This week on What You Should be Watching: Girl Meets World.
In November 2012, it was reported that Disney Channel was in the early stages of development of a follow-up series to the 90s cult classic Boy Meets World. This new show, Girl Meets World, would center on Cory and Topanga’s 12-year-old daughter, Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and her best friend Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter). The series is currently about halfway through its first season, and it was announced on August 6th that the series would be renewed for a second season.
Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel reprise their roles as Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence-Matthews, and other cameos and influences from the original series run rampant through the episodes of Girl Meets World.
So, why should you be watching it?
For the pure nostalgia of it.
For whatever reason, those of us who are now in our 20s — we self-proclaimed “90s kids” — have started sounding like octogenarians all over the internet with our talk of the good old days: back when see-through phones, inflatable furniture, and Oreo-O’s were still a thing. Maybe we are the octogenarians of the modern generation. Regardless, if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s nostalgia, and if there’s one thing that was better than anything else in the 90s, it was our TV.
Although Girl Meets World is obviously, 100% a children’s show made for the kids of today, it’s also a surprisingly terrific one which not only manages to capture the essence of the much-loved Boy Meets World, but it also begins an exciting new chapter for the Matthews family. The original series creators, Michael Jacobs and April Kelly, have taken this new show and modernized it while remaining true to the characteristics and nuances of the original show and its characters.
The once ever present Mr. Feeny makes an appearance in the pilot episode. However, it’s his only appearance in the first season as he passes on the acknowledgement that Cory will now fill the role of the “all-knowing” history teacher at his daughter’s school, John Quincy Adams Middle. But Cory’s teaching style is less Mr. Feeny, more 7th-grade-Cory-who-made-a-bet-with-Mr.-Feeny, while the delivering of sage-like advice to their daughter (and, mostly, at the same time to Cory) usually falls on the shoulders of the still-wise Topanga.
It’s been announced that the series will feature other cameos from original Boy Meets World actors. Rider Strong will reprise his role as Shawn Hunter on Girl Meets World in a holiday-themed episode. The same episode will feature William Russ and Betsy Randle, who played Cory’s parents, Alan and Amy, in Boy Meets World. Lee Norris, who played Stewart Minkus during the middle-high school years of Boy Meets World, will also be stepping back on set in this week’s episode of Girl Meets World as Farkle’s — a classmate of Riley’s — father. Also stepping back into his old role is Danny McNulty, who played Harley Keiner; it’s rumored that, as part of Girl Meets World’s storyline, Cory will help his old bully get a job as a janitor at the school where he works.
As of yet, none of the other original cast members have confirmed coming back to cameo their roles, but that hardly means they won’t still make appearances. Strong originally was not announced as part of the Girl Meets World cast; executive producer Michael Jacobs has hinted that Will Friedle, who played Eric, could make an appearance; and Maitland Ward (who played Rachel McGuire) was seen visiting the set and, when questioned, was secretive about whether or not she will be featured.
Riley and Maya are a modern-day, female Cory and Shawn…
…right down to the facial expressions. My initial reaction to the first few minutes of the pilot episode of Girl Meets World was, “How many times did these girls have to watch the early seasons of Boy Meets World?” because they have 7th-grade-Cory-and-Shawn mannerisms down. pat.
I learned a lot from the real life problems and antics that Cory and Shawn dealt with as they grew up on Boy Meets World. I also took a lot from another coming of age story: Stand By Me, a movie about four boyhood friends based on a Stephen King novel of the same name. However, I got more out of the movie Now and Then (another coming of age story, this one featuring four young girls as its main cast) than I did from Stand By Me simply because I once was a 12-year-old girl and, therefore, it was more relatable to me.
