Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Girl Meets World Reviewed! (and first two episode reviews!)

Hey dear friends, it's me. Christian. Hello.

August marked the one year anniversary of this blog. I started it on a whim, mainly because I was frustrated because the only reviews I saw of this show, in like, were cloying and sycophantic. The only places who did real reviews seemed to more or less stop reviewing it after the pilot (besides IGN which continues to do pretty good, though not especially nuanced, reviews, if you want to check it out) and I wanted there to be a review site that spoke to me, that both approached the series and its characters with the adulation that I did, while also being sophisticated enough to recognize when things were shitty and call a spade a spade. So I created it myself.

My first few months of this were pretty half-assed. I even half-quit in November, expected to be done for good, but "Girl Meets Home for the Holidays" and the return of Shawn, mixed with the announcements of Season 2, spurred me through the rest of the season, and I'm glad I did. Over time the readership has increased, like, a hundredfold, and the comments have almost become a constantly running Girl Meets World message board. I've been incredibly lucky to have Sean of Boy Meets World Reviewed partner with me for Season 2, and I think the results have been better reviews and a better website because of it, I can't imagine going back to do it without him. 

In honor of our one year anniversary, and with the release of Season 1 on Netflix this month as well, I've decided the time is right to go back and finally review the first four episodes of Girl Meets World, which I had yet to do. Upon doing so, every episode will now be reviewed. 

We're not going to do the major reviews that we do for current episodes. It's hard to be invested enough in these episodes for that, and frankly, there's not all that much to say. So, all four reviews, as mini-reviews, are presented here for you now.

Thanks again for your patronage! I know sometimes Sean's a little better than I am about engaging with you guys in the comments, and I think I can even come off a little flippant and surly, but I really appreciate your guys' devotion to the site and for helping make us one of the premiere Girl Meets World websites out there. 

Congrats man. You know I almost quit BMWR fairly early on, but I vividly remember this one comment, it might have been on reddit, something like "I'm sick of seeing these kinds of blogs quit before they get into the best part of the series." So I was like... well fuck you then, I'm not gonna quit. Looks like we made it to at least a better part of the series here.

And hey, thanks for having me. I couldn't be happier with how this blog is going. I was initially wary of partnering up with anyone because of the power dynamic. Would I just run roughshod over the other person? What you have to understand about me is that I am a bullshit artist. So if I'm gonna partner up with somebody, they have to be able to call me on my bullshit. They gotta be headstrong and confident enough in their own opinions that they'll stand up to me and, ideally, challenge me. And that's exactly the sort of partner that Christian is. He will not let me get away with anything. 

But while we skirmish over the details, we fundamentally agree on what makes the Meets World universe so engaging, and what makes the characters work. So we'll be riding this train as far as it goes. Although apparently that train is going backwards today. Let's do it.

EPISODE REVIEW: "Girl Meets World" (#1.01)

Overall this episode is just... broad strokes, and feels more like the pitch of a first episode than actual episodes. In one scene characters haggle over who's meeting the world now and whose world it is way more than anyone ever discussed this in the entirety of Boy Meets World. 

It feels like, in a broad way, they're covering a lot of the early BMW episodes staples: Cory and Shawn rubbing off one another, Cory wanting to be cool but not being able to be like Shawn, Shawn having a troubled home life, etc. I can see why they'd wanna do this "See guys, it's BMW, but with girls!" and I guess it does set up what could be a decent series, but as an episode it's just not very good. They don't have a handle on the characterizations yet, which are similarly broad: Maya's blandly troublemaking, with every line of hers drawing attention to it,  but they don't seem to know... in what way yet. Riley's happy rainbow personality isn't there yet, and she's still portrayed as really smart and studious when nowadays she's a bit of a space cadet. 

Cory's the best thing about this episode, they didn't really establish his teaching issues yet, but he feels like Cory throughout. 

Quick Thoughts: 

