Sunday, January 29, 2017

20 Greatest Meets World Characters: #6. Riley Matthews

#6. Riley Matthews



Played By: Rowan Blanchard (2014-2017)
Episode Count:  72
Role: Titular 'Girl', Cory and Topanga's daughter
Signature Episodes: Girl Meets World, Girl Meets First Date, Girl Meets the New World, Girl Meets Yearbook, Girl Meets Semi-Formal, Girl Meets Rileytown, Girl Meets Rah Rah, Girl Meets New Year, Girl Meets Jexica, Girl Meets the Real World

Riley is by no means a perfect character. It seems like a lot of you guys thought she might be lower ranked than this, and in particular, most seemed to think Maya would be ranked higher. I definitely don't think this should be, and it's for a few reasons. One, importance. There's a whole show about her. Maybe it wasn't always successful in the way she's depicted, but she's still focused on so much that by default she winds up mattering a great deal, and at the end of the day, she's become the new character on GMW that I care the most about. 

Another is individuality, while Maya is essentially a Shawn a clone, Riley is really her own thing. She has some traits she inherited from both her parents, but her core identity - the optimism, the cheeriness, the sunshine-and-rainbows goofiness is unique to every character in the Meets World universe besides one-shot Corinna like Sean mentioned. In the comments, it was mentioned that she was meant to be the Cory, and I agree she was probably meant to be that, but on the strength of Rowan's performance it became something new.  Cory's nothing like Riley. Eric's more like Riley than Cory is, as Sean and I have mentioned a lot. Cory's signature trait is neuroses, he's always freaking out because he thinks the world's falling apart, he's upset and anxious about everything. This is the exact opposite of Riley. But she did inherit the trend to micro-manage her friend's lives to keep everything perfect from him. And she inherited a tendency to work really hard in school and dominate her problems with sheer personality from Topanga. But in someways she's her own beast. And I really like that about her. I like that we're seeing someone new tackle these problems. In the first episodes, she is written a bit more like a girl Cory, but I think the writers learned quickly what Rowan's strengths were as an actress, and that they were different from Ben Savage's. Rowan's funniest when she's happy, Ben's funniest when he's not. And they worked with it and built a character it was great to spend time with.

Her strength as a comedian brings me to her last trait. Pound for pound, Riley is the funniest character in Girl Meets World, and this is a sitcom. Eric is her only competition, in that he's got the best humor-per-line rate, but he doesn't have a lot of lines. Maya's funny too, but Sabrina's main gifts were in dramatic stuff. Farkle and Lucas are rarely funny. Zay's great, and funny too, but no way he did he make me laugh anywhere near as often. Riley is legitimately hilarious a lot, and I'm sure if the MVP awards are totaled (and they will be) that Rowan has the most handily. She's just good, a lot. Her development isn't always great, but she's almost always enjoyable anyways and, unlike Maya, she doesn't just feel like she's doing a not-as-compelling version of someone else's story. 

There, of course, things to quibble about with her. I would have liked to explore her interests more, and they dropped the ball with her and romance entirely. But all in all Riley anchors this show, and for the most part, as an anchor, she works. And that was a tall order, and one I was skeptical about. Riley proved me wrong. She's getting a lot of leeway here for being the only central character of a show in the franchise besides Cory, and while great, she's not exceptional in a way that would allow her to pass up the epic supporting characters who will rank ahead of her, but all in all Riley works and of all the problems GMW had, Riley being who they had to center their show around was never one of them. 

I'd like to add on that one of my biggest early problems with Riley was that she wouldn't be able to function without Maya. Like her day to day life would completely fall apart if Maya weren't supporting her and giving her an outlet for her endless energy. World of Terror 3 is a standout episode for me because it proved that wrong. Riley turned out to be headstrong and confident and independent all on her own, and that really made me think about her differently.

5 characters left. THE TOP 5! Look, you know who they are, we know who they are. It's Alan, Cory, Eric, Feeny, Shawn (listed here in alphabetical order)... but what will the order be? FINAL PREDICTIONS PEOPLE!