I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve gotten even more out of Boy Meets World the first time around had “Cory” and “Shawn” been “Cora” and “Veronica.” In the six episodes of Girl Meets World that have premiered so far, Riley has encountered many of the same issues that Cory dealt with in middle school, but hasn’t always responded in the exact way Cory did. In the most recent episode, “Girl Meets Popular,” Riley is invited to a “cool” party while Maya isn’t, much like in the BMW episode “The Uninvited,” when Cory is invited to a “cool” party while Shawn isn’t. Both Cory and Riley show up to their respective parties to discover they’re both “geek” parties. Cory deals with it by trying to embrace his inner bad boy while ultimately turning to Shawn for help on how to be cool; Riley deals with it by embracing her “inner nerd” and dressing up as a Harajuku girl in an attempt to be more popular with a group who already seems to idolize her. She ends up learning the same lesson that Cory did — that being “cool” should not be nearly as important as being yourself — but in a completely different way.
And that’s something that I think viewers of this show — whether or not they initially learned the lessons with Cory and Shawn — will really be able to enjoy, regardless of who they relate to more: Cory and Shawn or Riley and Maya.
Girl Meets World is tackling the issues that Boy Meets World didn’t.
On the surface, adolescents of any generation deal with a lot of the same issues. That’s why a problem Cory dealt with in 1993 is just relevant when Maya encounters a similar issue growing up in 2014. In addition to this, Boy Meets World dealt with important common cultural issues of the time (i.e., underage drinking and losing your virginity) and some that seemed to be ahead of its time, like addressing one’s privilege (in the episode linked, “Chick Like Me,” the characters also deal with the importance of consent and male entitlement).
Similarly, Girl Meets World is beginning to address important cultural issues that we’re seeing today. In the most recent episode, “Girl Meets Popular,” Cory and Maya have to explain to Riley that her “Harajuku girl inspired outfits” are actually cultural appropriation. They don’t use those exact words, they did have to make this able to be understood by children. But they do express to her how that style is a part of the Harajuku girls’ culture and, in turn, showcase to the audience that Riley’s willful ignorance of the culture while utilizing the style from it is not okay.
To be honest, I was a little surprised by Disney’s blatant stance against a somewhat controversial topic so early on in the series, especially when you consider many of its previousstarsareguiltyofculturalappropriation. But this goes to show that, just like Boy Meets World, Girl Meets World is a show that won’t back away from the harder, potentially grayer issues, ones that kids growing up today will be exposed to and have to learn to deal with also.
Girl Meets World is a good-weird combination of the first and last seasons of Boy Meets World.
I don’t know how many other fans of the show deal with the same internal conflict I do when I return to old episodes of Boy Meets World. For me, I always have a hard time deciding if I prefer the earlier seasons or the later seasons; anyone who has seen the entire series, I’m sure, has noticed there’s a significant change in the dynamic of the show (and in some of the characters) somewhere around the time Cory, Shawn, and Topanga start college. While the show tackled common hard-hitting issues throughout the entire series, it did jump the shark sometime just before the last two seasons.
And, so, I like how in the first seasons, everyone seems like more of a real person versus the almost-parodies of themselves that they seem to play in the last season; but on the other side of that same coin, the caricature-style characters can make the pills of real world lessons in each episode easier to swallow.
Whether it came about by the show’s writers or if it’s creative freedom exercised by Ben Savage, Girl Meets World’s storyline allows for Riley and Maya to treat their problems like real 12-year-old girls while “adult” Cory is more reminiscent of the college-aged Cory-character versus his 12-year-old Cory-character. Girl Meets World viewers may see a bit of college-aged Eric (Cory’s older brother in the original series) in Cory and Topanga’s 5-year-old son, Auggie, who is the perfect balance of silliness and innocent wisdom. And we once again see Topanga draw on the guidance of her “weird” 12-year-old self in dealing with her adult world problems, much like she did during college in the episode “Resurrection.”
It’s good, clean fun.
Ultimately, Girl Meets World is a kid’s show that happens to have characters we watched grow up “running things.” It’s fun to watch and family friendly. Unless you absolutely hated Boy Meets World, it’s hard to find a reason not to watch this show. And with short, 20-minute episodes, you could easily binge watch the entire season (so far) in just a couple of hours.
Personally, I think it’s nice to be back in the world of the Matthews family. And I believe that Boy Meets World fans who watched Cory and Topanga grow up and take on their world together will surely enjoy watching the next leg of their journey and the beginning of their daughter’s.