Television Mayhem – Girl Meets World

Like a lot of fans of Boy Meets World, I was both excited and a little apprehensive about the announcement that they were going to resurrect the series, not as a reboot, but as a continuation of the story (as many properties have already done to varying degrees of success). As news continued to come out, and it became clear that, not only was the original creator back to continue this family’s story, but that the original cast was returning (regardless of how small their participation might be), things looked to be heading in the right direction. What wasn’t clear was whether the show would remain true to its roots and give authenticity to the world of today, that they wouldn’t be afraid of exploring heavier topics alongside the lighter ones (see what I had to say upon the original announcement). Now that the premiere of Girl Meets World has come and gone, I can say that, regardless of its expected growing pains, that it will, over time, become a respectable continuation of a series we’ve all come to love and cherish.

I can’t really say how much of the pilot episode represents what the show will be like in its entirety (you never can), but I can see the potential of where it can go if given the chance to grow. There were several sparks of genuine fun sprinkled throughout an otherwise meandering script and over-the-top introductions. I say this because the overall script felt extremely forced, as if they were trying a little too hard to capture the magic of the original instead of letting the humor flow naturally into the new generation of characters.

Which is ironic, since the pilot episode was all about finding ones voice and passing the baton to a new generation. It was a good decision to begin the show with some self-referential winks to the old, as Cory Matthews (Ben Savage, still as delightful and paranoid as ever) tells his daughter Riley (Rowan Blanchard) that until she earns her own, this is still his world, because it reminds us of the type of quirkiness the original had, while giving us a foundation to follow into the new. Riley spends the next half hour trying to find out who she is and whether she will ever feel confident in her own shoes.

There to help her (or confuse her even more) is Riley’s best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter), clearly a female version of Cory’s own best friend Shawn, complete with a fractured home life and a need to stand out among the myriad of players on the world stage. And just like Shawn, Maya may want to stand out, or do things that can get her into trouble, but there’s still a respect for her best friend’s well-being and those who love her unconditionally. The issue comes in how the writers decided to give us a pretty big bombshell into Maya’s personal life without ever following through on it.

The subplot of the pilot episode revolved around Maya’s refusal to do her homework, urging the class to revolt and walk out (not so different from an episode of the original when Cory talked his class into striking over having to take a test). After taking her objection a little too far, she tells Cory that she doesn’t have anyone at home to help her with her homework. The idea behind that one line alone could have been a great topic for an entire episode (and would have matched what the original did so well), but they decided to waste this potential storyline into a one-off statement without ever giving it a second thought later on through a session of sage Feeny-like advice from Mr. Matthews (which was sorely missing from the episode).

But again, this balancing act, I think, will eventually work itself out as the show grows older and matures a little bit. What I hope doesn’t find it’s way back into the show (but which I fear is going to be a recurring thing) are the subway scenes. The patrons of the subway weren’t that funny (especially Jackée Harry, who I felt was phoning in her uninspired quips of dialogue), and the whole thing came off a little desperate and over-the-top. I realize that this was Riley’s right of passage, but it didn’t feel at all natural and it took time away from other aspects of the show that could have used the extra time to better establish the characters. (IMBD only lists Jackée as being in two episodes, so that’s a good sign.)

Case in point: the new boy in town, Lucas (Peyton Meyer), was hardly given any characteristics aside from being the new kid and being hot (and a potential love interest for Riley). It would have been nice to get to know this character in a little more depth in this first episode, to help us better understand him and why we should root for him and Riley to eventually get together. Even though Topanga wasn’t introduced until the fourth episode of the original series, the way she was written gave us everything we needed to know about her in that first appearance. The same can’t be said for Lucas.

On the other end of the spectrum, the writers went a little too far in creating this generations Minkus, otherwise known as Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis). I think we can chalk this one up to the writers trying to be a little too clever, and again, trying too hard to match what Minkus was naturally. Minkus was a nerd, yes, but there was a realism about him that made him relateable, including the fact that Minkus’s first name was Stewart, giving him a sense of normality that seems to be missing in Farkle. On the other hand, what makes Farkle who he is are his quirks, but because Fogelmanis is taking those quirks to the extreme right now, they can feel a bit off-putting. I think the character as a whole would be better served if he toned them down just a bit and gave us some subtlety with our fireworks.

Overall, I think the show has the right intentions, and gave me just enough of what I loved so much about the original to give it a chance to find its footing. So long as they respect the characters and take risks in exploring meatier topics, I will happily continue to follow Riley as she traverses through her brave new World.

My Grade: B+

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