Friday, July 10, 2015

Episode Review: "Girl Meets Mr. Squirrels Goes to Washington" (#2.09)

Hey guys! Episode Review time!

So, I'm going to try not to focus so much on how completely absurd almost all of the political stuff was. Obviously, this isn't a political drama, and it's not supposed to be, so they're not going to be all that concerned with mirroring what an election actually looks like. Yes, in real life, nobody's campaign team would be made up almost entirely of children, that's stupid. I can maybe buy that they'd do a debate in the gymnasium of a middle school (as some sort of "Children are our future" gimmick) but said debate would certainly not be moderated by a middle school teacher who also happens to be the brother of one of the candidates, said debate would also not only consist of one question and would not end because one of the candidates had an answer so good that everyone applauded and the other guy just left. That's all dumb and stupid. And it was also unnecessary - it didn't need to be Cory who was moderating it, just hire somebody. Have the news lady do it! TV journalists moderate those all the time. And it's not like the kids even did anything as campaign managers, once Tommy showed up he more or less was the only guy running the campaign. They could have just been like, hanging out, and you could still have had them encouraging Eric and stuff. But, again, whatever, this isn't The West Wing, it's fine. Honestly, I'm just surprised they remembered elections have primaries.


And, okay, let's talk about Tommy. Now, unfortunately, I was already spoiled about his appearance as Tommy before I saw the episode. It's hard to say if I would have recognized him or not, if I hadn't already known he'd be there but I kind of think I would have. Still, I forgive Eric for not recognizing him, because unlike us, Eric doesn't have access to reruns of his life in the 1990s, we've actually seen Tommy a lot more recently than he has. It was definitely a cool moment, and an excellent use of flashbacks. Clearly J.B. Gaynor hasn't exactly been doing much acting lately, and he was very stilted and awkward, but who cares? Very nice surprise, and an excellent way to demonstrate that in a lot of ways Eric isn't a bad candidate for office. I did appreciate that Disney largely was able to keep this one a secret and didn't go all press releasey about it like they have with every other return. I only found out because I'm especially attuned to GMW for obvious reasons, I think most people didn't know. 

Eric himself was, of course, the best thing about the episode, and obviously once again the MVP, Will Friedle just nails everything. Some of the humor they gave Eric is a mixed bag, I find it mainly annoying and not funny when they give him dumb malapropisms and things like that "Welcome abroad!" "In the words of F Dr. Oosevelt." That's annoying. Eric is too smart in other ways, even now, to also be that dumb. Nobody's that dumb. It's not even funny to see people that dumb. It's a lazy way to write him. But that was only some of the jokes, some of them worked rather well - Eric's encounter with Harley was fantastic, the "Hair Today, Goon Tomorrow" reprise of Eric's cereal and milk routine when depressed was great, the robot bit with Farkle was good, a lot of stuff did work. I just miss Eric when it was Seasons 4 and 5, and everything worked. But c'est la vie.

I don't know, those are my immediate thoughts. Not sure what else to say offhand. This is probably the briefest I've ever been. The thing I talked most about, it looks like, is the thing I started off by saying I wasn't going to focus on. Like "Mr. Squirrels", there wasn't a ton of content, it was all mainly just a platform for Eric to be funny. 

I still don't get why Harley's such a recurring character, but he did feel most like Harley in this one, and Danny McNulty is getting a little better. I did expect this to eventually happen, he didn't used to suck, I think he was just rusty. He's still not great, but he's getting better. 

Okay, can we... like, as a unit, as a community, as a spiritual collective, take one quick look at this? Just real quick?


How... do you get away with something like this? I could have covered their faces and said "Hey it's a picture of Maya and Riley promoting friendship" and you would have believed it. But it's actually an ad for a new show on Disney Channel. It's appallingly transparent. Insultingly transparent.

On to the REAL Maya and Riley Show.

There's an episode of The West Wing where some young upstarts are at the White House to talk about lowering the voting age, because they themselves want to vote. This is a statement no one on Earth could have predicted, but I think Girl Meets World handled that issue even better than The West Wing. Cory essentially suggests that the underage folks use their parents as surrogate voters, to sway them on the issues and motivate the insane amount of no-show-ers to vote at all. I dig it. 


