Saturday, October 18, 2014

Episode Review: "Girl Meets The Forgotten"

Episode Title: "Girl Meets the Forgotten"
Episode Number: 12
Boy Meets World Episodes Borrowed From: Take the B-plot of Season 4's "Fishing for Virna" with the under-appreciated cafeteria worker with her mashed potatoes (and how that translates to not appreciating your mom) and smash it together with Season 4's "Janitor Dad" about how there's nothing wrong being a janitor, and there you go.
Cory's History Lesson and Relevance: The Great Depression, it's okay. I just recently watched a Ken Burns documentary on the Depression and these "Forgotten" never came up. I mean, by name. I mean, is that a real term for a sect of people during that? 

Episode Review: Sorry this took so long, guys. Been very busy. I'm going to try to just power through this one so that I can get to the next one right away and not fall behind.

It's 'Electives Day' at JQA, and electives, in this context, apparently just means one volunteer class you take for a week that you have to come early to sign up for. I feel like this isn't really an 'elective' as I understood them all throughout my educational career, but whatever. Riley's in usual self-absorbed brat mode complaining that Topanga didn't try to wake her up enough, complaining about having to do these electives, complaining about having to go to school and work at the same time which Cory acts like he does too (with a hearty 'How ya doin'?) except... going to school is his work, it's not like he's also got classes to take on top of his job)

Anyway, this whole scene felt very real and definitely harkened back to arguments I would have with my own parents. They were often very dismissive of my complaints when I felt exhausted and overworked because it pales in comparison to how exhausted and overworked they would be, but as a kid of course I couldn't see anything out of my own situation. I make fun of Riley and Maya for being narcissists (and... they are) but in some situations all 12-year-olds are narcissists, and this is one. What I don't believe is later on when Topanga requests Maya and Riley simply bring in groceries and they just refuse and very rudely. No parent would put up with that. 

Also, Danielle Fishel is slowly getting a little better and acting like she's trying. Really, everyone's getting stronger on this show. 

So, in class, they're talking about the Great Depression, which Riley thinks is the same thing as the Grand Canyon which isn't initially funny but becomes funny later on in the lesson when, after Cory describes what it is, she earnests asks "But, that could never happen to anyone in the Grand Canyon today, could it?". So is Riley's thing about her being smart and studious from the beginning of the series just done now? Because she's routinely portrayed as being the least intelligent of the four. Cory tries to get Riley to see that maybe there's someone in her life she hasn't been appreciating but of course Riley cares about nothing in this world that isn't her or Maya so she assumes he's talking about Maya and Cory gets humorously fed up and leaves. Worst class in the world.

There's a surly heavyset cafeteria worker. They don't get along with her and they make fun of her food and they want ANY elective but Cafeteria duty! Farkle and Lucas make the hugest most impossible mashed potato volcano in the world that actually spews geysers and geysers of gravy lava. It creates a big mess and because for the purpose of this episode Lucas is an asshole, he doesn't think he should have to clean it up and thinks someone should do it for him. Enter Janitor Harley.

So. Harley Keiner. We all remember him, recurring bullying presence from Season 2  (and one episode of Season 3) of Boy Meets World, he of the '50s greaser aesthetic and florid Godfather-esque speech. He's back as the Janitor. During the ramp up to this series, obviously, a big concern was on which Boy Meets World characters would be returning, with the big requests obviously focused on Shawn, Eric, and Feeny, and secondarily people like Alan, Amy, Angela, etc. Some of those people will be coming on, which is great. Harley was not someone I think anyone cared about coming back. He wasn't someone I ever expected Cory to really interact with outside of school, nor someone whose story I necessarily needed finished. The last episode we saw him felt like it wrapped him up well enough. Still, sometimes life does work this way. Someone unexpected from your past, who you didn't even like, ends up becoming a more recurring aspect of your life than some close friends or even family. You never know. So, that's fine. 

My problem is that the show doesn't even treat him like a returning character. There's no cue that the audience remembers him, there's nothing in the dialogue that suggests Harley. Take away the one token use of 'Baboon' at the end of the episode, and this janitor character could have been someone else entirely. Now, if Harley has been working there a while, I suppose it is more realistic that Cory and Harley wouldn't be making a big deal about their high school past and catching up because they'd have already covered that, and their relationship is now defined by their current situation. But, they're still TV characters, and I think if you're going to have Harley in a recurring capacity as a janitor, we should have started off with the episode where Harley is hired at JQA to reintroduce us to him and introduce the new people to him entirely. And that could have been a great story! 

