About 18 months after the spinoff news heard ‘round the world was first announced, Girl Meets World’s pilot is now available to watch via Disney’s tablet app. (The series’ official TV premiere date is still a month away; it debuts on Disney Channel June 27.)
Could the show possibly meet fans’ sky-high expectations? EW writers (and Boy Meets World obsessives) Hillary Busis and Erin Strecker checked it out separately, then emailed back and forth about GMW’s plot, its catchy theme song, and where the heck Topanga was for most of the episode.
If you’ve watched already – or don’t mind some minor spoilers – check out the discussion below.
ERIN: Hillary! You and I have been counting down the days to the Girl Meets World premiere since the end of 2012. Like any good millennials, we are extreme fans of Boy Meets World, and dreamed that this show aimed at tweens would somehow still totally appeal to us. That was…not exactly the case.
It should be noted that each of us have actually seen four episodes of the show, but we’ll keep this discussion just to the pilot, which is now streaming. I’ll start with the positive: It was so sweet to see Cory and Topanga together again (and clearly the studio audience was into it), even if it appears Danielle Fishel will have a smaller role than Ben Savage. Also, I really like Maya, the girl who plays Riley’s Shawn Hunter-esque best friend. And I can’t stop listening to the theme song, either. What were your favorite parts of the premiere?
HILLARY: I’m glad you started out by mentioning the theme song, Erin, because it’s by far the best thing about episode 1. (That isn’t meant to be a knock on the show – “Take on the World” has seriously been stuck in my head for weeks.) As for the rest of the show? Well, I think you hit the nail on the head by noting that Girl Meets World is meant to be watched by current-day kids – not nostalgic children of the ’90s. For example: I was driven absolutely bonkers by Minkus 2.0, a.k.a. Farkle. But given the enormous popularity of, say, Fred Figglehorn — totally inexplicable to grown-ups, totally hilarious to anyone middle-school-aged or younger — I can see how plenty of actual tweens might pick Farkle as their favorite part of the show.
As for the show’s other new characters: I was immediately impressed by Sabrina Carpenter’s street-smart Maya, a.k.a. Shawn 2.0, and a little less bowled over by Riley, who doesn’t seem to have much of a personality yet. What are your thoughts on the show’s dynamic duo?
ERIN: Yeah – Riley may be the titular Girl, but it’s clear Maya is the real star of the show. I’m enjoying the duo’s chemistry, and can see potential for those two getting into various hijinks – even if said mischief is very G-rated. I think that’s an important thing to note/remember – even most Boy Meets World fans will admit that the first season of that beloved program wasn’t as teenage/adult-focused as the show eventually became. I can certainly see this show getting better once the characters age up a bit – a choice that may or may not happen, considering that GMW airs on the Disney Channel.
I totally agree with you about Farkle, but I’ll own that Disney executives might be right on track about his appeal to the show’s actual demo. I also liked Cute Love Interest Boy – although it remains to be seen if he’ll be a Cory-and-Topanga-esque soulmate guy for Riley, or just the third part of a friendship triangle.
I’m going to go negative here, which kills me, but: The part of the show I enjoyed least was any time the girls were at school with their teacher, Cory. All those scenes were goofy and over-the-top, in a way all Disney shows are now – but which Boy Meets World was never. I don’t want to be an old person here, but the way those kids ran that class/bossed Cory around/did whatever they wanted just seemed so ridiculous to me. Mr. Feeny would never allow that! What did you think of the pilot’s actual plot?
HILLARY: I have to disagree that BMW never got that goofy – uh, Plays With Squirrels? – but at the same time, I see what you’re getting at. BMW did end its run as an absurd soap opera, but it only became that way gradually over the course of seven years. Its first few seasons were surprisingly naturalistic; rewatching the show’s pilot after I watched GMW, I was struck by how normal it is. Nobody in Cory’s family has long, lustrous Disney Channel hair; the supporting cast isn’t a bunch of sassy quipbots, a la Jackée Harry; every performance isn’t exaggerated for the cheap seats in the back, unlike so many series from the Disney Channel Acting School; the plot itself is incredibly relatable and straightforward (Eric ditches Cory for a girl). The two shows sort of remind me of the difference between Degrassi: The Next Generation season 1 – featuring a bunch of realistically awkward characters facing regular, if slightly heightened, issues – and the current season of Degrassi, where everyone is glammed up and fighting off the abusive advances of their French green card husbands.
So yeah: The times, they have changed. And while nostalgia is a notoriously untrustworthy influence, I can’t help but wish that GMW hewed closer to the original show. Your Feeny/Cory comparison is spot-on: Feeny was a mentor, a father figure, an approachable font of wisdom who served as the perfect role model. That’s why his brief spirit cameo in GMW has such a huge effect. But Teacher Cory’s just an ineffectual goof; it’s tough to see him assuming a role similar to Feeny’s if he has absolutely no authority. (Also, how did that dumb homework assignment have anything to do with the Civil War?) In fact, I kind of wish the show had chosen to put Topanga in the classroom and made Cory, I don’t know, a stay-at-home dad or something; that seems truer to the characters as they were conceived. (Well, at least after the complete personality shift that transformed Topanga from hippie flower child to straight-haired overachiever. BMW’s total disregard for continuity seems positively quaint nowadays.)
Speaking of Topanga: Hey, where’s Topanga?! Were you as disappointed as I was when she barely registered in the pilot?
ERIN: True, “Undahpants” was pretty goofy.
I was super bummed Topanga wasn’t in the premiere all that much, although happily, it looks like her role may increase after the first handful of episodes. (Small “spoiler”: Topanga actually works as a lawyer and not, as one might assume from the premiere, as a stay-at-home mom. Plus, there seems to be some set up that’ll have her more involved with Riley and Maya.) I certainly hope she appears more. She and Riley’s little brother are really cute, and their interactions give the show a Full House, early ’90s family sitcom vibe that I would love to see more of.
Let’s see: What was your overall impression? My takeaway advice is basically to lower your expectations and find someone tweenage to laugh with you…or just wait it out until the Rider Strong episode airs.
HILLARY: Sound advice. I don’t think that GMW is proof that naval-gazing 20-somethings should be careful what they wish for; though episode 1 has its share of awkward moments (the pacing’s kind of stilted; the characters keep repeating the word “world” for some reason; the show’s take on New York City is…perhaps less than informed), the lead kids have charisma, and I can see GMW developing into a new generation’s gentle family comedy. However, it’s also true that watching it as an adult might not have the desired effect. You’ll go into the show hoping to see something that makes you feel like BMW once did; you’ll finish it mostly just feeling old.