Yeah. Yeah. We're doing this. I'm reviewing a live-action Disney Channel show. That's a thing that's happening here. It's a sequel to Boy Meets World, Boy Meets World had that Sabrina crossover, and they did that Truman Show episode, and they killed Kenny that one time, that means it's a genre show, and I can talk about it here. Right? Right.
In 1993, a show premiered as a part of ABC's TGIF lineup. Boy Meets World was a family sitcom about a little boy named Cory— and his group of friends —growing up, and "meeting" the world.
It is one of my favorite shows of all time.
Don't get me wrong, it's extremely flawed, the continuity of the show doesn't even try to match up with itself, and the whole series really feels like three different shows crammed into one title (the grade school year, the high school years, and my favorite, the college years), but over its seven year run, the show not only managed to develop a surprisingly believable cast of characters (benefitting from the fact that the young actors they cast all actually grew up into pretty decent ones), but also to grow up with its viewers, becoming more mature, and at times, dark. Storylines like the death of Shawn's father weren't met with laughter, they were met with drama, and while the show had a knack for the melodramatic (Shawn would later talk to his father's ghost, no joke), it felt like you were really watching the lives of a group of people, for better or worse. I actually consider How I Met Your Mother to be something of a (I assume) unintentional spiritual successor to Boy Meets World for that very reason, it's the only other show I've ever seen which gave me that feeling, and tonally they aren't that far off.
So when it was announced that there would be a sequel, focusing on Cory and Topanga's daughter, I was tentatively excited. The only problem? It's on Disney Channel.
Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Disney Channel. Some of their cartoons, specifically Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls, are actually really great. And while I haven't enjoyed any of their cheesy low-budget live action series since Cory in the House (shut up, don't judge me), they're totally harmless, and, y'know, not for me. Of course I don't like Ant Farm, but why would I be watching Ant Farm? I've caught enough of Jessie to see Joey Richter's recurring character, and trust me, that was more than enough Jessie to last me a lifetime, but, again, picking on Dog With a Blog for being dumb would be like shouting at an actual dog for gnawing on a bone. Of course it's eating the bone, what else is it going to do, it's a dog. Now sit down, that dog isn't harming anyone, let the dog chew its bone.
The thing is, Boy Meets World is incredibly close to my heart, so when it was announced that the original cast would be appearing in the show, and that Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel would be main cast members, I knew that whether the show sucked or not, I would be there watching from the very first episode.
Girl Meets World doesn't actually premiere until the end of the month, but they've put the first episode, "Girl Meets Boy" (guys, guys, the original show didn't do the "Boy Meets X" episode title format, it's really not necessary) up for streaming on Disney Channel's site, if you have a participating service provider. As such, I've just finished watching the first episode and… Whoo boy, that sure is a television show.
We open on the house from The Cosby Show. It's good to see that it's still getting work.
We're introduced to our two main characters, Riley, a kind but dorky young kid, and her best friend Maya, a good-hearted, but rebellious "cool kid." If that sounds familiar, it's because of course that sounds familiar, that's the exact description for Cory and Shawn. Don't get me wrong though, that's not a complaint, just… Yeah, that's the kind of "sequel" this is.
Maya is trying to convince Riley to sneak out of her house, so they can go do some G-rated shenanigans. Riley doesn't want to do this, but ultimately the two of them crawl out the window onto a fire escape. Of course, as you'd expect, Riley's dorky dad is out there waiting for them. Everyone applaud, BEN SAVAGE IS IN THE HOUSE!
We get a moment where Cory explains to Riley that she's not living in her own world yet, she's still living in his world, and that some day, she'll make it her own.
She asks where her parents will be when that happens, and Danielle Fishel walks into the room. "Right here." She says. It's a genuinely nice moment, despite some dodgy acting from the younger stars.
After this, Riley and Maya head off on the subway (I guess to school? It's pretty unclear), and we get an absolutely dreadful sequence of Maya being super cool. She knows the street performer named "Weasel," and Weasel asks who the chick Maya is with is. "Chick. On the subway I'm a chick. No wonder my parents don't want me here." That is literally a line in this show, oh my god this show is so whitebread and tame i can't even asldflgkjldhfgjl
—sorry, I blacked out for a minute there. Anyway, after an even worse moment where Maya struts her twelve year old stuff (I feel dirty typing that), they're finally riding the train. While there (after Riley mentions reinventing herself), they see a boy who I can only assume is being played by Justin Bieber, and Maya encourages Riley to go introduce herself. First there's a joke about— No, you know what, actually, we haven't even gotten to the opening credits yet, if I stop to talk about every bad joke, we will be here all day.