56 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Her absurd Pollyanna outlook was great once they figured it out. I just wish the show had been allowed to go deeper with issues and we could've seen her confront them head on the way Cory got to

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  3. I was bracing myself for an assessment of Riley couched mostly in negative terms. So this was a pleasant surprise.

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    1. We tried to do these where either the bigger fans or the people who most thought they deserved to be ranked high did the reviews. I've always really liked Riley and Rowan's performance.

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    2. That makes two of us, at least. Thanks.

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    3. Three. I absolutely adore Riley and honestly feel like she should be higher on the list. I think I put her at #4 (behind Feeny, Shawn, and Cory).

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    4. This is Cryptid.

      Make that 4.

      While Riley has made me angry from time to time (I'll elaborate when I get the chance), I still like her very much.

      It's not as if Cory hasn't made me angry before--I'm STILL mad at Cory for calling Alan "average."

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    5. Looking forward to your elaboration, Cryptid, my friend.

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  4. My predictions

    5. Alan
    4. Feeny
    3. Eric
    2. Shawn
    1. Cory

    What I'd like to see though?

    5. Alan
    4. Cory
    3. Shawn
    2. Eric
    1. Feeny

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  5. I'm pretty sure Eric will be first follwed by Shawn and then Cory, Alan and Feeny is a toss up but I'm willing to bet Feeny will pass Alan because his influence on the entire cast was greater.

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  6. 5. Alan
    4. Eric
    3. Shawn
    2. Feeny
    1. Cory

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  7. I.... kinda like Riley, but I feel she could have been much more. Whether this is a 'the writers weren't as good at writing female characters' or 'Disney didn't allow them to explore' I am unsure of. I also do think she relied far too much on her friendship with Maya - and her doubting got old. Especially as she -has- examples of life-long friendships - Shawn may have gone away for a bit, but he was always Cory and Topanga's friend. Feeny's friendship with the pair of them also counts though to a lesser extent.

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  8. She is a fucking Mary Sue!!!!! She needs to act her act. Rowan's great,πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. But Riley could have been a lot more mature. It's just the writing could have been better. Take a cue from that's so Raven or hey Arnold. It's not the limits on dc.they could write about Disney appropriate storylines: going to movies, dances, fights.

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    1. Tell me, in what world is Riley a Mary Sue?

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    2. I disagree. Bella Swan from Twilight is a Mary Sue. Riley is not. She has many faults. She makes many mistakes. She is far from perfect.

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    3. I don't think she's a Mary Sue either. Riley is regarded as mildly ridiculous in-universe by the other characters. None of the characters think she's exceptionally cool or awesome. And that's kind of a hallmark of Mary Sues.

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    4. Another aspect of Mary Sues that clearly indicate Riley isn't one (no matter how insanely annoying I do find her at times), is that Mary Sues are generally inserted after a show is popular, and they can do no wrong, making the main cast feel somewhat superfluous. Like it or loathe it, the show is about Riley. Even if you come from a background of following the show to see more Cory and Topanga, it's really about her.

      Which is also why, technically, Bella isn't a Mary Sue. She's just a craptastic character in a craptastic series written by a craptastic writer. (Sorry to any Twilight fans out there. Remember though that in no way I'm the target audience for that so I don't think anyone should really be surprised by my view on it.)

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  9. Shipping Wars Are StupidJanuary 30, 2017 at 6:37 PM

    Great write up!

    05. Alan Matthews

    04. George Feeny

    03. Cory Matthews

    02. Eric Matthews

    01. Shawn Hunter.

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  10. Eric, Shawn, Alan and Feeney are all great, but Cory has to top this. He's the boy that met the world!

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  11. As for my list:
    5 Alan
    4 Eric
    3 Feeny
    2 Shawn
    1 Cory

    Eric and Feeny are a toss-up for me. Eric -is- one of the boys that meet the world; but that didn't get Riley into the top 5. I'm also unconvinced he had much influence on others outside Cory, Feeny and Jack. And even Cory - he did have some majorly good advice during his early relationhip with Topanga, and some tremendously good advice for Maya and Riley; but his influence, overall, has been to get people to loosen up I guess. I dunno. It's really hard to choose; but I'm fairly confident on 1, 2 and 5.