  • Crazy Hat in her first appearance doesn't have a hat, and mentions she's exhausted because she just got off a 12 hour shift. Continuity!
  • Farkle's been MAJORLY toned down from how he was in the beginning. This is unbearable. I forgot how absolutely horrid he was. I almost ran away screaming at Farkle's introduction. Horrifying. Truly horrifying.
  • A lot of subway scenes. In Season 1 they sure used the subway set a lot, it's weird they felt the need to make that a standard set. Like, we didn't even have a hangout set yet, but they had this? Looks like they've ditched it for Season 2. I liked the subway. Felt like the characters were actually going out and living. 
  • Obviously all the kids have grown up, but it's amazing in particular just how young Riley and Farkle look.
  • As I recall, they filmed the pilot with Elliot and then just removed his scenes, and refilmed the final scene at the subway to add Auggie, and then added a separate Riley/Auggie scene. He's not very well defined even now, but he's really just a grab-bag of mixed weirdness in this one. 
  • The opening scene of this episode is one of my least favorite scenes in the series. It's the "trying too hard to be sentimental" component that we all hate cranked up to a million. 
  • Cory is refreshingly authoritative in this episode. He speaks to Riley and Maya like an actual authority figure, especially when he condemns Riley for not "being there" to stop Maya from acting out. On the other hand, Cory was never very authoritative in Boy Meets World. So we're stuck choosing between a respectable teacher who isn't all that similar to the Cory we know, or the terrible teacher Cory that the writers ultimately went with. See, I would have been fine with Cory being a little authoritative. He had to grow up a little bit between the ages of 20 and 34. And Ben was convincing when pissed even back in BMW.
  • I still think that Feeny bit at the end was a bad call. I see what they were going for, but it sure does make it seem like Feeny's dead.
Episode Rating: C, a lot is very bad here, but there's promise, and the Cory/Maya scene was great.
Episode MVP: Ben Savage. He's a saving grace here early on, but Sabrina shows much promise in her scene with him in the hall. 

Episode Review: "Girl Meets Boy" (#1.02)

This episode's a little better than the first one mainly because it just feels like they're taking their time a little more. I feel like this cell phone business is probably a pet issue of Michael Jacobs' (I've heard him talk about in interviews) but it makes more sense coming from a 60 year old man like him than from Cory. He would have been 27 when the iPhone came out, he was the generation that made that thing ubiquitous. I mean, okay, set-in-his-ways Cory himself maybe wouldn't have been an early adopter, but he still feels a little too young to be "Kids these days" about technology. We know he liked video games and stuff. He's not a luddite. 

I tend to find complaints on that issue a little much, and I get into debates with my father about it a lot (and in my defense, I'm actually one of the few people who gets on the subway or bus and pulls out a book and not a phone, so don't be acting like I don't get both sides). Ultimately technology is a benefit, and if the side effect is a little over-reliance so be it. Case in point: Lucas tells a great story about how he helped give birth to a baby horse when he was all by himself. And how was he able to do this? He was able to pull out his cell phone so the vet could walk him through it. Suck it, Matthews. Also, this is the first time I'm noticing the pluralized-Hebrew-first-name connections between Matthews and Jacobs. Woah. That's eerie.

Still, whatever, there were some nice, if overwrought moments in the library that was way too empty (Have you ever BEEN in the New York Public Library, Michael Jacobs?) That final scene between Cory and Maya was really a highlight of the early episodes. Cory and Maya's relationship has fallen to the wayside a bit with the introduction of Shawn, hopefully they don't fully ditch it. Either way, I'm very anxious for an episode that doesn't focus on Riley/Lucas so much. I don't believe the next one's it.

Episode Rating: C+, let's say
Episode MVP: Sabrina Carpenter. She was really good throughout this episode, I was going to give it to Ben again, who was also good and is still kind of holding the series up at this point, but there has to be some sort of consequence for "The assignment. You can't escape it. I am Teacher!"

Quick thoughts:
  • Huh, you know what, there's little bits in these Netflix episodes that were cut from the original broadcasts on Disney. I thought I noticed a little of it in the pilot, Farkle says "I'm never coming down!" after Cory screams "GET OFF!" which I didn't remember. But I figured I just forgot. There's a big one here, though, that was obviously cut for being risque - when Farkle volunteers to talk to the Librarian and starts laying on the charm he says "She obviously likes it quiet." He definitely did not say that in the aired episode. Crap, now I gotta go rewatch everything on Netflix, don't I? That is extremely interesting. I'm not gonna do it, but I respect you for thinking about doing it.
  • Seeing this one right after the pilot reminds me that the seats are different in the pilot. Maya and Riley switched spots, Lucas was brought up a seat, but I think Farkle's where he was.
  • I liked the girl who came in with the goldfish dies story. They seemed to be making it like her trying to ditch class was, like, her thing, and maybe she'd be a recurring joke character who's always got outlandish reasons for being late or something. I liked her better than Yogi.
  • Farkle rips hair out of his daughter's skull, announces his plan to clone her with it, and Cory's  still feelin' fine. Hate that aspect of Farkle. Hate it hate it hate it. Speaking of hair, that boy did not get a haircut between filming the pilot and filming this. He looks completely insane. 
  • I've now gone through two episodes without having any real reason to touch on Topanga. 
  • Why did they hammer this Riley/Lucas stuff so early? Get it out of my face, please. I don't even know these characters yet, there's no way anyone could be interested in this yet. Topanga kissed Cory in episode 4, I know, but it was pretty meaningless. There was no romantic interest until Boy Meets Girl at the very end of season 1. I could have actually gotten behind this pairing if they hadn't started shoving it down my throat the moment we met Lucas. 
  • I agree with Christian. Cory is way too young for "kids these days." Feeny wasn't, but even his "TO BEAT KING KOOPA!" speech felt forced. It's definitely projection from Michael Jacobs and nobody cares.
That's all we're doing tonight, folks! We'll do 3 and 4 tomorrow maybe!


