Is it possible to revisit the past without examining the future as well? Well, Disney Channel is attempting to do a little of both with the new show “Girl Meets World” which picks up years later after the end of the popular “Boy Meets World” by following a new character. Can the show generate the same magic that the original show did? It’s early to tell whether that will be the case, but future episodes should truly determine the show’s true fate down the line.
“Girl Meets World” followed Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard) as she entered Middle School with the eagerness to carve her own path the same way that her father Cory (Ben Savage) did when he was her age. Unfortunately, she decided to go about it the wrong way by trying to be too much like her rebellious best friend Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter) who always tested the waters right before she broke every rule in the book. It was Maya’s idea for the girls to sneak onto the subway for Riley’s first time on her own. Sadly, Cory and Riley’s mother Topanga (Danielle Fishel) were quick to figure out their plan before they could make a break for it. While on the subway, Maya and Riley come across a cute boy that Riley was eager to meet but afraid to talk to. Enter Maya and one of her plans to make things happen. She created a scenario for them to meet and watched it happen. It also turned out that Lucas Friar (Peyton Meyer) was also the new kid in Riley’s history class that happened to be also taught by her overly cautious father, which made things uncomfortable for both father and daughter. Every time Lucas and Riley tried to hang together, Cory stepped into separate them before anything could happen. The situation also wasn’t helped when Riley jumped aboard one of Maya’s schemes to get out of doing her homework. As many of Maya’s schemes, this one went too far and ended up turning on the sprinklers in the classroom. While Maya and Riley started a rebellion, they started to realize that their classmate Farkle Minkus (Corey Fogelmanis) had a crush on both of them that he openly admitted to everyone in the class. After Maya’s latest idea backfired, the friends realized that their friendship could be on shaky ground if they weren’t too careful. Will they fight for their friendship or will they have to go their separate ways from here on out?
In terms of questions, the show’s biggest one was whether it could have the staying power of “Boy Meets World” did during its seven season run. The series premiere showcased some early potential but it also appeared to be trying a little too hard to try to get viewers to stick around to see what happens next. Future episodes should allow plots to happen naturally and allow the cast to continue to gel before forcing any possible scenarios on viewers. It took a while before Cory and Topanga saw each other as a potential couple, but it happened at a realistic pace as they grew before everyone’s’ eyes on the small screen. The new show’s series premiere tried to force a connection between Blanchard’s Riley and Meyer’s Lucas instead of letting things happen in due course. The plot would’ve been better off having the characters either not liking each other or having Lucas not knowing that Riley was even in his orbit. As for the supporting cast, the series could spend a little extra time developing them into being more than familiar cutouts from other television shows. Fogelmanis’ Farkle had some early charm, but his character’s overall antics proved to be a little too over-the-top in the premiere to make the character worth remembering for too long. Future episodes should examine the character from a different angle, such as a potential connection between Farkle and Stuart Minkus from Cory’s past on “Boy Meets World.” That scenario could prove to be a likely possibility with Minkus’ Lee Norris making a possible appearance on the new show in the near future. Let’s hope that other past characters will get to pop up on the show every once in a while. It was nice to see William Daniels make a brief cameo as Mr. Feeny in person and on a memorable poster in the New York subway station at the end of the episode. The show should focus on developing the Matthews family dynamic and Riley’s friendship with Maya since they appear to be the strongest plot points going for the moment before adding any new players to the mix just yet. Only time will tell if that’s the case though.
As for breakout performances, Blanchard, Carpenter and Savage led the pack since the series premiere primarily focused on their characters and they drove most of the plots in the episode. Blanchard’s Riley has the promise of being a memorable leading character if only she learned to relax a little bit. She seemed a little nervous in parts of the episode, but she managed to find her footing when she decided to fight for her character’s friendship with Maya. Blanchard embodied Riley with the same level of quirkiness and vulnerability that made Savage’s Cory an iconic character for children who grew up in the 1990s. Her strongest scene was the one where Riley told her family how much her friendship with Maya meant to her and that she knew who she was going to be in the world as long as Maya was standing beside her. It was a sweet scene that seemed to help set the tone for what the rest of the season was going to be like: a mixture of comedy and just a hint of sentimental drama without going too over-the-top. Carpenter, on the other hand, had the challenging task of portraying the colorful bad girl who wanted to rebel for any cause that came her way. Sure, Carpenter’s Maya wasn’t too fleshed out in the premiere beyond carrying out a series of antics that only scratched at the surface of the character’s true nature. Carpenter’s strongest scene came when she pretty much told Savage’s Cory that her home life wasn’t as good as Riley’s. She demonstrated a hidden level of sadness that will need to be explored sooner rather than later. A close second was the scene where Carpenter’s Maya tried to get Riley to end their friendship because she knew that she would only lead her into trouble. It was that scene that proved that Blanchard and Carpenter had a growing rapport on-screen that could translate well down the line. Savage’s Cory still proved that he could bring humor and heart of a different kind to the show since he was no longer the title character. He was the one passing the torch to his on-screen daughter at the end of the episode. Hopefully, Savage will continue to demonstrate how crucial he is to Riley’s story, even if it is as a supporting player.
"Girl Meets World" premiered on June 27th at a special time of 9:45 PM. New episodes are slated to air Fridays at 8:30 PM on Disney Channel starting July 11th.
Verdict: Despite a shaky start, the show has demonstrated some promise by the return of some familiar faces and the overall charm of Blanchard’s lead character.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)