My classmates and I grew up with Boy Meets World. It is definitely a part of our fond memories from childhood. We watched Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) go through middle school, high school, and finally college. He blossomed from an immature, mischievous boy into a responsible young man. He shared the experience with his loyal best friend, Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong). He fell in love with the beautiful Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fischel). Along the way, he always had the guidance of his next door neighbor and teacher George Feeney (William Daniels). In addition, he could repeatedly count on the love, support, and encouragement of his parents, Alan Matthews (William Russ) and Amy Matthews (Betsy Randle). He also learned from his older brother, Eric Matthews (Will Friedle). Eric is an outlier character because he is the one character that devolved over the course of the series. He started out as a serious, young man who charmed the ladies with his stylish good hair in the earlier seasons. Then, he turned into a ridiculous, over the top idiot in the later seasons. Regardless, they were all great characters. We laughed, cried, and grew with them over seven seasons. While the show is very funny and entertaining, its characters also dealt with serious issues that paralleled real life and gave the show depth. For all these reasons, it is a great series. Although its last season concluded in 2000, it has stood the test of time as proven by its strong performance in syndication.
We fast forward back to the present in 2014. After 14 years since the end of Boy Meets World, the Disney Channel is bringing the franchise to a new generation with a sequel, Girl Meets World. Cory and Topanga are now parents of a 12 year old girl, Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard), and a 5 year old boy, Auggie Matthews (August Maturo).Of course, the sequel is from the point of view from Riley. Hence, the title of the show is Girl Meets World. When I first heard the news about the sequel, I was definitely intrigued. Naturally, I also felt skepticism whether the new series could be live up to the original. After watching the first four episodes, my fears have been alleviated. It is a quality show and a worthy sequel. The new characters introduced in the sequel are very good and will appeal to the younger audience. There are also direct parallels from their story to the original Boy Meets World that fans of the original series will appreciate. Moreover, I really like the roles Cory and Topanga have in the show. Although the show transitions it from Cory’s world to Riley’s world in the pilot episode, we still get to see the events in Riley’s life from the perspective of Cory and Topanga as parents. Girl Meets World also does an excellent job presenting some important life lessons for young people. However, they are not as serious as the issues that Boy Meets World decided to force its characters to face. Then again, Cory started in middle school and it took multiple seasons before he had to deal with the more somber realities in life. On the other hand, Girl Meets World is a Disney Channel show so it may never progress the series to those more serious themes. Nevertheless, it is a solid show that I recommend. There is also room to grow and be better especially with some of the old stars from the Boy Meets World series set to make appearances throughout the remainder of the first season of Girl Meets World.
The young cast introduced in the show is very good. The main character is Cory’s preteen daughter, Riley. Rowan Blanchard does a good job playing the naïve, sweet, innocent, and cute Riley. Similar to how it is Cory’s world in the original series, it is now Riley’s world in this sequel. It is an interesting idea to switch the point of view of the show from a young boy to a young girl. Obviously, they are two very different perspectives. At the beginning of Boy Meets World, Cory was concerned with sports and being a diehard Philadelphia Phillies fan, getting toys such as a water gun, and causing mischief. At this similar point of life for Riley, she is worried about maturing into a responsible young lady, excelling at school, and learning to flirt with cute boys. While there are differences in their experiences, there are still a lot of similarities. At their core, they are good kids that have a lot to learn about the world. They can be socially awkward at times but are enjoyable to be around because they are generally optimistic. On the other hand, they both have a strong support network to guide them. Naturally, Riley has great parents with Cory and Topanga. Cory serves a dual purpose as her father and as her teacher. As such, she has plenty of good guidance in her life. She also has a baby brother, Auggie, who is very cute and has the perfect lines to say in tense moments to make his sister and parents feel better. He is obviously this series’ Morgan [Cory’s baby sister]. In Boy Meets World, there is no Cory without Shawn. Riley’s Shawn is her best friend Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter). Like Cory and Shawn, Riley and Maya are inseparable with an unconditional friendship. They always have each other’s backs. Of course, Riley is the angel of the two friends while Maya is the troublemaker. They play off each other very well. Riley is a conservative, rule abiding girl who needs Maya to encourage her to be a little wild so they can enjoy adventures in life. Meanwhile, Riley is a calming force who reins Maya back in when she gets a little too out of hand. Accordingly, they definitely have a yin and yang relationship. The Disney Channel also seems include an element of another one of its hit shows, Hannah Montana, in this series. Riley sounds a little too much like Miley. Moreover, it appears to be duplicating the format of two young girls in middle school about to enter their adolescence. The main character is a brunette and her BFF is blonde. It could be a coincidence. If it is not, I do not blame the Disney Channel for trying to catch lightning in the bottle twice since Hannah Montana is a multibillion dollar franchise.