That picture is barely relevant but I thought it was hilarious. And that's the biggest point of this episode. The content is mediocre, but we knew that going in. The only question is "Did Eric make us laugh?" and the answer is "of course." I particularly enjoyed his rapport with Farkle. The only really "smart" archetype Eric interacted with in BMW was Feeny, so now it's fun to see that same dynamic with the ages reversed. There were definitely some misfires, like Christian said, but overall they did a much better job writing him than in Girl Meets Mister Squirrels.

The debate was one of the worst things this show has ever done. I'm trying to come up with a way to explain it. I think Bow-tie said something earlier about all the terms being set by him, and this is the most innocuous arena he would agree to? Maybe. That's too clever for the writers not to have mentioned it though. I doubt they thought that far.

I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly shame Christian for spoiling Tommy for me. 


I look forward to comments from folks who were able to experience it as a surprise, and what they were thinking about TJ before the reveal. Either way, Will Friedle completely nailed the reaction, and it was still the warmest of heartwarming. 

And then the debate ends? I almost feel bad for the incumbent, he's just standing here like "What the fuck is going on?"

So yeah. Plot/content? Absolutely insane. A neat lesson about getting politically involved as a kid? Sure. Heartwarming moment with Tommy? Definitely. Hilarious Eric? You betcha. Sounds good to me. Again, this was a certain improvement over Meets Mister Squirrels. 

And be sure to tune in to Fake Riley And Fake Maya Are Best Friends, only on Disney Channel.

Sean, Sean, Sean. I've seen commercials for this Best Friends Whenever, and you're WAY OFF, pal. The blonde is the responsible one and the brunette is the irresponsible one. It's completely different!

Also, they do time travel. It's a time travel show. So, there's that. It's Girl Meets World if they time traveled. I feel like somebody came up with the name "Best Friends Whenever" and they just, like, built a show around that.

You're right, that this is certainly a better episode than the first Mr. Squirrels. That episode had the same issue of some of the Eric humor working and some of it not, but it also just had a lame plot that I didn't care about and didn't actually have much to do with Eric. So, definite improvement.

I'm not going to go so far as saying that GMW handled the voting age issue better than TWW, since GMW didn't really spend much time on it and didn't really point out the problematic issues that may present, but I do agree that Cory basically trying to let them down easy by saying "Well, you can't do that, but you can utilize the tools at your disposal, your parents and the internet..." was a good way to go. 'Cause obviously it's not going to happen, and probably shouldn't. It's great that Lucas is earnest and informed, but most people that age are not. Still, I like that they gave him that to lead the charge on, it was consistently Lucas who was the one arguing for that.

Sorry for spoiiiiiling. At the time, I had good reason, I promise! But nice to see that it seems like the majority of people were not only not spoiled, but didn't even catch on that T.J. was Tommy until the revelation.

And yeah, I also really enjoyed Eric and Farkle's rapport. He's good with all the kids, really, (though he hasn't had much interaction with Lucas, and I have my doubts that even Will Friedle could make that kid charismatic) but Corey Fogelmanis really held his own, and I was impressed by that. Will is the hands-down MVP, of course, but I'd give Corey the silver.

Here's something odd. When Will Friedle guest stars he's given the title "Special Guest Star". Other bearers of that title are William Daniels, Cloris Leachman, Jane Lynch, and Debby Ryan. When Rider Strong guest stars, he's only a regular guest star like everyone else. He's given no more status than, say, Ava or Zay. What gives? I get that Will's got a bigger career than Rider because of the voice acting, but still. I think you can throw all the BMW vets the Special Guest credit, guys. It's probably something like Rider refusing the credit, 'cause he doesn't think he's special. And then Michael Jacobs is like "C'mon, Rider, it's just a nice little honor, just take the credit." and then Rider shouts that he doesn't need his charity and storms off.

For the record, William Russ, Betsy Randle, Lee Norris, Trina McGee-Davis, Blake Clark, and Danny McNulty all are credited as just guest stars too. It's weird, right? That it's just Friedle and Daniels who get it? I think it's just interesting, like, how they went about making that determination.

You know what, though, this is actually only according to Wikipedia's episode list. Maybe it's not even true. I'm too lazy to check. Though you'll see what kind of lame stupid shit I was not too lazy to check on in juuuuuust a second.

