When I first heard that Disney was looking to resurrect (as opposed to spinning-off or rebooting) Boy Meets World as Boy Meets Girl and follow Cory and Topanga’s daughter through the challenges of adolescent life, I was instantly excited and intrigued. I’ve been a longtime fan of the show (even though I was in high school when it premiered—man I feel old!), even going so far as referencing it in my film Secrets of the Desert Nymph. My first thought upon the announcement was as long as they bring back Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel, I’ll be a happy camper. Lo and behold, they both signed on shortly after, as did William Daniels (Feeeheee-heee-neeey) for a cameo appearance in the pilot (at the very least). But as the news settled, I began to wonder… can this resurrection truly bring back the magic that was Boy Meets World, or can it only be a decent generic copy (as most reboots, re-imaginings and spin-offs inevitably are)… a show that looks like the original but can’t hold up to the predecessor’s special quality and appeal? Judging by the original, it’s going to be a long, hard-fought road.
Boy Meets World originated in 1993 and ran for 7 seasons, so in what could be a chance for fans to catch up on it (or help introduce it to an all new audience), ABC Family has begun airing reruns of the show in its entirety. Having caught a few of these episodes over the last couple of weeks, I am amazed at how well the show has been able to hold up over the years. I’m not sure if it’s simply nostalgia (because of my affinity for the show) or if it was absolutely that good, but watching it again, I laugh more at these episodes than most “comedies” currently on television.
Ben Savage might not have been the best overall actor (some of his dramatic scenes were a little under-par), but his delivery and comic timing were absolutely perfect, not to mention his out-of-this-world chemistry with Rider Strong (as bad-boy best friend Shawn Hunter) and, of course, lovable Topanga (Fishel). In fact, the entire cast (including Will Friedle as studly Eric, Lee Norris as brainiac Mincus, William Russ as the well-to-do father, and of course Daniels as the all-knowing Mr. Feeney!) works so well together, it feels as if you are part of the family—part of their world—even though you’re only able to watch from the outside.
The purpose of the show was to teach and help young people learn from their mistakes, and the writers and producers were excellent at bringing each week’s message out in a very natural and organic way (sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much), so as never to sound overly pretentious or preachy. The story lines were always fun, while remaining clean and effective. They never thought to reduce themselves to vulgarity or stupidity to get laughs. They simply took true to life situations and created believable dialogue and relationships with a good balance of humor and emotion. This is especially true where Shawn Hunter is concerned.
The dynamic between Cory and Shawn was not only the core of the show, it was developed to showcase a great friendship between two people from essentially different sides of the track. Cory was the good guy, raised by a clean-cut family with strict but fair rules, who did what they did out of love, while Shawn was the loner, the bad kid who didn’t really have a place in the world. The two characters balanced each other perfectly, each one feeding off the other and helping each other cope with life by utilizing their different viewpoints for and against each other. It was in these stories, when Shawn would start to stray and Cory would attempt to bring him back, that were especially powerful and resonating.
The show, I will admit, did falter a little bit in quality in the later years when all of the gang went off to college (as usually happens when the core group goes to college), when they decided to bring Eric’s IQ down a few notches, turning him from adorable stud who thought he knew everything but didn’t, to outright stupid flake (although Will Friedle certainly made it work!), and of course the desperation in trying to find Mr. Feeney a purpose to remain with the show. But even with those small gripes, it was still as funny, relevant and emotionally powerful as anything else on television, before or since.
I’m not sure if Boy Meets Girl will be able to capture any of this unique specialness, or if Disney will carbon copy their typical slate of Disneyfied kid fests they currently develop (which can be seen in any other current show on television, where the kids are all snarky, too smart for their own good, and/or absurdly stupid), but it is certainly going to be fun to find out. As long as it stays as natural and true to life as the original, there are plenty of heartfelt, fun, topical and relevant stories that the show could explore, including the dangers of texting and driving, cyber bullying, racial and sexual orientation biases, respectful phone use, and how all of this relates to relationships, both familial and otherwise. I think from what the producers (which includes original creator Michael Jacobs—a good sign) and the stars have said—going on record to let fans know that the spirit of the original still exists among the new cast and crew—that it’ll at least come close, and a new generation will have a clean, fun, meaningful role model to watch and enjoy every week.
Now if they can just convince Will Friedle and Rider Strong to return (at the very least on a recurring basis), we’ll be golden!