How about this: Maybe Harley's fallen on hard times (as one may have predicted he might), and is applying for this janitor position as kind of the last stop on a series of downward turns his life's taken. Cory runs into him in the principal's office and, elated that the shoe's on the other foot now, delights in telling the principal what a bully and creep Harley was and how thoroughly he doesn't recommend him, taking some revenge for all the crap Harley put him through. Harley doesn't get the job. You can juxtapose this with some kid story about giving people another chance too, and Cory could realize it was wrong and childish for him to ruin Harley's life over petty resentment about something from 20 years ago and everyone deserves a second chance, and he goes back to the principal to fight to get Harley hired after all. I think something like that would have been the perfect way to introduce him. Or at least something.

Because as it stands, Harley didn't work for me. He didn't really sound or act like Harley, and because Danny McNulty has aged so much (understandable as he was probably like 30 during Boy Meets World) it was sort of hard to recognize him. I honestly believe if Harley's return hadn't been hyped and if they hadn't referred to the character by name, much of the audience wouldn't have even picked up who he is. And for a character return, that's a problem. I think he's in next week's episode, we'll see if that gets better. There's nothing else interesting about the Harley/Farkle/Lucas story, it's just a mini-version of the Riley/Maya/Lunchlady story, so I'm probably all done talking about it.

The Riley/Maya/Lunchlady story is fun enough. Full of not bad bits of her being surly, and Miley being oblivious. Stand-outs include Riley, who frequently gives Maya silent unprompted adjustments to her look, slowly and scarily walks over the frightening lunch lady to adjust her hat. It lasts like 30 seconds and the audience howls and it is legitimately funny. The point is that the lunch lady is actually hard-working and knows her students' very well (even understanding Maya's financial situation), despite how little they appreciate her. Very much similar to "Fishing for Virna" - hope this one doesn't die on us! Cafeteria duty proves hard (and oddly potato-focused considering their must be other food that also needs preparation) and it's like all that happens all episode and Maya and Riley learn a valuable lesson about appreciating what other people do for them. And now the lunch lady is part of their obnoxious "Stop it!" routine.

Episode Rating: Like a 'B' - it was so-so. Kinda funny, kind of a good lesson, but not great.
Episode MVP: Sabrina Carpenter, I'd say. Rowan Blanchard was great too. The episode belonged to them.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Episode Review: "Girl Meets World: of Terror"

Episode Title: "Girl Meets World: of Terror"
Episode Number: 11 
Boy Meets World Episodes Borrowed From: I suppose the closest comparison would be Season 2's "Who's Afraid of Cory Wolf?" which is a Halloween episode also presented as kind of a gothic spooky anthology type situation, with a narrator and everything. It's also cheesy and awful.
Cory's History Lesson and Relevance: Y'know, I don't think we saw him teach a lesson in class.

Episode Review: So, I'm trying to bear in mind, for this one, that it's a Halloween episode and Halloween episodes on these kinds of shows are always cheesy and lame. Boy Meets World had two Halloween episodes, "Who's Afraid of Cory Wolf?" and "The Witches of Pennbrook" and neither, particularly "Wolf", was very good  (before you say it, "And Then There Was Shawn" which aired in February, was not a Halloween episode, it just happened to be horror themed - so maybe the key to making a good Halloween episodes is for Halloween not to factor in) So, as much as I didn't enjoy this one, I have to judge it based on what it's *trying* to be. So, let's see how it goes.

So, the premise of this is like an old-timey horror anthology show that used to be popular in the '50s and '60s. The Simpsons does a similar thing every year. It's not one story, it's sort of three separate stories dealing with Farkle's fear, Riley's fear, and Auggie's fear  (though they all have the same continuity and are canonical) with Auggie acting as a host. Though they sort of treat it like he's breaking the fourth wall, we see he's not, he's just talking to a wall hosting a make-believe TV show.

Anyway, Auggie's hosting is kinda cute because he's a little kid and all, but mainly it's cringey and embarassing and the audience is laughing at crap that is painfully not funny. Like, they're all howling at poorly-delivered jokes such as  "My name is Auggie and I'll be your  ghost for this evening." I refuse to believe any of this laughter. And it's a shame I ditched the "How Ya Doin'?" count, because we get this series' most epic one when Auggie forces Topanga to say hi to the audience and she says it right to the camera TWICE. What a fitting bon voyage to the "How Ya Doin'?" count. What's with them and this line though? Seriously. It was said in Boy Meets World, but not to this degree.

