Saturday, August 16, 2014

Episode Review: Girl Meets Maya's Mother (#1.07)

Episode Title: "Girl Meets Maya's Mother"
Episode Number: 7
Boy Meets World Episodes Borrowed From: Season 2's "Career Day" full stop. For one... there's a Career Day. For another, while it does feature an appearance from our hero's embarrassing parents, the main thrust is the unexpected arrival (and first ever appearance of) the troubled best friend's wayward parent. I guess there's maybe a little of Season 6's "Poetic License: An Ode to Holden Caulfield" in there too with the best friend being forced and coaxed by the hero into demonstrating their art for the public when they didn't want to. 
Cory's History Lesson and Relevance: It's Career Day, so we didn't actually see Cory do much teaching (would the history teacher really be the one running this? Seems like a home room kind of thing. Oh, you know what, Cory should be their home room teacher too. I think that 'class' gives you more room to chit chat.) He does briefly bring up the Korean War as their current topic but it's quickly interrupted and never comes up again or is made into a life lesson.

"How Ya Doin'?" Count: Maybe none? Wow.
Episode MVP: Quality performances from Sabrina Carpenter, Ben Savage, and even occasional-mixed-bag Rowan Blanchard, but, what the hell.... giving it to Lee Norris as Stuart Fucking Minkus.
Episode Review: 

At long last, we finally get an unambiguously GOOD episode. No qualifications, no convincing myself stuff isn't as cring-y as I know I think it is deep down, this episode was simply great and would have been a good episode if it had been on Boy Meets World as well. This is the kind of thing I'd been hoping Girl Meets World would be when I first heard about it, and while some episodes have been fine and I've enjoyed almost all of them, now having seen this one... this is what I wanted Girl Meets World to be. While there were some lame moments (including Lucas, although he's been worse, and the fourth-wall breaking of Auggie singing opera) most of it was just flat-out funny. 

The first act was probably the real highlight. The opening scene was fun (I enjoy that Art Teacher, I hope she recurs) and Riley's a lot more enjoyable for me when she gets to be something other than sweet and smart and helpful - I enjoy her delusional, insecure, even slightly inept side probably better (poor kid, the only thing people could think of to compliment her was "That's a cute top!") . The dinner scene where Cory demonstrated his talent for "close-up magic" was probably the best family scene this show has had yet. 

And then, of course, motherfucking Stuart Minkus is back in the house. While I was disappointed he was such a comparatively minor part of this episode, he still ruled. He was hilarious, he was in character, and I'm glad he's continuing the trend of characters (such as spoiled appearances from Shawn and Harley) ending up exactly where I thought they would. A successful, millionaire Minkus (that Minkus International is a thing is my favorite), still stewing over his rivalry with Cory for getting Topanga when he couldn't is perfect - although, I'd like to hear a bit more about the exact Minkus family situation. Are he and Farkle's mom still together? Because he's blatantly talking about how in love with Topanga and how much he wishes he was with her right in front of his son which, uh, might hurt his feelings. Also, I hate that it's "Farkle Minkus" - I think Farkle's parents should just be divorced and he went by his mom's name.

I really enjoyed Cory in general in this episode, as he was spared from some of the overly-serious/maudlin material that I think Ben Savage has been struggling with in GMW and was allowed to just be funny/wacky Cory that he still can do in his sleep. It also helps to see Cory more as Dad and less as Teacher, because he's much better as Dad. Although Maya and Riley still did some of their annoying monopolizing of the classroom time so they can angst about their personal lives.

Then enter Katy. I like her. At first I thought she was a little too much like Chet (showing up at Career Day full of lies about what you do with a thick southern accent will do that) but I was relieved when the southern accent turned out to be just a put-on and that everyone saw through her charlatan antics while no one but Shawn saw through Chet's. She doesn't seem to be the lazy n'er-do-well like Chet is (she's full of pipe dreams, but she's holding down a job, and when she doesn't show up to the Art Fair it's because she's actually working to provide for her daughter) Spoilers have indicated that a big part of Shawn's appearance on GMW will be interacting with Katy - I'm very interested to see how that goes. Also, I'd rather they hang out at the Nighthawk Diner than in that lame bakery that Cory and Topanga own now. That I'm fine never being brought up again. 

Lucas still aggravates me (Oh, Lucas is so perfect! Oh, Lucas speaks perfect french! No one in real life could ever be as handsome as Lucas! Riley can't concentrate on what she's supposed to be drawing, she's too busy drawing perfect Lucas! We should all start a religion about Lucas because Lucas is our savior and let's all tattoo Lucas' name on our faces!!!! ) but his reaction to the revelation of Farkle's name was alright, as was his covering up Farkle's mouth when he wasn't catching on that the painting was about Katy. Farkle, on the other hand, is slowly winning me over. This may have been my favorite Topanga episode too. She felt a little more like herself for some reason, hard to put my finger on it. 

