Thursday, July 16, 2015

GMW Reviewed Editorial: "The Theoretical Eric Matthews Spinoff"

Since around the time Season 2 premiered, and even maybe since it was announced Will Friedle was returning, there've been rumblings of a theoretical Eric spinoff. I tried to find one of the things I'd read about it, but when you Google "Will Friedle Girl Meets World spinoff" or anything like it you're too flooded with articles about how Will Friedle is coming to Girl Meets World, which is itself a spinoff, to find anything else. But the talk, though BY NO MEANS OFFICIAL, exists and you've probably seen it yourselves.

On paper, it makes sense. With the possible (probable?) exception of Shawn, Eric is the most popular character in the BMW franchise. A Shawn spinoff would never work for a number of reasons: 1) Rider Strong clearly would never want to do it, 2) Shawn is too 'adult' to be the main character of a young adult show, 3) Shawn is too intertwined with GMW characters. The three most important people in his life at the moment (Cory, Maya, and Katy) are all firmly GMW characters and aren't going anywhere. 

None of this is true of Eric who's more of a big kid than an adult, is less firmly connected to the GMW characters and has always been one to sort of be on his own in stories, and is played by an actor much more at home in this world of sitcoms and kid stuff, as long as he has his anxiety under control. And since no one but Shawn and Eric are popular enough to lead a spinoff, Eric is really the only guy they could do it with. And the episodes we've seen him in so far have almost felt like backdoor pilots for an Eric spinoff, while Shawn's episodes have felt more grounded in the world of GMW.

So, before we get into if this is a good idea that Disney should pursue, and if it would ultimately work out, let's talk about how it would work. First off, it would almost assuredly take place in D.C. where Eric would be working as a senator. This gets them away from New York and the weirdness of "Well, why isn't he hanging out with his family much?" and allows for a whole new set-up.

Next, it couldn't be just Eric. He'd need a co-lead and that co-lead would have to be a pre-teen because this is Disney Channel. I have three basic candidates for this position, and I'm going to go in order from least likely to most likely.

Candidate #1: Farkle. In just one episode, they very much established a unique and fun relationship between Eric and Farkle. Because Eric is so childish and ridiculous, I think you need the kid he's bouncing off of to be precocious and, in many ways, more adult than he is. Farkle would be perfect for this, while also bringing his own brand of humor. The two big flaws in this plan are that it doesn't really make any sense that Farkle would be in Washington (though this can be easily remedied by the Minkuses happening to move there) and that Farkle is already a GMW character. But, we don't know that this show would even get off the ground while GMW is still on the air, and even if not, Corey Fogelmanis perhaps wouldn't mind going from sixth-lead on a show to co-lead. GMW doesn't need Farkle. It doesn't need anyone but Maya, Riley, Cory, and Topanga. And as Farkle doesn't seem to be intended to be anyone's longterm love interest, it wouldn't screw up the narrative too much. 

Still, I think him least likely for those aforementioned reasons. It's weird for him to move to DC and he's still on GMW and probably won't be leaving it anytime soon.

Candidate #2: Josh. Unlike Farkle, Josh isn't a main cast member on Girl Meets World and so it's less of a problem to get him on another show. Also, Josh is Eric's brother, and thus it's less necessary to explain why they're having a show together. They're two brothers. While Josh is planning on attending NYU, just say he transfers to Georgetown and we're fine. I like this idea slightly better than the Farkle plan, just because it feels like you have to twist the show into less of a pretzel to make it happen. And because I like the idea of establishing the Eric/Josh dynamic as they have yet to appear together. Though Josh and Farkle are very different, Josh does appear to be level-headed and mature, which would still make him a good foil for Eric, and yet he's also fun and doesn't seem like someone who'd try to ruin his good time. The problem? Josh is kind of old to play the role as the "young guy." He'll be in college, and since we already have Eric, a fullblown adult, Josh may be a little old for this role.