So, it's Halloween at school. The Fab Four are dressed up like... Final... Fantasy... characters? People from some sort of dystopian steampunk anime maybe? I have no idea. But it's definitely a theme, and it's strange and fits none of them except maybe Farkle. Speaking of Farkle, he's afraid of gym class and the possibility of getting hit by a softball. Because they're all playing softball... in doors... in their Halloween costumes. The in-doors things is at least justified because it's raining outside (though one would think that, for one day, they'd switch to an in-door activity like basketball) but why aren't these kids in gym clothes? They're going to get their costumes all sweaty! And I would think many would be in costumes that make playing softball very cumbersome.

Yeah, so, the whole scene takes forever and basically the point is Farkle's afraid to be at bat, Maya intimidates him, Lucas hits him with a softball on purpose so he realizes it'll barely hurt even if he does get hit, and Farkle can play softball now. A third of the episode is basically spent on this scene. It's not good, although Riley has funny moments, as she often does when she's on the sidelines of things and doesn't drive story. But otherwise? No good. Although, at least Cory wasn't the gym teacher. At the end, pretty-boy teenager Lucas gives Farkle some finger guns and goes "Trick-or-treat tonight?" and Farkle agrees. These kids are still trick-or-treating? Lame. 

Riley's next up. Auggie's introduces this next segment with Alfred Hitchcock reference which I'm sure their target demo wouldn't get. So, in the halls after gym class, Riley and Maya are planning their Halloween night and Maya wants to host their annual sleepover at her place, rather than at Riley's, but apparently Riley's deathly afraid of Maya's apartment and apparently every time she tries to sleepover she ends up secretly calling Cory in the middle of the night to pick her up.  "I wake up every morning and you're not there," Maya says. "It makes me feel bad." Yeah, but you still see her. Sounds like I could start getting away with the ol' "Sorry, baby, I had to take off because your room is scary!" routine. Thanks, Riles! Gal after my own heart. Hard to believe she's Cory and Topanga's daughter with Shawn Hunter moves like that.

It takes a while for them to get to the reason for Riley's fear of Maya's place (since the episode spends a lot of times with silly things like weird shadows on the wall or Farkle-in-a-mask being what's scaring Riley) but they eventually seem to elude to the fact that it's this part of town, and Maya's comparative poverty, that freaks out Riley. But they tip-toe around the issue and I wish they'd confronted that head on. I also wish they hadn't used a stock image of Union Square as representing where Maya's apartment is as well.

So, it's bed time at Maya's place but Riley's all scared. First she's scared of the shadows on the wall that show a bunny, then a larger bunny, then some sort of gargantuan monster mutant bunny. But Maya shows her how it's just the shadow from the sign of the new bunny store across the street. Silly Riley! Use your head! Of course, it's just one of those creepy signs from those bunny stores you see all the time. Also, a bunny store in the shady part of New York?  With a sign that shows a normal bunny turning into a fuck-up bunny? Yeah, that place is a front for smack for sure.

So, the next thing that frightens Riley is the arrival of Maya's ancient grandmother, Grammy Hart. Okay. HOLD THE PHONE! We just did an ancestry episode. And with Maya, her mom's side of the family is the only one she'd be able to get info on since her dad's out of the picture. So  if Grammy Hart is Katy's mom that would mean she'd be born after 1961, and this woman is clearly at least 80, so nope. I suppose "Grammy" could just be a vague term, and she's actually Maya's great-grandmother. And the one on the 'Hart' side and not the 'Clutterbucket' side. Well.... okay then. I suppose I'll let that slide. Considering Grammy Hart looks about 50 years older than Katy, her being her mom would be a stretch anyway.

The third thing that frightens Riley (AND Maya) this time is two monsters outside the window. Sounds reasonable. But it's just Farkle and Lucas on their way home. They thankfully explain why Flucas are still trick-or-treating while Miley are going to bed - it's only like 7:30 and Maya was trying to get this night over with but there's still the problem of how the hell Riley (who's shocked at the time) could be so off about what time it is. And were Lucas and Farkle they trick-or-treating in the slums? Neither strikes me as living along here. Don't kids in Manhattan typically trick-or-treat in their and possibly neighboring apartment buildings? I really think this show would be better served if this took place in a small New York suburb rather than actually Manhattan. They could still hop on a train and be in New York whenever they needed to be. But JQA doesn't feel like a Manhattan school, and it's highly unlikely that millionaire Farkle, upper-middle-class  Riley, and working-class Maya would even be at the same school outside a small suburb where the public schools may be top-notch and still available to all.

Anyway, Riley decides Maya's neighborhood isn't so bad once you 'take its mask off' and they even come to the conclusion that it's pretty once you really look at it. It's a nice little moment the two share at the window together with Riley coming to appreciate the charm and beauty in some less fancier neighborhoods in the city, and Maya feeling some pride that Riley thinks where she comes from is alright. I really wish this had just been the plot of an episode, not hampered by the Halloween gimmick. It's still the highlight of the episode.

