Saturday, June 28, 2014

Girl Meets World Pilot: Can it be as good as BMW?


As 90s kids, we grew up being obsessed with Boy Meets World on TGIF. Even in the 2000s, we find ourselves catching reruns on ABC Family and MTV, falling back into the calming nostalgia of Cory Matthews’ world. We’ve seen every episode at least three times, and we miss the characters with whom we fell in love with once upon a time.

But it’s not Cory’s world anymore. Now, Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) are all grown up with a daughter, Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and son, Auggie (August Maturo). Cory is a teacher at John Adams Quincy Middle School, and Topanga is a laywer, both having moved to New York City following the finale of Boy Meets World.

As kids of the original, we have to let go of the fact that this isn’t going to be same show. It airs on Disney Channel, and anyone who has paused there knows that any character on any given show is going to overact and exaggerate every line. This worries me the most. Think Hannah Montana without the southern accent. Granted, BMW was cheesy at times, but it was also adorable. So far, I’m not sure I feel the same way about Riley, though it’s way too early to be sure.

The pilot begins with Riley, a well-rounded thirteen year old, and her influential best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) trying to sneak out of the window to ride the subway to school. Quickly, Cory urges them back inside and explains to her his first life lesson of the series: it’s not your world yet. After being let go, the girls take the subway where they meet a new kid at school, Lucas (Peyton Meyer). So begins Riley’s first crush.

At school, Cory is teaching about the ideals surrounding a civil war, and Maya takes the opportunity to protest homework, dragging a reluctant Riley along with her. Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis) is in attendance to provide the character of the stereotypical nerd. They don’t seem to be hiding the fact that Farkle is the new Minkus, even going so far as announcing that Farkle is in fact Minkus’s son in the preview for the upcoming season.

So, let’s pause for a minute: so far we have too many similarities to BMW. First, Riley is a copycat of her dad, Maya is obviously the rebellious Shawn character, Lucas is going to be guy version of Topanga, and the homework protest hearkens to the “No Test” episode in which Cory and Shawn protest in Mr. Turner’s class. Coincidence?

After trying to figure out why Riley is trying to be so much like Maya, “the bad kid” according to Disney standards, Riley decides to let Maya be her own person, only to let her protest go too far and get into major trouble. The lesson of this episode? Be yourself, and help your friends stay out of trouble. After reassurance, and a subway pass, from Cory and Topanga, Mr. Feeny’s spirit (for lack of a better word) appears to congratulate Cory on a job well done at being a father. For the 90s kids, this made the episode worth it.

It’s difficult to separate the two shows and not want to see more characters from the original, but the Disney-like preciousness of the show so far is a little too much for me. I can see the appeal for any parent who grew up watching the show and can now watch the reboot with his/her kid. It’s a moral, leave-you-feeling-good show. I didn’t expect anything different from Disney.

I do hope, in future episodes, that Topanga brings more of a presence to her character in the show. So far, she has only said a few words and offered no Topanga-like sage advice. Right now, I’m holding on to watch future episodes to see if any other original characters pop in, and I can only hope that Riley and Maya can bring the same kind of Cory-and-Shawn charisma to all of the trouble they will inevitably get into.