Candidate #3: Someone New. I was basically wasting both our times with that above, because it will absolutely be someone new, I think. There's just no reason not to do someone new. Eric, lover of children, maybe didn't get to adopt Tommy, but now that he's grown and established, he may decide to adopt some other unloved and unwanted child. Someone approximately 13. And so you can bounce off this cynical, abandoned, slow-to-trust-and-hope child, with big goofy Eric, and I think the show kind of writes itself. At the risk of making her seem too much like Maya, I do think such a character should be a girl to appeal more broadly to both genders. But not a blonde girl. Hell, hopefully not even a white girl. 

As for the rest of the cast? I think we're looking at 2-3 young people to be this girl's friends and love interest, But because this is also Eric's show, I think we need 2 adults for him. One would be a love interest for him (Possibilities: a pretty driven young social worker who's assigned to check up on Eric and his new ward OR a congressional staffer who works for a political rival of Eric's whom he charms with his big heart and goofiness).

As for the other adult? Well, I can't believe I'm saying this, but the natural choice is.... Jack Hunter, employed as Eric's chief of staff. I didn't like Jack at all in BMW because I found him a superfluous addition who didn't add much and just ruined Eric's good time. But, there's nothing I can do about that, he exists. And while I don't see Jack as having much of a role to play on GMW, he's a natural choice to appear in an Eric-centered spinoff. Just write him better. I foresee him as someone who, despite his bond with and loyalty to Eric, is the prototypical sleazy politician guy, also wanting to lie and cheat his way through this business, and Eric will be rubbing off on him to be a better person. Jack could actually have an arc about him becoming a better man. It might be nice. And Jack would provide an additional link to BMW. I think Matt Lawrence would do it. What's he got going on. Give'm the "and Matthew Lawrence" credit at the end, he'll be fine.

Like with GMW, there can still be guest stars. I'd expect at least a few early appearances from Cory, Topanga, Riley, and Auggie. You gotta get Feeny in there once or twice, and there may also be more room for Alan and Amy to show up. Tommy would show up from time to time. Morgan and Josh can appear as well, and, I suppose, if you're ever going to bring Rachel back, this would be the show to do it on. AND JASON?! MAYBE JASON!? I know, it'd be more fun if Jason had the role I gave to Jack, but Jack honestly makes more sense.

So, that's my idea. That's how you'd do it, if you do it. Sean - how would YOU do it, if you did it? We'll get into if they can or should do it in a moment.

Oh man, adopted kid+Eric+social worker, that absolutely writes itself. You've outdone yourself with that. Eric serves as the giant sun at the center of the untrusting thirteen year old/jaded cynical social worker/tempted by evil Chief of Staff Jack solar system. It sounds perfect. 

On the other hand... what does a typical episode look like? Is it Girl Meets World: DC? Is Eric dishing out lessons or what? I wouldn't want to see another Michael Jacobs show with the exact same structure, and I doubt he would want to write it any other way. So would the reins be handed off to somebody else? The only person I'd trust with that is Will himself, but that's asking a lot. 

Eric... doesn't belong on Disney Channel. Real life doesn't belong on Disney Channel, and I've always seen Eric as a gateway to something real. If the only option is to have the show on Disney, then I say "nay nay nay please god no." I've never heard of a spinoff going to a different channel, certainly not while the original is still airing, but if some kind of magic got The Eric Show back over to ABC as a character driven comedy... Yeah maybe, but still, what does a typical episode look like? Would it even be possible to take Eric's politics seriously? 

What is the show ABOUT, I guess that's my question. Is it simply Eric softening the stone hearts of the people in his life? I'm not interested in that, to be honest. Everyone wants to re-live the magic and wonder of Eric+Feeny, but it cannot ever be that good again. Do we really want to sit through the hijinx of Season 7 Eric just to feed off of rare recurrences of what we loved on Boy Meets World? I repeat, it will not ever be that good again. Yes, Eric has been enjoyable on Girl Meets World, but that's because the screentime is so limited. You give Season 7 Eric a 24 episode season and we're guaranteed to start getting annoyed, just like in Season 7 of BMW, just like we're annoyed at Cory for being a bad teacher. Something will break. I don't want that. I'd rather just let go.