Oh, and then Auggie has some stupid quick story where the monster under his bed is a little-kid-monster like him, and now that Auggie's no longer afraid of him, the little kid has to go elsewhere. The little monster is not so good at enunciation. It's a dumb story, but August Maturo does his best, and there's moments I like such as Mr. Googly returning, and a small dichotomy in parenting styles we see where Topanga's a little more "Auggie. Go to bed." while Cory humors him a bit more when he says there's monsters and stuff and tucks him in. I like seeing that, and it fits their respective personalities.

Episode Verdict: Not a good episode. Not even close. But, then, I tend to hate this kind of stuff. For being what it was, meh, I'll say C-. Seriously, though, let's get a good one, guys. Three duds in a row. And why's the Halloween episode so early?
Episode MVP: Rowan Blanchard did the best job between how funny she was in Farkle's story and the way she sold the ending of her story, but credit where credit is due for August Maturo who had a lot of material and did pretty well for his age.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Episode Review: "Girl Meets Crazy Hat" (#1.10)

Some new formatting. I'm ditching the "How Ya Doin'?" count for a couple reasons:

  1. Joke's been made. They say it a lot. I'll move on.
  2. They're not saying it as often as they used to.
  3. For episodes I dislike (like this one) I don't want to have to do a rewatch just to make sure I get the count right.
Also, I'm moving Episode MVP to the end, because often I discover it is as I go along.

Episode Title: "Girl Meets Crazy Hat"
Episode Number: 10 
Boy Meets World Episodes Borrowed From: Season 1's "Risky Business" and Season 5's "How to Succeed in Business" involved similar class projects, but I guess the moral is more in line with Season 7's "You Light Up My Union" with Jack being such a cold-hearted businessman being frowned upon and Eric's generosity being praised.
Cory's History Lesson and Relevance: Man, this episode didn't even try.  Cory started talking about Belgium in 1831 (which, Google tells me, was the time of the Belgian Revolution), and then when it became clear the kids didn't care, he just up and changed his lesson plan (and school subject) to, I guess, economics and business ethics. 

P.S. I'd like to take a look at Cory's lesson plan. There's not much... flow to the order in which he seems to be teaching subjects. He's gone from the Civil War to Darwin to Ancient Greece and Rome to '60s counterculture to nineteenth century Belgium. And, based on next week's episode preview, we're only in October of this school year! 

Episode Review:
So, this one's bad too. We start off in the subway station with the return of Jackee Harry as newly-named Crazy Hat. I remember during all the ramp-up for GMW when there was all the buzz on casting, how Jackee's name was one of the first thrown in, and I guess some people were into it because of her similar '90s teen sitcom credentials, but I can't for the life of me figure out why they felt the need to bring her back and never expected they would. She was fine (and funny) in the pilot, as just a random woman commenting on events on the subway. But I don't think what this show was suffering from was a deficiency in wacky middle-aged strange street women for Maya and Riley to befriend. And considering how long it's been since the pilot (I think people who didn't already know Jackee Harry could have easily forgotten who this character was) and how little Jackee's character here has in common with her character then, they really could have even made someone new. But whatever. Continuity, I guess.

So, who is Crazy Hat? She's a woman who wears a crazy hat and whom Miley (I'm sorry, but that really is the organic combo name for our heroines) are always seeing sitting in the same spot in the subway station. And, of course, because as established Miley know that they are the two Best Girls In The World, they treat her with patronizing friendship as is there way. They ostensibly like her - but they also call her names to her face and treat her with pity and disdain since they think she's possibly homeless despite her (occasionally wild) claims to the contrary. 

Crazy Hat tells the girls to come sit by her and she'll teach them about life. She does no such thing, although I'm not quite sure if the show realizes this or if they just go off track in this scene. Instead she asks for one of their ponchos, tells the girls that she's observed they're good friends, and then sends them on their way. There's also the start of a gag where people keep thinking Riley in her poncho is actually garbage and insist on throwing her away despite her vocal protestations. It's funny.  There are some funny bits in this scene, and Sabrina and Rowan are very charming (I particularly liked both of their interactions with the cop) but it was also pretty random and all over the place. It felt like a scene that kept having jokes tossed into it after the fact until the premise got lost. That's actually a regular issue with this show.

So, in the next scene, as Cory starts to try to teach about Belgium, but Riley insists the class discuss her problems instead. And it's not even in the, like, metaphorical way I usually mean when I say this. She literally screams "NO!" and demands Cory change the subject to 'what is Riley's thing'. Rowan's delivery is cute, but Riley's still a narcissistic little monster. To Cory's credit, he actually tries for a second to get them back to Belgium, but he, of course, caves. After a dumb bit about how Farkle's, I guess, polylingual but can't control it, he gets the line of the series:

"My education should not be based on your 

daughter's moods."