In my opinion, Sabrina Carpenter is a bright star in this new series as Maya. Of course, it helps that she has the opportunity to play the bad girl since they are always more fun to watch. Nevertheless, she is a ringleader of events in the show and drives the episodes. Like Shawn, she has a lot of potential but does not want to apply herself. While Shawn had a gift with his ability to write, Maya has an amazing talent to draw. However, both characters incorrectly believe that they are predetermined to failure. Unfortunately, they are actually afraid of succeeding rather than failing. In Boy Meets World, Shawn faced a lot of obstacles during the series that could have led him down the wrong path. He had to deal with the hurt and anger of his father abandoning him for a few years, the temptation of a life of petty crime that some in his extended family chose, and the embarrassment of being from a poor background. He even got involved as a messenger for the mob in an episode. No matter how far he strayed, he had the love and support of Cory and his parents to steer him back to the proper path. He also had strong mentors in his teachers, the cool Mr. Jonathan Turner (Anthony Tyler Quinn) and the wise Mr. Feeney. They never gave up on him and believed he could achieve a much better future than the past from which he came. Eventually, he develops and transforms into an accomplished writer. Maya is living a parallel life. She is clearly intelligent but needs a guiding hand. Riley provides her with friendly encouragement. Cory is Maya’s teacher and a person who she actually listens to in her life. Accordingly, he is a father figure and mentor to Maya. Topanga also appears to be a person Maya trusts but that angle has not been fully developed yet by the show. Similar to Shawn, Maya has also dealt with hardship in life. In one of the serious moments in the show, she admits that her father has left her family and she is dealing with the shock and confusion of it. While I think this story will be developed more, I do not think the Disney Channel will get as dark and somber as Shawn’s storyline gets at certain points of Boy Meets World. For all these reasons, Maya is a great character in the show. She is exciting and also bridges the show to serious issues in life that make it realistic.
Another character that is an obvious parallel to another Boy Meets World character is Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis). His full name is Farkle Minkus, son of Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris) from the original series. Although his father has not been introduced or acknowledged by the show yet, the credits for the show make it obvious. Like his father, Farkle is a brilliant student and a little weird. He is in love with both Riley and Maya. His character has also been updated for the times. In the 1990s, the stereotypical nerds were picked on and not cool. However, society has evolved. Intelligence and popularity are no longer mutually exclusive. Consequently, Farkle represents the modern day nerd. While he is clearly very smart, he is also a good looking boy who is the biggest flirt in school. At the end of the pilot episode, two beautiful 20 year old women walk by on the subway and Farkle calls to them. They flirt back and acknowledge him by name. It is a great scene highlights the difference between how his father and he are perceived at the same age. While he is friends with Riley and Maya, they do not share his romantic feelings for them. Of course, it cannot be a show without a love interest. For this reason, Lucas Friar (Peyton Meyer) is introduced as a young, boy heartthrob. He is the new kid in school from Texas and very good looking. As a result, Riley immediately has a monster, school girl crush on him. She swoons over him all the time. She also cannot function properly around him which leads to a lot of very funny scenes in the show. The attraction appears to be mutual as there is definitely chemistry between the two. Of course, Lucas is a guy. Consequently, he stays calm and smooth by not openly acknowledging his interest in her. While there is a case to be made that he is Girl Meets World’s young Topanga, I do not see direct parallels. At the beginning of Boy Meets World, Cory and Topanga are very different. She was very weird before she developed into a popular, beautiful young girl in high school. After the show decided to have the two characters date, there was revisionist history by saying that Cory and Topanga were soul mates since they were five and always meant to be together. While I definitely think the new series intends for Riley and Lucas to date at some point, I believe the relationship will be much more innocent and cute. I highly doubt that the Disney Channel is going down the path that Riley and Lucas are soul mates.
Of course, my interest in the show lies with Cory and Topanga. Ben Savage does not look like he has aged at all. Danielle Fichel looks phenomenal and better than ever. Their characters have progressed since the last time we saw them in Boy Meets World. At that time, they are newlyweds and make a difficult decision to move to New York City so Topanga can accept a great internship with a law firm. Topanga takes advantage of the opportunity and becomes a successful lawyer. For this reason, they are able to afford a comfortable apartment in Manhattan. I really like the roles Girl Meets World has for them. While Riley is the main character, we still get to see the events from the perspective of Cory and Topanga as parents. It is the next natural step for the two characters. They are loving parents who are dedicated to their children. Of course, they need to balance protecting their children from dangers while still allowing them to mature and meet the world. As parents, they also deal with the difficulty of watching their baby girl maturing into a teenager. Cory is the more emotional parent so it saddens him more. Topanga is more logical and better equipped to take things in strides. It is an excellent contrast between the two parents. The great chemistry between the two actors continues in this new series. I enjoy watching Cory and Topanga as mature adults. Moreover, Cory is Riley’s teacher. Obviously, Cory has ascended to the role of Mr. Feeney in this series. In fact, Williams Daniels makes a cameo appearance as a vision of Mr. Feeny that applauds Cory for his parenting. Of course, one could question whether Cory would be allowed to be Riley’s teacher in real life. In my opinion, no one should think too much about it. It never made sense that Mr. Feeny taught Cory in every grade and even followed him to college. However, it worked brilliantly in Boy Meets World and Cory’s role as Riley’s teacher has worked great so far in Girl Meets World.