Lastly, so I just re-watched the episode, and Danielle Fishel does something that bugs me here. You can see her very prominently in the background when Tommy is revealing himself, and her reactions are off. She visually "gets it", like, way too soon. She's reacting with shock and emotion like the moment the kid says "I'm T.J. Murphy. Thomas Jonathan Murphy." I'm sorry, Topanga's not going to get it from that. Names don't get much more common than 'Thomas' (In fact, I looked it up, it's the 10th most common male name in America.*) Also, she gets way too emotional about it, and I'm going to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I buy Topanga would even remember who Tommy was this far in the future. I don't even think they've met. I dunno, maybe Eric brought him up sometimes during their affair.

*For the record, for their respective genders, - George is 16th, Angela is 29th, Amy is 32nd, Eric is 33rd, Jack is 53rd, Alan is 91st, Shawn is 92nd, Cory is 229th (though Cornelius is 461st), Lucas is 381st, August is 551st, Morgan is 576th, Katy is 817th (but she's probably Katherine, which would be 61st), Maya is 1164th. Unsurprisingly, Topanga and Farkle don't rank. Surprisingly, Riley doesn't either. Is Riley that rare a female name? I have a cousin named Riley, so I've always thought of it as a girl's name too.

It's pretty fair to say that Friedle and Daniels are considerably more famous than everyone else on the show. It goes "everyone else" < Rider < Friedle and Daniels. You really got into that investigation there. I guess we don't have much else to say. There's one more Eric episode this season right? Or at least one? 

AND YEAH. TOPANGA'S FUCKING FACE DURING THE TOMMY REVEAL. Tone it down, Danielle. Not every scene is about youuuuuuuuuuu.


Yep, Eric's in one more episode this season that we know of. Will's said in an interview that he's in three episodes this season, but then, this season's also not done filming yet, so who knows? The next one is "Girl Meets Semi-Formal", it's the one Will wrote, and the one Jack's in. I'm looking forward to that one a lot, I'd love to see Will's interpretations of all the characters, but particularly of Eric himself. Actors frequently direct episodes, but them writing ones (unless it's a show like Seinfeld, where the main actor is also the creator) is rare. I know Bradley Whitford wrote a few episodes near the end of The West Wing's run, and David Duchovny did a lot of writing for The X-Files, but other than that, nothing comes to mind. I'm sure there's other examples though. 

Who knows how much of it is going to be filtered through executive producers and the network itself, obviously they will always have the final say, but we should at least get flashes of who Eric is to Will. I don't suspect it to be some epic reversal from what we've pretty much been seeing or anything though, and it probably shouldn't be. I also think I've heard that the decision to dumb Eric down was as much at Will's impetus as anybody's. I think he genuinely enjoys playing that side of Eric best.

Ultimately...

Episode Rating: B+. It was a pretty good episode, and I liked it quite a bit. Eric was very funny, for the most part, and the Tommy thing was well done. Corey Fogelmanis' performance was also a bright spot, and though they didn't rate much mention, Rowan and Sabrina were both good too. This was Harley's best episode, and Cory's teaching wasn't so bad. All positives. The cringiness of the debate and how politics in general was portrayed, as well as some of Eric's not-as-funny shenanigans, keep it from cracking into the A-grade. I also think the Tommy thing could have been stronger if J.B. Gaynor had given a less stilted performance. It's a good episode, but it's no Pluto. 

Episode MVP: Will Friedle. For the most part, I'd go ahead and assume if Will Friedle's in the episode that Will Friedle is the MVP. Even Rider Strong can sometimes get shown up, Will pretty much can't, especially when it's an Eric-centric episode. 

23 comments:

  1. I, for one, was not expecting it AT ALL. I think this absurd plot was just a way to tie Tommy back in. Holy balls, I was so caught off guard. I had a tear in my eye, no lie.

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    1. That's so awesome. I'm jealous.

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    2. I just realized this whole review doesn't have any screenshots of Tommy yet, which given how important he was to the episode seems weird.

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    3. Blame Sean, for that Unknown! He's the guy who takes actual screenshots. I steal mine from the internet.