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  12. My own rankings:

    5. Alan
    4. Eric
    3. Cory
    2. Shawn
    1. Feeny

    My prediction for the site's rankings:

    5. Alan
    4. Feeny
    3. Cory
    2. Eric
    1. Shawn

    My last-ditch 3-second pitch for Feeny: he's the only one of those characters (besides the lesser-seen Alan) who's consistently great. Cory, Shawn, and especially Eric have all had terrible moments, scenes, and even full episodes.

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    1. "Terrible"-ness is hard to quantify, of course. (One person's terrible is someone else's great) but I will say in response to this that Feeny gets the luxury of not having lame moments by not being used as much in comedic capacities. They almost always feel the need to have something for Cory, Shawn, and Eric to do in any given episode, so it becomes that much more likely it'll turn out to be lame. Whereas if they don't have anything good for Feeny to do, they'll generally not use him besides adding color to classroom scenes.

      Still, rest assured, that both Sean and I *really* like all five of the remaining characters and their good points are being kept in mind. :)

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    2. This is Cryptid.

      On that note of "Terrible-ness," I believe it was Christian (though it may have been Sean) who once mentioned that although Chet Hunter is by no means as good a father as Alan Matthews, Blake Clark has a distinction in that his character never has a single badly acted scene in the entire series.

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  13. Riley coming in just outside of the Top 5 feels ok to me. While I wish she was a more fleshed out character, she was easily the most improved over the course of the show. Rowan really got a handle of the character towards the end of the show. I hate that they left all these little clues for different interests for her, but they never followed through. For example, I remember Uncle Shawn gifting her a camera and they never followed through with it. I thought it would have been an excellent opportunity to give Riley some depth.

    All that said, she really was a fun character because she wasn't exactly like her father. She really ended up being more of her mother's daughter than she started out as. WOT 3 showed that she would have been the person we say regardless, and that speaks to her will more than anything. Her friends treat her with kids gloves, but really, I don't think that was necessary. More often than not, she could handle what life threw at her.

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    1. Shipping Wars Are StupidFebruary 2, 2017 at 12:34 PM

      Oh yeah, there was a camera. Guess it ended up wherever that stupid bear did too.

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    2. Photography would have been nice, but I think I would have made writing Riley's little hobby.

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  14. I watched GMW principally for characterizations, specifically those of Riley and Maya.

    It didn’t really matter whether the world was or wasn’t being met. I didn’t care much about lessons, or classroom verisimilitude. Plot was often of interest just to the extent it allowed character to be expressed. I was not much concerned with showing versus telling, provided character was shown, or revealed in the telling.

    The episodes that worked least well for me usually subordinated character to express some big idea: the scourge of communism, the joy of religion, something or other about money. Even those had some nice character moments.

    Riley was a wonderful character. I always found her engaging and endearing. She immediately reminded me of another member of my family, in part because of a passing physical resemblance (slightly less passing with adult-Riley), but mostly because of some shared personality traits. These were traits that seemed most often to strain the credulity of many GMWR commenters. I never had a problem believing them.

    GMW wouldn’t have worked on me emotionally as well or as often as it did if I weren’t susceptible to a certain type of gooey sap. My sense of humour has no analogous, standards-lowering impairment.

    Christian’s point about comedic strength bears repeating. Riley is a funny character. Rowan Blanchard is funny. Really, really, funny.

    She’s obviously great at the goofy, klutzy stuff. But what impressed most was subtler: humour that relied mightily on timing and vocal inflection.

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    1. I've been looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Milestones.

      I like what you have to say here--as a sap, I'm inclined to agree. There were a fair few moments I liked in GMW that were, let's face it, sappy.

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  15. Hi everyone,

    I've been trying to gather my thoughts on Riley Matthews.