Riley falls into Bland White Boy's lap, hiiiilarity ensues, and suddenly— Wait, is that the mom from Sister, Sister?
WHAT SEQUEL AM I WATCHING?!
Any way, after going and chatting with Maya again, there's a bump, and Riley falls again— Right into Jackee Harry's lap, this time. She picks Riley up, and puts her right into Bland White Boy's lap. "It's for you." All right, that was kinda funny.
And then… Oh my god, you guys. This is the most generic thing I've ever seen.
Wow. That was, that was something else. On the one hand, I'm glad they kept the paper airplane from the original Boy Meets World intro— It's little touches like that which make me hopeful for the show in general, along with the fact that the footage from the intro (beyond episode one) looks to have some decent callbacks to the original series in it.
On the other hand— Oh crap, Bland White Boy is in the intro. He's our love interest, isn't he? Ugh.
So, once we're past the credits and at "I Didn't Catch the Name" Middle School, it's time for class. Are you ready for this? Guess who the teacher is.
"You're late to your own father's class!" "It's ok mister Matthews, you wrote her a note." "I did?" "You did." … "Huh. You've got my handwriting down pretty good." It's another funny joke, and made me chuckle.
The strength of this show has already become obvious to me— Ben Savage is by far the saving grace of this show. The material so far— especially for the kids, is pretty lacking, but Savage is clearly giving it his all, and having a lot of fun revisiting his most famous character, from a new perspective. This feels like Cory. If you asked me what Cory would be like "grown up," this is what I would have pictured. It is pitch perfect.
On the flip side, we have Farkle.
You guys remember Minkus? Minor character, disappeared after season one, stereotypical nerd of the nineties, the only funny joke he ever had was from the end of the High School years when he showed up again, only to reveal he'd been standing just off camera on the other side of the hall for the past four years?
Farkle is our new Minkus. In fact, he fits that archetype so well, I'm honestly kind of surprised they didn't gender-swap him, too. As if to threaten the audience with something much worse, they then pan over to the gender-swapped Minkus, reminding us just how far this show can fall should we step out of line.
I'm sorry, Girl Meets World.
The lesson of the day is on the Civil War, and Cory begins teach, explaining to the class that the Civil War raises the question of just what people are willing to fight for. Who they are. Of course, as soon as they do this, Bland White Guy walks in. He's from Austin. I'm not kidding guys, he's really this boring, I have nothing to say about him. Maya likes him, Cory doesn't like that. Because obviously.
The class is given a homework assignment, asking each of them to figure out what they're willing to fight for. Maya, being the new Shawn, decides that she's willing to fight for NO HOMEWORK!
Maya leads the class in a chant, before Riley, wanting to be cool like Maya, decides to chant with them. Cory asks what she thinks she's doing, and Riley says she's deciding who she wants to be. "Who am I, dad?" "You're just like me!" "Yeah? Would you do this? No homework! More freedom!"
So, in case you aren't a Boy Meets World superfan like I am, the joke here is that, yes, Cory would do exactly this in the second season episode "Me and Mr. Joad," where Shawn and Cory use the Grapes of Wrath (being taught in class) to lead a strike against the school, intending to get the removal of homework.
This, right here, is exactly what this show needs more of. It's a really really good nod to the original, but (aside from the laugh track laughing at the "would you do this" line) is subtle enough for newcomers not to realize that it's a reference at all. Well done, Girl Meets World.
Back at home, the show has suddenly remembered that Topanga is in this show, and she's just home from a day of… Llllaaaaw… Buuuusineeess… Suit-stuff. As Cory and Riley get home, they're absolutely furious with each other. Riley explains that she's reinventing herself to be just like Maya. The parents aren't happy about this, Riley storms out.
Now we get introduced to yet another character, Riley's little brother Auggie, because every character in this show is a gender swap of a character from the original show.