So, I have two semi-conflicting responses. To begin with, in this hypothetical show, no, I definitely don't see Eric as the sage handing out Feeny-esque advice to one and all. Eric has a lot of positive attributes, "Guy Who Has Life Alllll Figured Out" isn't one of them. And anyway, I don't think you need that kind of role. Plenty of TV shows don't have a wise elder. Even BMW didn't make that a constancy - sure, Feeny was always around when called upon to be the sage, but just as often he was simply used as authority figure and disciplinarian. A source not of wisdom, but of simple aggravation, because wisdom wasn't called upon that week. And just as often as that, he like... wouldn't even be in the episode, or would barely be. It wasn't always about a lesson, sometimes it was just fun characters doing stuff.

Still, what I envision is everyone sort of... teaching each other. Sure, Eric has a lot he can teach Jack and, uh, Kaylee and Gwen? (Let's say, Kaylee's the kid, Gwen's the social worker.) But they have just as much they can teach him. Eric doesn't know shit about politics, Jack can help him with that. Eric doesn't know what it takes to responsibly raise a preteen girl, Gwen can help him there. And Eric doesn't really know this troubled girl he's just made his responsibility - and it'll be up to Kaylee herself to show him who she is. They're all learning from each other. And in the meantime, I dunno, they're up to whatever madcap sitcom adventures sitcom characters get up to. As for the politics, I dunno, that would be coloring but vague. Did you ever watch the sitcom Spin City back in the '90s, starring Michael J. Fox (and then, lamely, Charlie Sheen, after Fox quit near the end) Ostensibly it was about the mayor of NYC and his staff, and technically people had jobs like Deputy Mayor and Press Secretary, but really it was just a sitcom about different quirky characters. I think it could work.

But you bring us to my second response... should it? I dunno. I really don't. You're right, of course, Eric might be less endearing if we had to put up his shenanigans constantly. But then, as the actual lead of the series, he might need to go back to more of a Season 5 Eric by default since that kind of lunacy probably just can't be regularly sustained in a lead. But, assume it doesn't magically get back to the highest level of BMW quality.... then, yeah, maybe I wouldn't want them to do it. Maybe I would get frustrated. Would I still watch it? Well, yeah. But that's not an indication it should happen. 

Or is it? Ultimately, Girl Meets World itself is not up to the same level of quality as Boy Meets World was. Does that make GMW one whole big mistake? Do I begrudge its existence? Do I feel as if it's tarnishing the legacy of BMW? No. Because even the BMW characters not at their best, are still fun to see. I don't know, man. It's a pickle! It's unlikely to reach BMW's heights, but it would still probably be an entertaining show, and it doesn't necessarily have to be any more than that. 


  1. I agree with "Oh man, adopted kid+Eric+social worker, that absolutely writes itself. You've outdone yourself with that. Eric serves as the giant sun at the center of the untrusting thirteen year old/jaded cynical social worker/tempted by evil Chief of Staff Jack solar system. It sounds perfect."

    I like the idea of season 5 Eric, and for the show to be on ABC, not Disney Channel. There could be a cross-over episode where the "Girl Meets World" characters are in DC for a field trip. There would have to be a summer season where Josh is interning for his brother. (Sort of like the Malibu Sands episodes of "Saved By the Bell").

  2. YES. YES. To all of this, yes! The idea of an Eric/Jack/Kaylee/Gwen sitcom makes me very happy. Can you guys write the pilot and send it to Michael Jacobs? (I'm only half kidding.) At the very least, this idea would make an amazing fanfic ... and that is why I love this blog. You guys want more for these characters than GMW and Disney will ever be able or willing to give us, and while I'm not delusional enough to think that Eric is a real person, the idea of him living this life in DC makes me, as I said, very, very happy!

    1. Haha, I like that you called them by their made-up-on-the-spot names. Kaylee and Gwen canonically exist now, basically.

      And how sad is it that I spent the train ride home musing on what a pilot episode would be like after you suggested I write it. I have some ideas!

    2. I'll write the script if you guys convince Sean to animate it.

    3. Christian, it is not sad. It is awesome, and this is my new favorite thing. If you decide to write it, I'd be happy to beta it.
      Sean, I've seen what you can do at 1 a.m. If you can animate that well on no sleep, imagine what you could do in the daylight! :-)

    4. I fucking love you bsloths, seriously. It's never going to happen, but if it somehow does, we'll use the pilot as proof of concept for a Kickstarter.