Girl Meets World

A 33-Year-Old Man Reviews Girl Meets World

As a person of a certain age, I’m intimately familiar with the TGIF staple that was Boy Meets World. The coming-of-age story about teenage boy Cory Matthews that follows him from sixth grade through his marriage, which takes place while he’s still in college. It’s not even the series finale!

Like many fans of this quintessential 90′s sitcom, I had a range of emotions when the Disney Channel announced that they would be producing a sequel series titled Girl Meets World. These feelings included:

  • Will Mr. Feeny be in it?
  • Do I really care about a remake/reboot of a series I liked 20 years ago as a teenager?
  • I’d better not become an adult male who makes a series aimed at teenage girls all about himself, or people might think I’m some sort of Brony Worldy.
  • I sure hope Mr. Feeny is in it!
Cory and Topanga return in "Girl Meets World."
Cory and Topanga return in “Girl Meets World.”

But when it was announced that Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel would be reprising their roles as Cory and Topanga, respectively, the Boy Meets World fandom exploded like a long dormant volcano. Would the rest of the cast make appearances? Could this show possibly live up to the original? Would it feature Mr. Feeny??

At the time, my prediction to a friend who fondly remember Cory’s original adventures was that everything about Girl Meets World would be amazing…right up until the point it premiered, when we’d all decide to never speak of it again. That wasn’t to say that the show was going to be terrible, but it seemed highly unlikely that it would do anything to hold the interest of adults that were tuning in only for the chance to see the continuing adventures of their favorite characters. Nostalgia is strong, but it isn’t quite that strong.

A year and a half later, the first episode of Girl Meets World has been released online by the Disney Channel. I set out to watch it, and found that while this show wasn’t made for me (of course) and while I doubt any number of guest stars from the original cast could convince me to watch it on a regular basis, it does offer kids a show that’s similar enough to what Boy Meets World gave us last century to be a worthy part of the franchise. And yes, it does feel incredibly weird to refer to “Meets World” as a franchise.

They're like Cory and Shawn! Only girls.
They’re like Cory and Shawn! Only girls.

The show opens by introducing us to Riley Matthews (Rowen Blanchard) and Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter), who are the Cory and Shawn of this series. Riley is the daughter of Cory and Topanga, and at 12-year-old, is generally a good kid: she does her homework and doesn’t push her boundaries too far.  Maya is the rebellious best friend who is…well, she’s a female Shawn. It’s really that simple.

One of the biggest issues I had with this episode was the clunky dialogue that pervades the show, at least so far. Much of this seems to have to do with establishing the title of the show. In the first scene, Cory catches the girls trying to escape to the subway out Riley’s window. This leads to a conversation in which Cory explains that it’s still his world, not Riley’s world. But he wants her to make it her world! The word world is used four times in 20 seconds here. Later in the episode, we’ll even hear Cory explain that he’s “already met the world.” We get it, guys.

The plot here is about Riley’s desire to become more like Maya. She sees Maya as the cool one, and wants to prove that she’s not the safe, predictable one in their friendship. That’s a pretty logical place to start the show, as it makes it easy to characterize both girls and give them room to grow towards one another. It’s also yet another way in which the relationship between the two parallels that of Cory and Shawn — though, through all his fatherly advice in this episode, Cory never actually brings that up. I’m sure it’s coming, though, especially if Rider Strong should stop by for a cameo at some point.

Although there’s enough of the original Cory here to connect him to

Mr. Matthews isn't quite as wise as Mr. Feeny.
Mr. Matthews isn’t quite as wise as Mr. Feeny.

the character on Boy Meets World, he’s really playing more of the Mr. Feeny role here. He’s a teacher at Riley’s school, giving him plenty of opportunities to both impart wisdom and embarrass his daughter in equal measure. They even try to do the old “tie the class lesson into the plot of the episode” shtick they used so often on the original show, though The Civil War is an awkward metaphor for figuring out who you want to be — even Feeny would call that a stretch.

The cast is rounded out by a number of characters at school and home. As mentioned earlier, Fishel returns as Topanga, though she’s pretty underutilized in this episode to the point where she feels like a supporting character (I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes; she didn’t really fit into the very school-centric plot used in the pilot).

Riley and her little brother Auggie.
Riley and her little brother Auggie.

Riley also has an adorable little brother named Auggie (August Maturo). At school, she and Maya are joined by Lucas Friar (Peyton Meyer), a transfer student from Texas who seems likely to be Riley’s love interest, and Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis), the designated Minkus for the new show. In fact, Wikipedia tells me he’s actually Minkus’ son, though that hasn’t been revealed as of the first episode.

Across the board, the cast seems competent, with only Farkle

Just Farkle being Farkle.
Just Farkle being Farkle.

resorting to the wacky, mug-to-the-camera style antics you might fear from a Disney series (and even he manages to be amusing in the process). And don’t worry, there are no secret musical geniuses, noboy has an acting career, and not a single child thus far is the star of her own web series. No, this show seems to have thankfully stayed in the kind of grounded universe that was present in Boy Meets World (well, most of the time). The only aspect that seemed a little too “Disney” was the set design; it often appeared just a bit too pristine, unlike the very lived-in sets of the original series.

Again, the largest problem I had with the show was its tendency to hit the viewer over the head with its messages, abandoning any attempts at subtlety. When Boy Meets World (itself not always subtle) wanted us to learn that Shawn’s home life was less than ideal, it did so organically. On Girl Meets World, Cory chews out Maya at school for going too far in a demonstration, to which she tearfully replies “I have nobody at home who helps me with my homework.” It could tie in with the “Homework Rebellion” plot line…but makes little sense at that point in the episode.

By the end of the episode, Riley learns that she needs to figure out who she is, rather than trying to be Maya. And perhaps that’s a metaphor for this show, which will need to be whatever it wants to be, rather than another Boy Meets World. But while this may not be a series that appeals to adults beyond the occasional guest spot — virtually the entire original cast is rumored to appear at some point — fans of the original can feel assured that its legacy won’t be tarnished by Girl Meets World.

And yes, Mr. Feeny shows up! Kinda.

Well done, Mr. Matthews!
Well done, Mr. Matthews!

Author and Freelance Writer