  1. Finally, I've been looking forward to this review since you started the blog! Yeah, I've been here that long.

    Thoughts on Pilot:

    A little too overly introduction-y, which is to be expected in a sequel series. Characters are rather flat. Big Brother Elliot was cut out--I bring this up mostly because he was in the original pilot. I know I bring it up a lot, but as I said before, I think one of the strengths of "Boy Meets World" was that Cory, Shawn, and Eric were on three different paths to meeting the world.
    More to the point, I believe that with Elliot in the mix, we may have seen more of Topanga in Riley. I do not mind Auggie; I find his interaction with Riley charming (though I am the first to say he monopolizes Topanga's screen-time).
    I am also inclined to believe that Jacobs envisioned Elliot and maybe Farkle; I do not believe for one second that he envisioned Lucas.

    To compare, the original Boy Meets World pilot featured Cory getting in trouble for listening to a baseball game during class. The focus was Cory and Feeny, which became the series. A better set-up, I agree.

    The question of pacing, I think, ties back to Disney Channel, at least in part.
    As we, loyal fans of Michael Jacobs' "Feeny-verse" are apt to recall, "Boy Meets World" took its time setting itself apart from the rest of the TGIF line-up and other related coming-of-age television series. Disney Channel shows are usually much more fast-paced. And more to the point, Jacobs has a specific story to tell this time.

    Michael Jacobs had no idea what he would produce when he started out with "Boy Meets World." For the record, Bill Daniels refused to be Mr. Feeny unless the role would be written at least somewhat sympathetically.

    A comparison to "Wonder Years" is unavoidable, due in no small part to Fred Savage's performance. But as I have never seen "Wonder Years," I shall leave that aside.

    So now where does that lead us with "Girl Meets World." Simply put, I believe that Jacobs knew going in that Disney would only give him a maximum of four seasons on their cable channel. Given that he pitched the idea to Disney Channel, rather than ABC, is questionable, though if I could propose a hypothesis, I'm betting Jacobs was inclined to give children a show that portrayed school in a positive light--something that cannot be fairly said for most of the recent Disney Channel shows.

    Grade: B- (I tend to cut pilots a bit of slack). And then there was the novelty of the thing when it first aired...yeah, I'm a sap.

    1. Actually my understanding is that Disney approached *him* about doing it. That's why all that talk about "Maybe this should go on ABC or ABC Family" or whatever else was always moot, this was kind of Disney's baby.

    2. Okay, I just checked Wikipedia and TV Tropes and it appears you may be right. I thought I read Michael Jacobs give an interview and said it was his idea, but I'll have to see if I can find it.

      In any event, if Disney really wanted to make "Girl Meets World" something new, what I would have done is have a slightly more mature block of programming structured around the Feeny-verse. Play up the nostalgia--air the finale of Boy Meets World right before the premiere of Girl Meets World. Have an hour-long block on Friday nights, Cory's adventures with Topanga, Eric and Shawn, followed by Riley's adventures with Maya and Farkle.

      As an aside, I forgot to mention in my initial review. I think the writers made a boo-boo by trying to shake up the status quo so quickly. We see Lucas as the new kid and Riley trying to reinvent herself. But we don't know Riley, why should we care if she's reinventing herself. We haven't see the Power Trio of Riley, Maya and Farkle--and frankly, I think the show would have been stronger if Lucas had been more slowly integrated into their group.

      Hand to God, I literally just realized that Riley DID reinvent herself. Verbatim: "I think too much. You [Maya] don't think at all." Gee, I wonder where Space Cadet Riley came from.

  2. On to "Girl Meets Boy." Not my favorite by any means. But not atrocious either.

    First point: How on God's green earth did Riley or Farkle never go to a library when they were little? Maya's one thing, and I can buy Lucas-the-Outdoors-Guy not spending much time around libraries, even if he is smart. But Riley, daughter of Topanga (Bearing in mind, early episode)? Farkle, son of Minkus? Never spending time in one of the greatest libraries in North America? A pox on you, sir! (Though to be fair, it wasn't until the third or fourth episode when Jacobs got that idea. I'm betting Farkle was originally supposed to be just Obnoxious Smart Kid). Never mind fairness, a pox on you sir!

    Okay...there's not much to say here. We see the kids hanging out. We see them in a not-school-setting. This is good. It makes the world bigger. And more to the point, it appears that Cory is talking to the entire class, rather than just the Four.

