I’m on the record as being ambivalent about Girl Meets World, Disney Channel’s
highly enthusiastically ridiculously anticipated sequel/spinoff to millennial favorite Boy Meets World. (I also take full responsibility for helping to stoke that fervor for the past year and a half.) On one hand: Nostalgia! On the other: This is clearly a series meant for viewers born after the original show ended in the year 2000, and if you’re not one of them, watching it will make you feel old. The show’s bright colors, broad jokes, and earnest lessons all scream ”modern-day Disney,” and it’s unclear how much the series cares about hooking mothers and fathers as well as their progeny.
Rather than focusing mostly on TGIF refugees Cory and Topanga—played once more by original Boy stars Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel—Girl chooses to emphasize its tweenage characters: Cory and Topanga’s everygirl daughter, Riley (cute, poised Rowan Blanchard); her Shawn Hunter-esque best friend, rebellious Maya (Sabrina Carpenter, who shows some real promise as an actress); the dorky classmate who’s in love with them both, Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis, mugging his brains out; though the series hasn’t confirmed it yet, IMDB implies that he’s actually playing the son of Stuart Minkus, his own BMW analog); and quiet dreamboat Lucas (heartthrob-in-training Peyton Meyer), who’s clearly going to be the Topanga to Riley’s Cory.
Episode 1 begins with Riley not-so-subtly wondering when it’ll be her turn to step out from her father’s shadow—by traveling around her hometown of New York City without her parents by her side—and ends with Cory metaphorically passing on the torch by handing his little girl her very own Metrocard. In between, there’s time for lessons about Friendship and Being True To Yourself and Why You Shouldn’t Bring Sparklers to History Class, Then Hold Them Near the Sprinkler System.
On balance, Girl is probably no cornier than Full House or Family Matters or any other entry in the “family sitcom” genre that once thrived on ABC but has since largely gone extinct, at least on network TV. Episode 1 does, however, have one strange tic that could prove equally irksome to Kids Today and the twentysomethings tuning in for the continued adventures of Cory and Topanga. Let’s call it “Girl Meets…What?”
Take, for example, what Cory tells his daughter the first time he speaks in the new series: “Here’s what I’m thinking. It’s not your world yet. It’s still my world. Because if it was your world, Maya would have you on the subway already.”
Riley’s answer? “How long do I have to live in my father’s world?” We’re up to four “worlds” already—nearly past the asteroid belt!—and the show is barely three minutes old.
Here’s a rundown of the rest of GMW’s “world” mentions, not counting the seven additional ones you’ll find in the show’s incredibly catchy earworm of a theme song:
5. Riley to her father, after deciding to stand with Maya when her pot-stirring friend declares a war on homework: “I’m making a choice about who I want to be. About whose world I want it to be.” (Note: Riley officially joins the rebellion after Cory, who’s also his daughter’s history teacher, tells her that she’s just like him. “Would you do this?” Riley asks in response before chanting, “No homework, more freedom!” along with her classmates. Raise your hand if you, too, were waiting for Cory to answer, “Actually, I would—and I did, in Boy Meets World season 2, episode 4.”)
6. Riley to Maya, after her pal says that she fears Cory will try to break apart their friendship: “If this is my world now, the first person I want in it is you.”
7. Riley to Cory, telling him that she and Maya are going to stay friends no matter what: “What you said you really want is for me to make the world my own. And you want me to do my homework. Well, I’m doing it, right now.” (Her homework, by the way, was to write a three-page essay about something she believes in. Nice try, girl.)
8. Cory, giving his daughter (and Maya) his blessing to explore New York on their own: “Some may call this a New York City subway pass. But you, Riley, can consider this a ticket to the world.”
9. Cory, putting too fine a point on it: “Riley, I’ve already met the world. It’s your turn.”
10. Maya, in the subway station: “So, where do you want to go?” Riley: “Don’t know. Big world.” You’re telling us!
11. Their train’s conductor: “Next stop: Astor Place, 14th Street… and the world.”
12. Cory, in the episode’s tag, after Riley and Maya have returned home safely: “Yeah, Riley. It’s not so easy handing over the world without making sure everything’s going to be okay.” Right after he says this comes the show’s first real callback to old-school Boy Meets World fans:
Perhaps hope of more moments like this will keep you tuned into Girl, even if you’re not in its target audience; indeed, future episodes promise appearances by BMW actors including Rider Strong (Shawn), Betsy Randle (Cory’s mother, Amy), William Russ (Cory’s father, Alan), Lee Norris (Minkus), and Danny McNulty (anachronistic greaser Harley Keiner). If mere seconds of nostalgia bait aren’t enough, though, don’t feel bad for letting Girl go—we’ve already met the World, after all. Now it’s another generation’s turn.