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+

4 comments:

  1. "Riley should have been very concerned about what Lucas would think of her makeover"

    Most people probably would be concerned about what their crush would think, but would and should are completely different things. Riley should NOT be concerned about what Lucas thinks about what she chooses to wear or look like. It's not his place; he has absolutely no right. Teaching girls that they should be worried about their appearance because of what boys might think is frankly a despicable message and just reinforces some very nasty cultural and historical control issues that we should be trying to break away from.

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    1. Oh, I don't disagree with this. In addition to it not at all mattering what some boy thinks, she, in particular, ought to not care what a boring pointless boy like Lucas thinks about anything. I meant, 'should have' in the sense that it's unrealistic for Riley, as established, to not have factored Lucas into her decision at all. So far, Lucas has been shown to be more or less all Riley thinks about it. I didn't believe that suddenly she'd forsake all her previous desire to be cool, dress in a way she would have previously found unflattering, and all the while not even consider what Lucas would think.

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    2. Ah, I see what you meant now and I do agree that in particular, Riley would have been concerned about this issue, especially if she planned on it being a permanent change. It wasn't even as if Lucas wasn't there for that specific day, he was gone for multiple days of school. You can headcanon a valid reason for that, but it still doesn't fit Riley's mindset given the dominance of her crush on him. Even if she resolved to give up her crush on Lucas along with all of her "old identity," walking into class and seeing him surely would have given her psychological pause, if not provoked a second guess in some sort of physical reaction as well.

      Actually, now that I'm typing all this out, I feel like Riley's identity/popularity plot in this episode would've fit much better as happening pre-pilot, because the plot of the pilot is another identity crisis issue which resolved with her deciding who she is, especially in relation to her friendship with Maya who she totally threw away in this episode. That is not to say that her identity can't change or evolve beyond what she decided at the end of the pilot - she is after all, only 12 - but I still think it would've made more sense timeline wise to have it first, which would also eliminate the problems with Lucas's absence.

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  2. literally will friedleOctober 9, 2016 at 11:50 PM

    The entire bakery subplot was completely pointless. I would have cared more about it (well, probably not) if they had at least set it up before this episode (or possibly presented the problem here and then resolved it in a couple episodes or whatever), but instead it's "OH HEY. AUGGIE LOVES THIS BAKERY. OH HEY. CLORIS LEACHMAN. OH NOOOOOO SHE DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH MOOOOONEEEEEEY TOPANGA NOOOOO YOU NEED TO BE KOOKY AGAIN". Like, Topanga getting back to her kookiness (even if it was short-lived, IIRC) felt more...earned because she spent a few years on-screen being a totally different person <_< With this, it's just "Oh yeah, she's a SHARK LAWYER WHOOOA but now she's kooky".

    and it would have been nice if she had shown up in her normal clothes or whatever and riley said something like "wat ur nawt kooky lol" and she said "yeah you don't have to dress like some stupid hippy to be a caring person or whatever"

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