    We see a glimpse of Maya's affiliation to art. We see that Farkle genuinely cares for his friends. Not bad, I'd say. But hardly something to remember, especially compared with what's to come. Lucas's affinity for animals is not something I've seen on the show since--though having skipped for the sake of my sanity "Girl Meets Fish," I could be wrong.

    Grade: C+ Critically better than the pilot. But still, Riley and Farkle never being to the library, or at least the adult section of the library--where they definitely would have been by now researching for school reports--is a serious flaw in logic.

  3. Since these episodes are so old, I will just make a few short remarks instead of my usual in depth analysis.

    Just one note on the pilot. I assume they reshot some of the classroom scenes when they retooled it. I noticed a goof and it kills me every time I see it. When they get to the classroom scene about 13:30 in, you can see there are 2 rows of desks behind Riley and Maya. Then after Farkle puts his blindfold on you can see 3 rows, then it switches between 2 and 3 for the rest of the episode. Not sure if this was refilming because of changes, or just different takes on different days, but it bothers me to no end every time I see it. Quality control early on needed to be better. They got lots better at this, but it hit again at the dinner scene in Meets Teacher. If you go there, watch Riley's hair change when they switch back and forth between Topanga and Riley.

    Also the picture you have posted in the Matthews apartment is from the original pilot. The stairs behind the kitchen were removed when they retooled. Even though it never made it on TV, Disney kept using it for a publicity photo.

    I gave the pilot a C+. It needed work, but you have to give everyone a break on something brand new. I thought Girl Meets Boy was a solid B. Everyone and everything was much better than the pilot and that was important. I was sad to see that Cory asking Maya to keep him informed about Riley was never revisited.

    1. That's a good point on Maya keeping an eye on Riley. The whole "They're just friends." "I know that story. I LIVED that story." doesn't really seem to have been touched upon lately.

      Yeah, the original shot from the pilot with stairs--I wonder what other parts of the set changed. What we have now is mostly recycled from other Disney shows and frankly, it looks a bit more set-ish than Boy Meets World. Cory's home looked like a house.

    2. Oh, interesting, I didn't even notice those stairs! They're cool, but it's probably for the best they're gone, makes the place look fancier than I'd think they could afford.

    3. You're not kidding Christian about the affordability. A while back, for a laugh, I googled the cost of rent in a three-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village, and it's roughly three to eight /thousand/ dollars a month! Unless I misread this information:
      That's got to be more money than Cory makes in a year by himself.

      Either way, I still think the Matthews' apartment looks a bit more obviously like a set--I think they recycled the set of "Shake It Up!" I know it's a bit of a nitpick in light of literally everything else, but it's something I noticed. A lot of apartment sets on shows tend to look very much alike.

      By comparison, say what you will about "Blue Bloods," the fact it films on location is very appealing. It feels a lot more real--though I'm aware it's not fair to compare a cop show to a Michael Jacobs program.

  4. I disagree about Corey being too young to have a "kids these days" view of technology. I'm a Millennial and I just realized how much it bothers me that many people my age are constantly glued to a screen. I don't like being in social situations, where everyone is playing with their phone, instead of talking to each other. I think Corey may see this behavior as a flaw of his generation, and wants to curb it among the younger generation.

  5. Congratulations on the 1 year anniversary of this awesome blog. Kudos to Christian and Sean for making it a great place to come review and discuss this show.

    Considering I pretty much agree with our fearless leaders on the first 2 episodes, I really won't leave a review. B/C grades are absolutely fair this early on.

  6. Congrats on the blog! I know I'm late but here goes anyway. I think the scene with Cory and Maya in the first episode deserved a little more comment. I spent the whole pilot shaking my head and thinking it would probably be the last episode I watched. And then they were completely saved by that scene at the end. First of all Cory's advice to Riley was solid, "You missed the chance to be there for your friend because you were to busy trying to be her" or something along those lines. The best thing maya and riley can do for eachother is be themselves and it seems to be a lesson theyve carried with them in future episodes. Riley's always gonna rein maya back in and maya's always gonna put a little war paint on Riley's face.

    But the exchange between Maya and Cory was what made me decide that this was a series worth watching. Cory's reaming out Maya for good reason but Maya throws back at him, "I have no one at home who helps me with my homework". Maybe you're just forgetting how surprising that line was because we're so removed from it in season 2 or maybe I'm misremembering it in my mind but I was genuinely surprised to see something so real in the very first episode. Especially in an episode that was not big on subtlety (See the 18 times they incorporated the word "world"). It indicated a show that was real and subtle and had effective characterization. There was no need to elaborate on her home life or her dad or her economic situtation. Just a light hint that there was more to come. To me, that put this episode head and shoulders above the boy meets world pilot.