Like a lot of people in my generation, Boy Meets World was an important part of my formative years. Cory and Topanga were my favorite love story. Feeney was my role model. All that. As a life-long fan of Boy Meets World, I was doubtful that Disney could recapture that magic. As a girlhood studies scholar and a big sister and a human, I was hopeful that the show could introduce BMW to a new generation.
On Friday, Disney made the pilot of Girl Meets World available on iTunes for free. (YES!) It airs on the Disney Channel on June 27th.
In the pilot. “Girl Meets World,” Cory and Topanga’s daughter, Riley, is trying to assert her independence and reinvent herself to be more like her best friend Maya, a bad girl strongly reminiscent of Cory’s BFF Shawn. Meanwhile, Riley leads a rebellion in Cory’s history class, fighting against the tyranny of homework. As Riley tries to become like Maya and Maya tries to get Riley to stop trying to save her and Cory tries to stop Riley from changing while also encouraging to “make the world hers,” the episode clearly centers on themes about being oneself while taking control of one’s life.
Girl Meets World is clearly very closely adapted from Boy Meets World. It’s built around a friendship of a rule-follower and a rebel, there’s a Minkus character–Farkle Minkus (who seems like a mix of Minkus and early Topanga). Cory is the history teacher set up to be a combination of Cory, his dad, and Mr. Feeney. It also seems like Lucas may be Riley’s Topanga, but it’s too soon to tell.
Still, as far as pilots go, Girl Meets World was pretty hit and miss. The characters are there and show plenty of potential for developing into the kind of endearing and complex characters we loved in BMW, but the dialogue hasn’t found its pace yet. The pilot was basically very, very cheesy. For example, the episode starts with Riley and Maya sneaking out the window to sneak onto the subway only to be caught by Cory who sends them out the front door to get on the subway. Riley asks, “How long do I have to live in your world?” To which Cory replies, “Until you make it yours.” And that was before the opening credits. Basically, the type of sappy lesson-spinning that is to be expected at the end of the episode (Feeeneeey!) was piled on from start to finish.
Here’s a run down of some of the hits and misses of the episode:
- Like I said, the characters are off to a good start.
- While Riley seems really goofy, like her dad. Maya had some pretty snappy lines, including: “Let me show you everything you need to know about boys and girls. Hi, I’m Maya. You’re really cute. We should hang out sometime. You make me really happy. You don’t pay enough attention to me. This isn’t working out. It’s you, not me. We can still be friends. Not really.”
- Riley to Topanga in a line delivery that is very vintage-Cory: “”My teacher followed me home. Can we keep him? Can we keep him? Please say nooo.”
- It’s nice to see a strong father-daughter relationship as well as father-mother and mother-daughter relationships. The push-pull between Cory and Riley comes off as affectionate and supportive of her finding her way while also sometimes too worried. For example: “Do you really think I’m one of those girls who follows all of the rules and never gets into trouble?” “I was hopin'”
- The episode does feature a pretty strong message about being yourself in sometimes nuanced ways. As Riley tries to become Maya she faces resistance from Maya who tells her not to try to save her and from Cory who wants them both to stay out of trouble. When Maya sets off the fire sprinklers during her protest against homework, Riley asserts that she deserves dentition too because she got involved. Cory responds: “No you didn’t. And because you didn’t your best friend is in very big trouble.” In the moment, Cory’s assertion is more against Riley’s passivity than her getting in trouble. Later, he continues “You were so busy trying to be her, Riley, you forgot the best thing you can do for her is to be you.” The groundwork is clearly being laid for a similar pattern to Cory and Shawn in which they get in trouble together but Riley ultimately serves as the moral compass who keeps them from going too far–and that’s what Cory’s mad at Maya for–going too far.
- The show takes place in NYC and still all the characters are white except some people in the background and a token sassy black woman on the subway.
- Cory reduces the Civil War to a lesson about standing up for what you believe in and “History shows that bad things happen when you don’t know who you are.”
- Cory also vaguely threatens to kill Lucas in the El Paso border region, which we know is pretty violent. Yikes.
- Not much real conflict in the episode and therefore it’s solved pretty ridiculously easy.
- Perhaps this will come later, but I think it would have been more meaningful to have Cory assert his love for Maya rather than have Riley do it. While it was great to have the authority expressed by a girl, the lesson came off as really corny while having Cory look out for Maya more directly may have been more effective and more Feeney-like.
Did you watch Girl Meets World? What did you think?
Stay tuned for more as the show airs.
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