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  2. I don't know what else to add since you pretty much covered everything, except Descendants review when? Also I dare you two to watch and review at least one whole episode of Star vs. The Forces of Evil, I'll even prepare some reward for you (probably some thing that can be freely given through the Internet but I promise I'll try to make it at least something).

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    1. I absolutely love Once Upon A Time, so I'll definitely WATCH Descendants, at least until it makes me gag a few times.

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    2. I actually have seen one entire episode of Star vs. The Forces of Evil. It was on one time after GMW, and so I watched it. It's actually pretty good. Kind of Adventure Time lite. Diet Adventure Time.

      I'm a huge Disney nerd, so I like the idea of the Descendants, but it looks pretty crappy. Is that Kristin Chenoweth playing Maleficent though? Okay, I looked it up and it is. Crazy! How'd they get Kristin Chenoweth?!

      Reviewing Teen Beach 2 was just such a slog for me though, I'm not sure if I have the energy for something like that again so soon. We'll see.

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    3. Star doesn't look too bad to me. And just from the name, you can tell it doesn't take itself seriously, while the greatest crime of Disney Channel is nonsense shows taking themselves too seriously.

      How DID they get Chenoweth?

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    4. Great, now I HAVE to watch whatever that is! I love Kristin Chenoweth!

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    5. How'd they get Kristin Chenoweth? Money, baby! It's really that simple. Lol.

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    6. POPULAR! YOU'RE GONNA BE POPULAR!

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  3. Oh and maybe do a review of the Fake Riley and Fake Maya show too.

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    1. Best Friends isn't terrible. It's not as good as Liv and Maddie, but much better than say Dog with a Blog or Jessie. I've watched two episodes so far (second is already available on Watch Disney Channel) and in my opinion, it isn't trash. We'll see if it turns into anything. Gotta give a few episodes to find their feet.

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    2. I've seen both episodes too actually (yes I also get Watch Disney Channel!) and it's not bad but as is the tradition of almost all Disney Channel shows (except for the ones that actually start great right out of the gate and then start the inevitable trip down the long road of getting dumbed down for its demo and consequently sucking *coughAustin&AllycoughJessiecough*) it's still a little rough around the edges. I do like how the second episode ends with how they eventually deal with the mean-spirited teacher.

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  4. I watched this episode. I, uh, watched this episode…Actually, it wasn't that bad. I was really surprised that was Tommy. I wondered if it was the real actor since I didn't recognize him, but if he's that stilted, he must be the real deal. It was a cool moment and one I never would have expected.

    Strangely it's one reappearance that feels the most organic to me. Minkus, Harley and Angela just seemed to pop up in their lives, I can buy a 20-something Tommy wanting to find out what happened to Eric, a person who had an impact on his life.

    BMW was a master at the absurd like the shampoo tester coming out in a hazmat suit, but that was tethered into a very grounded storyline. The election storyline was it and nothing real attached till Tommy came. I think they could have had Bow-Tie give Eric a token campaign team, but then take them away on the eve of the debate when they realize Eric is actually using them to win. Then campaign volunteers Riley, Maya, Lucas and Farkle take over just for the debate.

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    1. Ben, yup, that would've been a better idea.

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  5. Just a quick reply to the Topanga knowing Tommy comment, his first episode on BMW was Santa's Little Helpers, Christmas - Topanga was present at the Matthews home and saw him and Eric. His second appearance was Resurrection - with Josh in the hospital - also lots of Topanga there and Tommy coming to visit his "brother". His third was Can I help to Cheer You, and I'm too lazy to check that for any interaction between them at the moment, but I don't believe they interacted there.

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  6. Just watched it this morning, and as someone with a Bachelor's Degree in political science, I think they handled all the political framework and set up very well. The execution, not so much, but I wasn't insulted by it. I think they dumbed it down enough so the audience got it. So, I really have no complaints. Of course the bad guy were obviously bad. Also, great name for a 6 term Senator, Jefferson Davis Graham. It just is perfect.

    I had no idea that was Tommy until he introduced himself, and even until the first flashback started. That was heartwarming moment if there ever was one. I loved the fact that I didn't know ahead of time, and I think that's how all returns should be handled. Great job.

