The most unbelievable part of the Girl Meets World pilot isn't that Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) are now grown adults with children of their own, or even that Girl Meets World is a series that exists at all. It's that there's enough room for Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) to move around on the New York City subway without accidentally grazing someone's boob or feeling like they might suffocate at any moment. Where is this magical subway? What is this magical world? Oh right, it's the extension of the one created in Boy Meets World, a place where you meet your soulmate in middle school and all of life's important lessons are taught over the course of 22 minutes by your insightful, advice dispensing neighbor, who also happens to be your middle school teacher, who happens to be your high school principal, who happens to be your college professor.
Boy Meets World and the idyllic scenario that it portrayed for seven seasons in the 1990s, chauffeured Cory and Topanga through their blossoming sixth-grade romance all the way to their eventual marriage and post-collegiate lives. It shaped and molded a generation during those years, eventually morphing from the childish series it started as, into a thoughtful story about adolescence and young adulthood. The series was always humorous, but it wasn't afraid to also tackle more adult subjects like sex, abandonment, alcohol, and loss. This is the series that taught us the power and importance of friendship, and in one of the series' finest hours, the idea that when you lose one friend, it's easy to lose all friends, and eventually yourself.
Fans of the original series rejoiced last year when Disney Channel announced it was making a spin-off of the popular series featuring Cory and Topanga and their two children. The current television landscape is littered with antiheroes, with dark and depressing stories about murders and the end of the world, and so perhaps it should come as no surprise that viewers were desperate to feel the familiar heartwarming tendencies of a show like Boy Meets World again. Girl Meets World certainly fits the bill, but the series—the first and only born from our collective nostalgic desires—is not for Boy Meets World fans. It's a tween series on a tween network made for tweens, and fans of the original series should not expect anything more than that.
Oh yes, there's plenty for Boy Meets World fans to enjoy about Girl Meets World's pilot, including a fun cameo by William Daniels' beloved Mr. Feeny to close out the episode, but fans hoping to find a series about Cory and Topanga will be disappointed to find that they play little more than supporting roles in this new series. Fishel's Topanga barely registers in the pilot save for the wild reaction from the studio audience when she first appears. And Cory only has the screentime he does because his role as Riley's teacher and mentor requires it. If you're tuning in to find out what married life is like for Cory and Topanga 14 years after they left for New York in the BMW finale, then I'm sorry to say that's not what you'll get.
But if you're tuning in to find a show about growing up and finding one's place in the world, then you'll probably walk away from the pilot a happy viewer. Girl Meets World is a worthy successor to its parent series, fits in well with Disney's current programming slate, and for a new generation watching the Disney Channel, the series is actually funny and well written. In the pilot, Riley's desperate to break out from her goody-two-shoes ways to be more like her daring and from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks best friend Maya. They lead a "no homework" rebellion in Cory's classroom, which ends badly for Maya when one of the sparklers she's stolen from Farkle (the son of BMW's geeky Minkus) to light everyone's homework on fire sets off the the sprinkler system.
The episode ends as you expect it to, with Maya telling Riley she's a bad influence and Riley making the decision to not give up on Maya or their friendship. The similarities to the friendship between Cory and Shawn (Rider Strong) and Riley and Maya are obvious—perhaps a little too obvious, really—but their friendship is the basis for the series and it works just as effectively as it did in the original series. I fully expect to see the show give voice to these similarities somewhere down the line, preferably in a patented life lesson speech from Cory that he cribbed from Mr. Feeny.
Girl Meets World might not be the show we wanted it to be, but it's the show it needs to be for the Disney Channel and it will probably enjoy a nice run of episodes. Just as Cory has grown up and graduated from the young man we last saw 14 years ago, so have Boy Meets World's fans and we should probably just accept that we're not the show's target demographic any longer. Girl Meets World is very much a series about Riley and her own adventure meeting the world, because as Cory tells his daughter in the pilot, he's already met it.
– Riley's little brother Auggie doesn't get much screentime in the pilot, but his questions during Riley's meltdown resonated with me: "Do bears know how to smile? Why is cake always so delicious? Will my drawings ever get any better?" Screw Riley, I want to hang out with Auggie!
– We still don't know much about Lucas AKA Riley's crush to end all crushes, but this is what we DO know: He's from Austin, Texas, thought a subway rat was a pony, and he knows geography well enough to find his way back to class after being dragged away by Cory. He doesn't talk much, but that will probably change down the line.
– Team Farkle. SHUT UP, HE RULES.
What did you think of the pilot?
AIRED ON 3/11/2016
Season 2 : Episode 30