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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

PILOT REVIEW: Is the world ready for “Girl Meets World”?

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. People of all ages look back on their childhoods fondly and often hold the toys, games, and media of their youth in high regard. It’s sometimes a bad idea to revisit these childhood favourites—these things are rarely as incredible as we once believed them to be. But every once in awhile, something from our childhood holds up and can be just as special to us today as it was during our formative years.

For me and many others in their late twenties and early thirties, this special childhood thing is Boy Meets World. This series about a young boy growing up and experiencing life’s new challenges, which ran from 1993-2000, was thoughtful, funny and relatable in ways that many shows never were. Many today hold Boy Meets World and its lovable cast of characters—Cory, Topanga, Shawn, Eric, Mr. Feeny—in high regard. So when Disney Channel announced last year that they were developing a new series called Girl Meets World, a sequel to Boy Meets World, the internet had a field day. Fans of the original show were excited. They were nervous. Many were thrilled with the idea of seeing old characters once more, but were worried that it would destroy their memories of the show they still hold so dear. And now, a year later and with Girl Meets World set to air this week on the Disney Channel, fans everywhere are daring to wonder: will it be any good?

girl-meets-world-cast-photo-disney-asset

Credit Disney

Girl Meets World was created by Michael Jacobs and April Kelly, the same duo that brought Boy Meets World to tween fans in the 1990s. This new series follows Riley (Rowan Blanchard), a well-behaved and slightly timid girl from New York City who happens to be the daughter of the beloved Cory and Topanga, characters from the original series. Much like Boy Meets World, the new series follows Riley on her journey of growing up out of childhood and learning to deal with the world around her. The pilot introduces viewers to the show’s main players: Maya (Sabrina Carpenter), Riley’s rebellious and wild-child best friend; Lucas (Peyton Meyer), new friend and potential love interest for Riley; and Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis), the class’s resident brown-noser. Rounding out the cast are Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel, reprising their roles as Cory and Topanga, and August Maturo, playing Riley’s little brother Auggie.

All eyes are on Girl Meets World as it goes to air this week, and it isn’t hard to figure out why: there are many now-grown fans of the original series who will be tuning in, eager to see if Girl Meets World lives up to their hopes and dreams… and more than willing to loudly condemn the whole venture if it falls short. But though Girl Meets World was surely originally conceived by Disney as an easy way to launch a new series and make a quick buck, I don’t think fans should be quick to cry foul on this new show. And here’s why.

Credit Disney

Credit Disney

Those that have fond memories of Boy Meets World love the original show for its wacky, sometimes-bizarre humour and realistic, honest way of handling serious issues. Boy Meets World tackled stories that involved drinking, cheating, death, illness, academic struggles, dating, and friendship, and did so in a delicate but forthcoming way. The characters weren’t shielded from serious, adult issues, and Boy Meets World didn’t talk down to its audience, especially in the later seasons. But what fans have to remember is that Boy Meets World was, originally, designed for tweens. Its pilot, and subsequent first couple of seasons, leaned more towards the silly and trivial than it did heavy, honest storylines. So if fans are going into the Girl Meets World pilot expecting a moving Plays With Squirrels moment, they’re going to be disappointed—but that’s on them, not on the new series. They’re setting themselves up with massive expectations for a new pilot of a show that’s working on finding its footing; a show that, just like Boy Meets World in the beginning, is intended for tweens. Fans of the original series aren’t the show’s primary demographic, and it’s important to keep that in mind when checking out the new pilot.

Credit Disney

Credit Disney

Putting all Boy Meets World elements aside, Girl Meets World has its merits. Rowan Blanchard is sweet as Riley Matthews, and though we’re only given a slice of her personality and story in this first episode, she’s likeable and will work well as the show’s main character. Also notable is Sabrina Carpenter as Maya Hart, Riley’s outgoing, free-wheeling best friend. Maya is given a lot of the pilot’s jokes, and Carpenter proves that there’s some comedic talent developing in this young actress. But what struck me, more than anything, was one scene between Maya and Cory midway through the pilot. Maya’s been rebelling in Cory’s class, encouraging Riley and all the others to stand up and express their own voice, and the whole thing gets a little out of hand. It’s when Cory confronts Maya after the fact, as they’re both standing, drenched from the sprinkler system, in the school hallway, that made me sit up and take notice. This moment, while small, hints at something deeper—something more serious going on with Maya and her home life. It’s reminiscent of Shawn Hunter’s difficult backstory from Boy Meets World, and both Carpenter and Savage play the moment perfectly. Sure, the pilot has a handful of eyeroll-worthy jokes, harps on the “it’s your world now!” motif too heavily, and contains one character (Farkle, son of Boy Meets World super-nerd Stuart Minkus) that will drive adults batty. The pilot is, after all, aimed at a younger audience. But this scene with Cory and Maya sold the pilot to me. It’s this moment, more than anything else, that’s convinced me that Girl Meets World is going to be more than silly, childish jokes and shoehorned nostalgia.

Credit Disney

Credit Disney

There are, however, some nice moments in the Girl Meets World pilot that fans of the original series will appreciate. Cory Matthews is just as eccentric, goofy, and loveable as we’ve always known him—but now he has a family and a daughter who is very clearly following in his footsteps. While we don’t see nearly as much of Topanga as I would have liked in the pilot (thankfully, I’ve been reassured that this changes once more episodes air!), she and Cory are still that couple to believe in. And there’s one moment, right at the end of the pilot, which drives all that nostalgia home and made this particular fan tear right up. One moment that, if you ask me, was worth every silly, child-oriented gag in the pilot.

Plus, Girl Meets World has a catchy, upbeat theme song that’s miles better than any of the several theme songs that Boy Meets World ever had. So they get extra credit for that.

Credit Disney

Credit Disney

Though Girl Meets World has much in common with its predecessor, it’s interesting to see where the two shows differ. While Boy Meets World was set in the suburbs and featured a boy growing up next door to his teacher, Girl Meets World is about a girl growing up in the heart of a bustling city and dealing with a teacher who is also her father. Times have changed since Boy Meets World tackled its issues, and it’s quite possible that Girl Meets World will get to tackle is very own set—some of which could possibly be even more mature than the things Boy Meets World touched on. It will all depend on how the series decides to progress, how many seasons it’s given, and the capabilities of the show’s cast as they grow older.

Are the nostalgic, mid-twenties Boy Meets World fans going to find their heart’s desire in Girl Meets World? Of course not, and Girl Meets World shouldn’t be expected to provide them with that. It’s a show for tweens—just as Boy Meets World was when it began. But Girl Meets World shows potential, and if given the chance to develop and grow, may turn out to be something special, too. Something I’d love to see children of this generation get to experience.

Girl Meets World has its own characters, with its own heart and own story to tell. Disney, and the world, just needs to give it time to get there.

Girl Meets World airs Friday, June 27th at 9:45pm ET on Disney Channel. It will be airing a twenty-one episode season this summer on Fridays at 8:30pm ET.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Boy Meets World: If You Can’t Be with the One You Love | theveryspecialblog - June 30, 2014

    […]https://thehudsucker.com/2014/06/24/is-the-world-ready-for-girl-meets-world-pilot-review/[…]

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