As Riley’s teacher, Cory has an additional platform to teach Riley and Maya valuable life lessons. The format works so that the moral of each episode is woven well into the context of the story and the characters. The points of each episode have been great so far. The story of the pilot episode centered on being yourself. Younger people generally fall into the trap of trying to be someone they are not in order to be popular. As we age, we become more comfortable with whom we are. However, it is definitely a virtue that we learn with experience. In the pilot episode, Riley wants to be more rebellious like Maya to be cool. Over the course of the episode, she realizes that it is important for her and Maya to be true to their own nature. They bring very different strengths to the table. Diverse thinking and personalities generally make stronger teams in the real world. Accordingly, Riley and Maya are stronger as two individuals rather than two identical people. While Riley needs Maya to get them in a little trouble, Maya needs Riley to get her out of it. The second episode, Girl Meets Boy, also has a good life lesson. Cory comments that the cell phone and text messaging has hindered the ability of young people to communicate with each other. As such, he takes their cell phones away and forces his students to talk to each other face to face. There is a lot of truth to the statement. There are times when I think we depend too much on technology. At times, I find myself laughing at myself instant messaging someone at work who is in the same room from me when it is better to just walk over and have a real discussion. Similarly, I often message some of my friends a lot because it is more convenient to do so than make a little more effort to meet in person. However, face time is very important as there are clearly elements of a conversation that cannot be captured by an instant message such as facial expressions and tone. On the other hand, instant messaging and technology has made it much easier to stay in touch with friends who are a long distance away from me. It is a double edged sword. Nevertheless, I agree with the shows point that we cannot ignore the importance of face to face interaction to build quality relationships.
In the third episode, Girl Meets Sneak Attack, Riley deals with jealousy when another girl has her sights on Lucas. She is very upset when Missy Bradford (Olivia Stuck) flirts with Lucas and asks him to take her to the movies. Riley is not ready for that level of relationship with Lucas but does not want Missy to date Lucas. In one of the most awkward yet great scenes in the episode, Riley self destructs at school because of jealousy. In the middle of class, she berates and mocks Missy for flirting with Lucas. She also states she can do it too. When she attempts to mockingly flirt with him, she completely stumbles in her attempt and she totally embarrasses herself. Of course, jealousy is a natural emotion we all have. The real lesson of the episode is to not grow up too fast. Even if it appears someone is maturing faster than you, you need to be comfortable with your own growth. It is better to move at your own pace than to try to move too quickly and hurt your development. Riley is clearly not ready to date Lucas. Likewise, Lucas is not ready to have a girlfriend. As such, he calmly and smoothly fends off Missy’s advances. Instead, he offers Missy to join Riley, Maya, Farkle, and him to go to the movies. When Missy is disgusted with his response and tells him to grow up, Riley answers “Not yet”. It is a great statement because it points out that we will all grow up eventually but we need to enter the next stage of our lives at the individual level when we are ready. It is very mature of Lucas to understand that he is not ready for a serious relationship.
On the other hand, it is fine to move on to the next stage in your life when you are ready. In fact, it will stunt your growth if you do not or someone prevents you from it. The fourth episode, Girl Meets Father, deals with this contrasting concept. The school dance occurs at the same day as a family tradition, when Cory and Riley go on the last Coney Island Cyclone rollercoaster ride of the season, Cory looks forward to every year. Of course, Riley is looking forward to going to her first school dance with Lucas. At first, Cory is upset and wants Riley to skip the dance. During the episode, he watches old videos of him and Riley on the roller coaster. As they approach the top of the ride, she is naturally scared and wants Cory to hold onto her. As such, it is symbolic of her need for her father. Since Riley is ready to move on from the tradition, Cory interprets it as his little girl growing up and not needing him anymore. The situation causes a brief rift between father and daughter. However, it also provides an opportunity for Topanga to shine as the intelligent voice of reason. While she guides Cory through the difficulty of allowing his little girl to grow up, she also subtly helps Riley understand her father’s feelings. Of course, they work it out and compromise at the end. Riley is allowed to go to the dance but Cory is chaperoning. At the end dance, Cory shares the father daughter dance with Riley and Maya. He dances with Maya first to let her know that he will always be there for her and will act as her father in the absence of her biological father. He ends the episode by stating some wisdom: “Traditions are supposed to evolve just like daughters. Sometimes, daughters just need a guiding hand that has your best interests at heart.”
I am very happy with the beginning of this series. I definitely recommend it especially if you are a Boy Meets World Fan. It has good characters and good stories. Of course, there is plenty of Cory and Topanga. I am also looking forward to seeing more of the old stars from Boy Meets World in episodes this season. Among the list of characters on deck are Shawn Hunter, Joshua Matthews, Harley Keiner, Stuart Minkus, Alan Matthews, and Amy Matthews.