, instead Maya runs off and the issue is dropped. While this is the worst offense, the majority of the episode’s scenes seem to end on an awkward beat.
While “Girl Meets World” does show some promise, it’s concerning that the episode that got them green lit to begin with could be so sloppy. Instead of trying to test Riley and Maya’s friendship in the pilot, they should have taken more time to set it up in the first place. Afterall, just having a new love interest show up in a pilot is enough of a change to set a teen series in motion.
What it comes down to is this: “Girl Meets World” needs to trust that Blanchard and Carpenter can carry the show just like Ben Savage and Rider Strong did in the original. While it’s great to see Cory and Topanga again, they should be relegated to the same position Cory’s parents Amy and Alan were; supporting cast. While “Boy Meets World” doesn’t need to rely on nostalgia to impress, the writers of “Girl Meets World” seem to think that they do (though, I will admit, seeing the original season one font and colors in the show’s titles was a geeky treat). On top of that, the cameo in the show’s final seconds leaves so many questions that my head is spinning like a top.
I will gladly give the show a second chance, but, if it continues to pull punches like it did in this first episode, it will sully the legacy of “Boy Meets World” and I can’t stand to watch that happen.