    The kids were windrow dressing this episode, and that's fine. I appreciate how they were sort of the voice of the audience and depicted their want to get involved. I won't ever hate any attempt to get young people politically involved. Hell, most adults aren't politically involved and aware as they should be, so this is a good try to get that message home to the audience.

    Episode Grade: B. I really didn't hate anything in this episode, but there wasn't anything to write home about either.

    Episode MVP: Will Friedle. This episode was all about him, he was great. Some of the humor worked, and some didn't. Such is comedy.

    P.S. Rider Strong directed this episode.

    P.P.S. I watched the premiere of Best Friends Whenever, and while it does have GMW window dressing, from one episode I think it will be different enough to establish its own presence.

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    1. One thing I noticed about Senator Graham is rather note-worthy. Remember when it's first revealed that Eric's campaign is a set-up? Graham's not the one to say it--his adviser is, and Graham for his part actually looks a little taken aback, as if to say he's just as much a pawn as Eric was.

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  7. Ya I noticed Topanga's reaction too. She definitely knows who Tommy is but there is no way she would figure it out that quickly. For me, Tommy was a complete surprise so the flashbacks and everything were absolutely awesome. I enjoyed the episode but unfortunately, I felt the episode provides a very narrow view of politics as this big, scary man is stealing money from the people vs Eric who wants to help everybody. I thought it was great to encourage kids to get involved in politics, but one has to do more research than just hearing their teacher say this man is taking money away from schools and that be the end of it. That being said, Eric is absolutely hilarious. "Ya, but they weren't real!"

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  8. Well, I'm a little late responding this week, but here is my take on things.

    I agree that Will Friedle was over-the-top funny again and that Corey Fogelmanis was also excellent in this episode. As far as comedy, this episode was hitting on all cylinders. However, as far as character development of the regulars, we got nothing. Even Harley got more meaningful lines than the kids, who should be the main focus.

    Even though I knew about Tommy going in, this was a great call by the writers, better than Lauren's letter popping out of the time capsule perhaps. I did like the callback to "Home for the Holidays" asking about Farkle's birth certificate.

    One tiny thing I noticed and this probably bugged only me, when Maya is first holding the bowl of cereal, it is bone dry. The milk never meets that bowl, but as soon as it is handed to Eric, the cereal is floating in chocolate milk. Obviously, they had several takes there. Nitpicking on my part for sure.

    As I mentioned in another comment, I was less upset with Topanga's reaction to Tommy revealing himself then most of you folks were. At the time Tommy was appearing in BMW, the entire cast was pretty involved in the storylines, so it is reasonable to think she remembered him.

    As for my episode rating: - this will probably be unpopular, but D. This for me was easily the worst episode of the season, with only Mr. Squirrels coming close. There was some ridiculus stuff going on here, even for a Disney sitcom. A lot of it was really unbeivable and for me that takes away from the individual performances. Peyton also seems to be regressing to his season 1 woodeness, and that is troubling. It is somewhat hard to believe that the same writers can nail the Tommy comeback and then continue to treat Eric as a complete moron. Sure he isnt the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he is a college graduate and has apparently been able to survive in the real world on his own for years. It just kills it for me.

    Don't misunderstand, I like Will Friedle, he is talented and I'm not pinning this on him. But I tune in to GMW, to see how the kids' life is progressing and how they grow, and this had NONE OF THAT. Both of the episodes involving Eric have been centered around him way too much for my taste. In fact, so far this year, we have seen less screen time of the 4 kids together than we should have had in my opinion. We have seen perhaps too much adult time. Dont get me wrong, I understand that Cory and Topanga are essential for setting up the lessons and then ensuring that Riley and her friends have learned the correct thing, but this season so far has been about half BMW story line, and that is too much for me right now. Hopefully as we progress, things will veer back on course.

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  9. Papa Gene's BluesJuly 27, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    Re: Best Friends Whenever. I don't see the girls as a Riley and Maya rip off... the show runners seem more like they are shooting for a Carly and Sam (Nickelodeon's "iCarly") rip-off. The young actresses look a lot like Carly and Sam stand ins.

    As for this episode, I have to agree with 1960poster. Of the two Eric episodes, I thought this was by far the weaker. I didn't enjoy it as much, and didn't laugh at all, perhaps a small chuckle or two.

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    1. no riley and maya rippedoff carly and sam

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