TV Review - Girl Meets World

Rowan Blanchard (left) and Sabrina Carpenter
play best friends in "Girl Meets World"
This Disney Channel series is essentially a sequel to the ABC series Boy Meets World (1993). The show picks up 14 years after the previous one ended. The two main characters from the previous one are imported here, so with them comes a lot of history, but this show seems to address that history superficially or only nostalgically. It feels as if none of the lessons learned in that previous show were brought along or even remembered. In fact, this series, even though it's taking place in 2014, feels like it's still happening in the 90's. The same if worse social dynamics are occurring.

Ben Savage returns as Cory Matthews, a public school teacher now in his mid 30's. Danielle Fishel returns as Topanga Matthews, a lawyer and Cory's wife. They're the two imported characters from the previous series. Cory is wacky but absolutely loving and is led by his passions. Topanga is quirky but smart and pragmatic. They're married, no longer in the Philadelphia area but now New York City with two children.

Created by Michael Jacobs and April Kelly, the show is copying the previous series but with the reversal of some of the sexes. The previous series focused on the friendship and eventual love life of a young boy. This show instead focuses on the friendship and love life of a young girl. This is in effect progressive, but the show had already been somewhat evolved. Yet, that momentum has been killed and a reset button has been hit, and the show has taken several steps backward in terms of its tone.

Rowan Blanchard stars as Riley Matthews, the 7th grade, teenage daughter of Cory and Topanga who is the true center here. She is the titular character who meets the world. She's very much her father's daughter but she's not as wacky as Cory is. However, Cory was not as wacky as he is now as he was when Boy Meets World first started. He got more ridiculous and over-the-top as time went on. He was probably closer to Fred Savage's character in The Wonder Years (1988). Fred Savage is Ben Savage's real-life older brother. Blanchard's character of Riley lies somewhere between.

Sabrina Carpenter co-stars as Maya Hart, the blonde, witty best friend of Riley. She's the equivalent of Shawn from the previous series who was Cory's best friend. Maya seems plagued with parental issues or lack thereof, much like Shawn. Her home life is addressed somewhat, but Maya's world revolves around Riley.

Corey Fogelmanis plays Farkle, the more literal equivalent to Stuart Minkus from the previous series. He's a lanky, geeky, puppy dog who crushes on both Riley and Maya. He's at best an annoying friend with constant romantic overtures toward them. He's basically another in a long line of characters like Screech from Saved By the Bell (1989).

Peyton Meyer plays Lucas Friar, the cute boy who is obviously the love interest for Riley. I would call him the equivalent to Topanga, but, in a rare case of reverse sexism, Lucas seems to exist as only the cute boy. He's there to look pretty and smile at Riley, so she can gush. Topanga back in the 90's was infused with a strong sense of independence and feminism and intelligence. Lucas is not the intelligent thinker that Topanga was. He's mostly eye-candy for Riley.

A lot of episodes hold the theme of friendship and not growing up too fast. The show is set in New York, but apparently Riley has no black friends or black people with whom she speaks, or Asian, or Latino. It's 2014, yet there are no gay people. This show is on Disney Channel, but it feels like it didn't come in the wake of High School Musical, which had a way more diverse cast.

The show handles drama reasonably well, but it's comedy often falls flat. One example is in Episode 3 when Riley is upset that another girl is flirting with Lucas. Cory is the teacher. He recognizes that Riley is upset but he doesn't recognize that Lucas and this other girl is having a quasi-romantic conversation in class. When silly stuff happens, he continues not to acknowledge it. Savage can be a good comedic actor, but having him in the scene but doing nothing was a waste. Sadly, Blanchard who plays his daughter is not as good a comedic actor, so a lot of her scenes are dry.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-G.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Fridays at 8:30PM on Disney Channel.


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