The next day, Riley and Maya are having lunch (although I'd like to point out that they don't actually eat in this scene, they sit down with a plate of food, the jokes happen, and then they go dump their full plates of food. Weird.), when Bland White Guy sits down to join them (also, I looked it up, this guy is 15, and the actor who plays Riley is 12, and WOW it shows, whenever he's near the other kids in the show, he looks like he's an old man compared to them. It's kinda creepy) and again, this scene is actually kind of funny… But only because Cory is in it. He makes me laugh, but the rest of the scene is just awful, awful filler.
Look, you can probably guess where this is going. Cory is overprotective of Riley, so he drags Bland White Guy off-screen, after delivering some funny lines.
Back in class, Cory tells them all to turn in their homework, and Maya says she can't, because that's what she's fighting against. Riley says she didn't do it either, and Cory tells her that doesn't make her the same as Maya at all.
Maya gets up to make a speech, and Farkle runs in with sparklers because I don't know, and Maya raises them to the sky, accidentally setting off the fire alarm because no kidding.
All right, see if you can follow me here, despite Farkle being the one who brought the sparklers to class (for his own project, not, like, to support Maya), Maya is the one who gets detention, and Cory tells her the principal will have to decide whether it goes on to a suspension or not. Farkle jump on Cory's back because I don't know.
This actually really sucks, because Cory has to deliver a pretty important piece of dialog here explaining how Riley isn't like Maya, she's just a copycat, but because she's not being a good friend to Maya anymore, Maya got into huge trouble. It's actually a really good lesson, which is hamstrung here by the fact that Farkle is climbing on Cory's head during the whole scene. Oi.
In the next scene, Farkle is still on Cory's back some indeterminate amount of time later (Ha.), and runs into Maya and Riley again in the hall. He makes Farkle get off, and has to deliver literally the same speech again, because it was awful the first time when Farkle was on his back.
After sending Riley away, Cory talks with Maya one on one, explaining to her that can't keep getting Riley into trouble. Teary eyed (and actually decently acted), Maya says quickly that she has no one to help her with her homework.
I've been kind of joking throughout this about how Maya is Shawn's distaff counterpart, but in all seriousness, she is obviously meant to echo Shawn here. It's a good moment, and my hope is that Cory will, throughout this show, start to help Maya, because of the fact that she reminds him of Shawn. Shawn will apparently be in the season finale, by the way, let's hope there's an echo of themes there.
All right, as far as I'm concerned that was the emotional climax but we've still got five minutes left, so let's breeze through the rest of this.
On the subway, Maya tells Riley her dad is going to make them stop being friends. Jackee Harry is there again, and she's all right. Maya literally forces Riley off the train, but Riley realizes this is the point where she needs to stick by her friend, and gets back on board, telling Maya that she won't let the two of them stop being friends.
Back at home, Riley tells her dad that there's no way he can break up their friendship. Cory asks if she really thinks that's what he wants, and she says it's not. That if he really wants her to make the world her own, then he needs to understand that she knows who she is, and what she wants to fight for— Her friend.
At the very end, all of our characters, Cory, Topanga, Auggie, Riley, Maya, Farkus, and Bland White Guy, are all gathered together (I have no idea why they invited the last two) at the subway platform to celebrate "Riley being Riley," as Cory has broken down and gotten her a subway pass. I— I guess that was a plot point. I don't know.
"I've already met the world. Now it's your turn." It's a nice little passing of the torch.
But by far my favorite moment of the episode? The very end. Cory looks toward a poster hanging on the wall of the subway station.
"Well done, Mr. Matthews."
I audibly went "squee." I'm glad they got Feeny back, however briefly, it's a nice touch.
This… This was not good, folks. It wasn't bad enough to make me write the show off entirely, it seems to have a good understanding of the original characters, and, despite some hokey child acting, the main two characters are, y'know, harmless enough. In fact, I think they actually do a good job of making Riley feel like Cory and Topanga's daughter.
I really, truly hope the writing on the kid characters improves, because it's really painfully bad right now, and I want nothing more than to like this show.
The parts with Cory are entertaining. The nods to the original are well done. The problem is, it feels torn between two worlds, the original show's brilliance, and the harmless-but-uninteresting typical Disney Channel fair. I hope they can find a way to balance the two (not to mention use Topanga a little more in the future, geez), but for now, it's got me somewhat pessimistic about the future of the show.
There were bits I liked, there were bits which physically pained me as a fan of the original. I'll keep watching though, because apparently I hate myself.