by Aprille Hanson
On Friday, a bunch of kids tuned into the premiere of Disney Channel's new series "Girl Meets World" ... and so did their parents, with possibly more anticipation. The amount of 20-to-30-somethings that tuned in to watch the return of the beloved couple Corey and Topanga from the hit ‘90s series "Boy Meets World," which lasted seven seasons, was probably staggered. I don't know the numbers, but I can tell you that 'Boy' had such a loyal following, it's certain that anyone who had grown up watching Corey Matthews (Ben Savage) have crazy times and learn some lessons along the way with best friend Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong) and fall in love with Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel), tuned in.
It's why Disney's leap to create a show surrounding Corey and Topanga as parents was perfect for not only ratings, but a chance to recreate the magic that surrounded the previous series. We left Corey and Topanga in 2000 when the series ended. They were married and getting ready to move to New York.
In "Girl Meets World," it's more than years later and they're still in the Big Apple, now with two children, a daughter (about 12 years old or so) Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and her little brother, Augie (August Maturo). Of course, Savage and Fishel agreed to reprise their beloved roles as Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, but what will be great is if the show can (as rumored) draw in some more guest stars, particularly Shawn Hunter.
But for now, the pilot episode "Girl Meets Boy" was filled with enough cutesy writing and activity to entertain a younger audience and flashbacks to 'Boy' days to make us adults smile. I knew right off the bat when Riley and her best friend Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter) were in her room, debating on whether or not to sneak out the window to go ride the subway, it was going to be a fun little trip down memory lane. How many times did Shawn Hunter sneak in and out of Corey's window? Maya is certainly the feisty, trouble-making sidekick to Riley's kind heart - sound familiar?
So as the girls decide to sneak out (Maya of course is the instigator), we see Corey coming through the window on the outside to spoil their plans. Let's face it - he's seen this scenario before. But what was beautifully emphasized throughout the episode was how Corey and Topanga both want Riley to make "the world" her own (part of which is allowing her to ride on the subway). Also, not to follow in the bad-girl footsteps of Maya, but to be there to support and save her, just like he did for Shawn. Shawn wasn't mentioned, of course, but it's clear the writers are hoping to hinge the show's success on the two's friendship. Both Blanchard and Carpenter had big shoes to fill and the two young actresses made the parts their own and are going to be easy characters to care about.
What is even more interesting is that it's revealed Maya's home life might not be as rosy as Riley's, which is a definite throw-back to Shawn. It's a moment that can be seen all over Corey's face as she tells him after she stages a little riot for no more homework to be given, "I have no one at home to help me with my homework."
Fans got to see a lot of interaction between Corey and Riley, more so than him and Topanga, which may have left some fans a little disappointed. After all, it's the magic between one of the cutest couples in television history (from sandboxes to the altar) that brought us back in the first place. But I'm sure that will come in time, but it's clearly not what the show is about.
Corey is taking on the role of the beloved Mr. George Feeny (William Daniels), Corey's neighbor, teacher, mentor, friend, etc. that was the patriarch of "Boy Meets World." Here, we see Corey teaching a class at his daughter's school and playing the part of the overprotective father when a new boy from Austin, Texas, Lucus Friar (Peyton Meyer) moves to the city ... and in the desk behind his daughter, who is clearly smitten. Meyer is actually 15 years old and looks it. The casting may be a little off here because the sparks between the two just didn't kick off like they first did for Corey and Topanga. Could be because he looks his age, which isn't his age in the show. I don't think the writers will try to replicate what Corey and Topanga had (I don't think it's possible), but if they even attempt it with these two, it might not go over as well.
That's one of the few flaws that I could find. The cafeteria scenes (popular in 'Boy' episodes) were almost the same as they were when Corey was a kid - same looking tables, same red chairs. And wow else would be in Corey's class than the nerdy, over-the-top, over-achiever named Farkle. Not gonna lie, this kid takes irritating to a whole other level, but it is a nice ode to the character Stuart Minkus on the original series. It wasn't addressed in the episode, but according to IMDB.com, Farkle's last name is in fact "Minkus." Is it possible Lee Norris might be making a cameo? Gosh I hope so.
Besides Corey clearly handing over the reins to his daughter to make this "world" (ahem, show) her own, the best moment came at the very end. While Corey and Topanga are letting their daughter know that she'll need to spread her wings and fly, but they'll always be there for her, a poster is in the background of the subway station with Mr. Feeny's face on it. For a moment, I thought this was the only glimpse of the beloved character we'd get. But then, as Corey looks on, Daniels is leaning up against the wall in a guest appearance and says as he had said so many times before, "Well done Mr. Matthews." Then he disappears. This could mean in the series he has died or that he just won't be making any more guest appearances.
But as a fan, I'll take that sweet, perfect moment that made absolutely no sense to all the kiddos watching.
It's easy to tell "Boy Meets World" creator Michael Jacobs, who also writes along with April Kelly from the original series, are the creative minds behind this newest project. That means that the concept of the original will continue to carry on for a whole new generation. There might be a kid out there watching who has a friend that has a troubled homelife (just like Shawn and Maya) or one that might fall in love with their childhood friend. It's a show that hinged on the relationships and story lines that may not be as sunshiny as other Disney Channel shows. It's a show where kids can learn real life lessons, not from an undercover pop star or a kid that has a "dog with a blog," but with someone who reminds them of themselves, their friends and family.
If it continues like its predecessor, "Girl Meets World" is going to be show for a whole new generation to grow up on. And, for the pilot at least, it's easy to say, "Well done."