I gotta say, by the way, they should get a new artist to draw Maya's pictures, if she's supposed to be soooooo good. I wasn't that impressed with them. In particular, seeing her kinda elementary-school-ish drawing of the diner compared to, like, a very impressively drawn picture of a dog was kind of jarring. 

At times near the end the episode started heading down that path of going to emotional 10s when a 7 might be more appropriate and less corny - such as in the scene in the hallway with Riley, Maya, and Katy - but it didn't do it nearly as bad as "Girl Meets Father" (which I think was still good enough to mostly overcome it) or "Girl Meets Popular" (which was a decidedly mixed bag as a result) and so this episode stands as, bar none, the best episode of the series thus far. 

Episode Rating: A-

I believe the show will be taking the next couple weeks off I've heard? I'll try to use that time to post the reviews for the first 5 episodes.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Episode Review: Girl Meets Popular (#1.06)

Episode Title: "Girl Meets Popular"
Episode Number: 6
Boy Meets World Episodes Borrowed From: I'd say "Cory's Alternative Friends" (Cory embracing a group of nerds and outcasts because of how much they accept him, but ultimately going back to who he was) + "The Uninvited" (Cory gets invited to a party and Shawn doesn't, but oh no, it's a geek party!) with shades of "Resurrection" (Hey Topanga, remember when you were a hippie?) a dash of "Quiz Show" at the end there for good measure. (Hi Einstein Academy!)
Cory's History Lesson and Relevance: The story of Damocles. Not as relevant to Riley's situation as he pretends, and nothing a history teacher would realistically be teaching. Damocles is a mythical figure from a fable. Not really History class material.
"How Ya Doin'?" Count: 2
Episode MVP: Sabrina Carpenter (Maya)
Episode Review: 

It's hard for me to decide if I like this episode. I'm a sucker for nostalgia too, as well as continuity.  I remember enjoying "Resurrection" so much in Season 6 precisely because they finally remembered who Topanga used to be. I had long since accepted that Topanga's old personality was just a relic of an earlier time and had been retconned out of existence, but they brought it back and used it to develop her character even. Topanga had used to be one way, and now she was some other way. Why? What happened? It wasn't a big focus of the episode, but it was a poignant part of it. And it was nice.

So, of course I was excited for them to acknowledge it again. We all knew it was coming. Not just from spoilers, but from even the opening credits they included a scene. This episode, in fact, was hyped. Topanga hasn't had much to do on this show yet, and this was supposed to be her big episode. Unfortunately, I think it mainly didn't work. They went way too over-wrought with it, the transformation happened way too quickly, it was just one huge cheeseball rolling down the street. Danielle Fishel has been struggling big time with phoning in performances, and while Ben Savage has been mostly great in scenes that required him to act like goofy, silly Cory, he comes off very stilted and hammy in scenes where he's supposed to be serious and emotional, with a tone of voice dripping with more sincerity than necessary as if he's expecting you to well up at every line of dialogue. It was just too much. As for the flashback itself, while it was a great moment (I wish they had kept in Shawn's faux-spooky "Ooooooooh" after it) on the original show, the fuzzy stretched-out way they included it in the episode looked terrible and it all served to continue to beat me over the head with it. "LOOK! REMEMBER THIS TOPANGA?! WE KNOW YOU DO! NOSTALGIA! FEEEEL IT!"

Mix in Cloris Leachman's appearance, complete with with one of my least favorite sitcom tropes - the enthusiastic applause of an audience the moment a guest star shows up onscreen when I feel very confident the audience is simply responding to an 'Applause' sign, and the whole thing had a very cringe-inducing effect on me. Nothing against the great Cloris Leachman, who was fine in this episode,  but I just don't see her being someone the taping audience of GMW would see and break into spontaneous unanimous applause for upon simply glimpsing her. I just was very embarrassed by how almost all of this was handled, and I think Leachman (and Willie Garson, whom I continue to want to believe just plays Leonard Spinelli in every appearance in this world, and that as the years go by Lennie just keeps reinventing himself) was largely wasted. And is this how they're bringing in the whole "Topanga runs a restaurant" thing we'd been hearing? I'm glad they didn't ditch her being an attorney, but it's still not a development I care for. 

