Cory and Topanga are back on TV tonight. It’s as if they never left us when Boy Meets World ended in 2000, right? Well, not quite because much has changed in the last 14 years — the couple now has a pre-teen daughter looking to find her way in this world, in the same way that her father did all those years ago.
Instead of the boy meeting the world, it’s now the girl’s turn. In Girl Meets World, we’re introduced to 12-year-old Riley (the titular girl). And just as Cory had a “bad boy” best friend, Riley has a “wild child” BFF named Maya.
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Riley is very much a do-gooder. Maya is a standout in this series because of her “wild child” persona. She acts older than the middle school student that she is. (I can’t imagine what she’ll be like in high school.) There’s a very definite yin and yang element going on. They’re opposites, but because they’re best friends, they have each other’s backs and want to do what’s best for each other. As the series progresses, I hope we see this continue because I like the competing dynamic, like BMW had with Cory and Shawn. They make for a great pairing.
In the opening scene of the premiere (which we’ve seen countless times in all the various promos and trailers), the two girls try to sneak out the window but get caught by Cory. This escape attempt provides the first instance in the series for Riley to hear some wisdom from her father: “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 thinking you put something over on me.” When Riley asks, “How long do I have to live in my father’s world?” he replies, “Until you make it yours.”
The writers aren’t trying to be subtle in the lessons and messages they embed throughout this series, as evidenced by the first example above. Now, as someone who grew up in the ’90s and grew up with Boy Meets World, I don’t remember being hit over the head so strongly with things like this. But maybe it’s because GMW is on the Disney Channel, I don’t know. Having said that, these still are fantastic messages for kids to hear and to learn about.
Another one of these themes is when Cory assigns his class to write an essay on something they believe so strongly in that they’d fight for it. Again, not subtle, but a great message nonetheless.
I’ve already mentioned some of the similarities between the original series and this one. And they just keep on coming. Take this for instance: Cory’s love interest on BMW was Topanga, and here, Riley has her eyes set on Lucas, a new student at John Quincy Adams Middle School. But not so fast — Cory doesn’t like it one bit, so he tries his best to make sure they’re not together. It makes it so much easier to keep an eye on them when he’s their history teacher. Yeah, Cory’s apparently the new Mr. Feeny. Yet another comparison.
Want another one? Remember Minkus? Well, the GMW equivalent is Farkle. He’s quite the character — many comedic moments happen in scenes he’s a part of. At one point, he says, “May I overstep my bounds?” Cory — aka Mr. Matthews — responds, “You always do.” I’m looking forward to seeing what else he does in future episodes. The only criticism I have is that they gave him a very Justin Bieber-like haircut. Again, it’s probably because this is the Disney Channel. But at least the actor who plays him, Cory Fogelmanis, does a great job of embodying who this character is.
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As much as this spin-off will be a nostalgia-fest for millennials, it’s still the Disney Channel, and it very much is being catered to today’s youth. Because of that, I’m sure many fans of the original series will be disappointed since it won’t live up to the high standards set by Boy Meets World. It’s rare for a spin-off to be as good as the original, but I think Girl Meets World has a lot of potential for the network and the audience that watches it.
Once the premiere is behind us, future episodes will allow the writers and producers to build these characters more (especially since there’s a strong group of young actors on board). The opening scene feels a little forced (with the acting, writing and laugh track — though future episodes are supposedly in front of a studio audience), so issues like these can always be wrinkled out and dealt with as they go forward. And I’m hoping that, in the weeks and months to come, this will be considered a strong Disney Channel series that can manage to step out from under the Boy Meets World shadow and become its own show.
And even if you aren’t a fan of the pilot, there’s still reason to keep watching. Aside from Cory, Topanga and Mr. Feeny, there are other BMW alumni that’ll stop by, including Shawn, Cory’s parents and Minkus. They’re obviously not afraid to have guest stars, including in the pilot when Jackee Harry has a cameo in a couple of scenes, which is great to see.
But despite the nostalgia-fest for ’90s kids, this series, at its core, is about a girl trying to figure out who she is in this world as she grows up. That was at the core of Boy Meets World as well. And it’s that theme that stands out above the rest and makes Girl Meets World a series that kids and teens will like. And their parents can watch it with them.
Girl Meets World premieres tonight at 9:45pm on Disney Channel, then moves into its regular 8:30pm timeslot starting on July 11.
(Image courtesy of Disney Channel)