He's, of course, quite right - though, since Farkle's also been guilty of aiding and abetting Miley's hijacking of the class, I really wish it had been someone else in class, an extra, who got to deliver that line. Still, nice to see the writers are at least aware of this.

So, anyway, Cory completely abandons his prepared lesson plan that he probably is required by the administration to teach, to turn into an economics teacher and split the class into two businesses. And by split the class? I mean split Maya, Riley, Farkle, and Lucas into two businesses, because, of course, they're the only ones allowed to do or learn anything. The rest of the class will be their "employees", he says, but we never see any evidence of this unless by "employees" he means "customers." It's not that I blame the show for not focusing on the education of random extras, but I just wish they'd give, at least, the impression that they were doing stuff to and were present in the class for any reason than to be Miley's audience. Sure, if the class split into team projects on Boy Meets World then invariably Cory was going to be paired with either Shawn or Topanga, but it seemed like the rest of the kids were doing the project too, we just didn't see that part. Conversations they had in class were generally whispered to each other from their seats in the back rather than the front of class, and Feeny and Turner would often interrupt them and tell them to pay attention. But I (and everyone) have complained about how school works ad nauseum so I'll drop it for now. 
So, Riley and Farkle are one team, Maya and Lucas another. Farkle's suddenly soulless and all about making money in this episode, while Lucas is all Dudley Do-Right about everything.

Whew. I'm like a quarter of the way through this episode and I've already written a ton. I'm... gonna speed this up. There's a cute B-story here with Topanga and Auggie where Auggie wants money and Topanga thinks it's to buy her a birthday present, and it's really to buy his girlfriend Ava a present, and Ava shows up and is horrible. Danielle Fishel's actually the best she's been on this show in this episode, I think. She's a bit more present and actually seems to act, and it helps that the material's not too meaty or serious or cringey. Good for her. Not much to say about this story, but it's the best part of the episode. Kinda done with Ava though.

So, Farkle/Matthews is successful while Friar/Hart is not, because Farkle makes his pure sugar while Riley's is organic. The students buying these muffins are led by a girl who seems to be approximately 37 and possibly has an Australian accent? I don't know what they were thinking casting her. I'm going to assume she's Ben Savage's girlfriend. Also, once again the show seems to abandon pairing Lucas with Riley in favor of Lucas and Maya, who's like all he talks to who anymore.  Anyway, Friar/Hart gets bought out and Farkle fires Riley and so Maya quits. Corey Fogelmanis isn't great in this episode, he's way too over-act-y and campy. I don't like Farkle when he's like this. There may also be a degree to which I'm Farkle'd out. He can be a little exhausting.

So, Riley and Maya... storm out of school as a result of being fired, for which I expect they will reap no consequences, and go to the subway and talk to Crazy Hat about their problems, who continues to claim she's very successful - owns her own building and company, addresses the United Nations, and Miley continue to pity her and don't take her career advice seriously. OH MAN, YOU GUYS. IT WOULD BE QUITE A TWIST IF IT TURNED OUT CRAZY HAT REALLY IS AS RICH AND SUCCESSFUL AS SHE APPEARED AND MILEY ALSO LEARN A VALUABLE LESSON ABOUT PREJUDGING PEOPLE. 

Yup. She is. Shocking. Crazy Hat is Evelyn Rand, CEO of "Rand Industries" and owner of the "Rand Building". And, like many eccentric CEOs, she has all the time in the world to spend all day in the subway station and show up at the history class of preteen brats she barely knows. Riley and Maya are going to found an umbrella-sharing nonprofit we'll never hear about after this episode, and she's going to be their investor. At the end of this scene, Cory gets a very much unearned Moment of Sincerity where Evelyn and Cory (who just met) talk about what a difference he's making in their lives (which, like, in this episode, he didn't do anything of note, so... okay)

Oh, and then in the final scene we discover Miley's Umbrella Company fixed New York and created world peace via a montage. Everyone's happy and smiling and best friends as they hand each other umbrellas. Because absolutely no one would just steal the umbrellas. Bad episode.

Episode Verdict: D+ (Strictly in terms of writing it's probably even worse than '1961' but since I don't resent the very notion of this episode like I did '1961', it gets to be only the second-worst episode)
Episode MVP: Let's say Danielle Fishel. She's not won this before, and she was actually pretty fun in this one, and no one involved in the school storyline deserves it.