Better was Riley's story. Maya and Sabrina Carpenter continues to be a delight, and Riley (and Rowan) are both a hell of a lot of fun when given this sort of material to play. (Like her TV father, Rowan is much less convincing when expected to be serious.)  There was a lot that was legitimately funny about Riley's excitement when she thought she was going to the party, and in Cory and Maya's reactions to her. And random moments like Pretty Boy Hipster turning out to be two kids standing on each other's shoulders was a riot. The episode started working less when Maya got Harajuku'd up (I had to look up the spelling too) and I guess I'll just take it on faith that this is the kind of thing that kids Riley and Maya's age would just... know all about? I hadn't heard of it. I mean, I grew up in the '90s I know about anime and manga and otakus and the like, but this specific term and subcultured eluded me. But I can chock that up to my own adultness. Still, the episode went off the rails a bit here humor-wise.

One of the big issues is one I'll probably touch on a LOT. Cory is, at best, incompetent as a teacher, and at worse, deliberately unethical with concern for no one but his daughter and her friend. And Riley and Maya are probably the most obnoxious people in the world to be in class with. I expect everyone in that class but Farkle and Lucas must hate them. Anytime Cory and company attempted to make class all about their lives (and they did) Feeny would basically tell them to shut up. Scenes that had to take place in school and be a personal conversation between Feeny and student took place before or after class or in the hallways. Just do that, show. I strongly want some extra to stand up in the middle of Riley's shtick in one episode and scream "SHUT UP, RILEY! WE DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR LIFE! I'M JUST TRYING TO PASS THIS STUPID CLASS! CAN WE PLEASE LEARN SOMETHING?!"

The spelling bee was also ridiculous. No matter her reasons, Riley's still competing in a freaking spelling bee. There's nothing about that that simply MUST be stopped. She's a smart kid, it seems like the kind of thing she'd be doing anyway. You're really going to sabotage her? You're going to flagrantly break the rules by giving her a word some girl just handed you that's clearly not in the spelling curriculum? You're really going to make the rest of these students sit there while you force her through life lesson? Read off her damn word and move on, Cory. He's still the best character on the show, and he's still the highlight when he's being a dorky, overprotective dad. And I think his relationship with Maya has become really special. But as a teacher, he's terrible. I hope he doesn't follow them to their next school, so he can just play the role of Dad.

So. No Lucas in this one, huh? Don't get me wrong, I am in no way a fan of Lucas. From jump he's been an impossibly weak link (more on that in the reviews of other episodes he actually features in), but I kind of think this was a weird one for him to miss. Riley should have been very concerned about what Lucas would think of her makeover, and if he's going to be her love interest he probably should have had a voice in making her be herself.  There have been episodes he could easily have missed without consequences. Girl Meets Truth is one. Except to be there to dance with Riley, Girl Meets Father's another. But this one I think he probably needed to be there.

All in all, one storyline I had been looking forward to I thought didn't work (but had shades of enjoyment just because it brought back memories) and one storyline mainly worked but occasionally veered into rocky territory. 

I'd like to see more of that girl with a crush on Farkle. Her attempt to demonstrate her femininity was maybe the funniest thing in the entire episode. 

Episode Grade: C+


Well, let's see how this goes. I'm starting this blog mainly because I think there's been a serious dearth in quality reviews for Girl Meets World. Most are perfunctory little reviews from mainstream websites that don't seem to be written by true Boy Meets World historians (such as myself) or else are cloyingly gushing, finding everything about it to be magical and wonderful, when that's not necessarily the case. Girl Meets World has a lot to like, and a lot to dislike. No episode as yet has been perfect. Not every performance has been wonderful. So, I would like to examine Girl Meets World, truly examine it for all its glory. From the point of a view of a diehard BMW obsessive who has pined for the show for 14 years and even once wrote his own little fanfic picking up on the cast where they were now. I've seen every episode of BMW countless times and I know the show backwards and forwards. That this exists is truly a dream come true for me. So, when I am critical of the show (and I occasionally will be) please understand that it comes from a place of utmost love for this world and this franchise. But I also write for a living. So I believe I have a critical eye for these kinds of things.

So, I will be reviewing each episode, starting with the most recent, Episode 1.06 "Girl Meets Popular" (and I will be going back and reviewing the first 5 too) Let's see how this goes!

I will say that some of my inspiration comes from the fabulous Boy Meets World Reviewed blog, that I very much encourage you to check out. I've been following along with him for a while, and comment regularly (as "Unknown" but maybe I'll start to post as myself.)

This may feature more than reviews. Big news or ideas I have for the show might be included too. This'll include whatever I want basically. Who knows if you'll read it?

So... without further ado. Girl Meets World Reviewed.