    On the one hand, Riley's quite easy to like. She's sweet-natured and wants to make her little corner of the world as happy as possible. That's quite likable in a character.

    And one thing I do like, that Christian didn't mention, is that Riley adores her little brother. Among the non-twin siblings on Disney Channel, this was nearly unique for the first two years of this show's existence (I haven't seen a single episode of Stuck in the Middle, nor do I intend to).

    On the other hand, while she is not a Mary Sue by any means, Riley does have flaws in her story. Chief among them is a lack a motivating trait. Yes, she wants people to be happy, but that's not exactly a trait that can drive episodes in the same matter of mischief that we're used to. Cory Matthews, by comparison, had a huge motivator in the first few seasons of Boy Meets World--his middle-child syndrome. Time after time, Cory would try new things to stand out at school, due in no small part that he lived in Eric's shadow.

    Riley doesn't have that, and I sometimes wonder whether or not it would have been better to have kept some ideas from the original unaired pilot. Riley had a one-year-older brother, Elliot, who was on the wrestling team and liked using her as a tackling dummy. I find that charming in its own way.

    A second problem, though this may be more for the show in itself but Riley's the main character so make of it what you will, is that Riley rarely learns a lesson by herself. Despite being the lead character, the majority of the time Riley doesn't actually learn the lesson herself--it's directed at the entire group. This can get a bit tedious. And I find it unnecessary.

    Riley also has a tendency to be used by the writers as an audience surrogate. While this was certainly true for Cory (among several zillion other characters on several zillion shows), it can be a little jarring to see straight-A student Riley struggling with her first poor grade in "Permanent Record," and then see Riley so completely naive that it's distracting--(this is what keeps me from liking "Real World/Sassy Haltertop).

    On the whole, while I do enjoy Riley very much, I do wish we could have seen her just by herself from time to time.

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    1. The thing I really agree on this is he straight-A student struggling. They varied so much from episode to episode as to whether she was a straight-A student; highly intelligent, and with a good study ethic, to someone who, as well as your mentioned eample of "Real World", can be distracted by a bird in Girl Meets Pluto. Never mind that with the way subjects are taught now, there is no way she could keep a straight-A average without keeping up to date with the news.

      If I have problems with the way they seem to jump from Lucas being at least an average student to borderline stupid, this is amplified with Riley, and why, despite the humour in the character and the undoubted talent for humour of Rowan, I could never quite like her.

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    2. Part of the problem is that a few episodes, among them "Pluto," actually imply that some of Riley's naivety is deliberate, that not unlike Eric, Riley exaggerates her goofiness on purpose. "Real World" indicates that it's genuine, but like I said, "Real World" is an episode where Riley is essentially Audience Surrogate. So I can try to ignore it. Or at least parts of it.

      But Lucas going from a decent student to a stupid-head is easy to explain--his grades in school were massaged so that he could be on the sports teams, and teachers gave him adequate grades he may not have actually deserved.

      This is a widespread problem in high schools and colleges in the United States and having worked as a tutor in college, and meeting a student from the basketball team who had the literary abilities of a third grader, I have no trouble believing it.

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    3. Your explanation for Lucas would make more sense if he'd gotten on the sports teams. And it's not just the grades - in some episodes he does seem to -act- like a decent student. Yeah, I know that's an issue with high schools in the US, but I'm not a big fan of audience having to fill in the gaps without at least -some- hint.

      But overall, this is a problem that has hit all the kid characters to varying degrees. Even in the penultimate episode, they were talking as if Spanish was Maya's only good subject - it would have been nice for art to be mentioned, as that is something Maya actually works to be good at, whilst Spanish is something she just happens to be good at.

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    4. It's funny guys, I know of Riley's straight-A standing more from what I have read on GMWR than anything I remember directly from the show.

      Cryptid, while never getting much out of the Auggie character, I did like some of his interactions with Riley.

      I have seen "Mary Sue" mentioned a few times. I don't know who that is.

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    5. There was the competition between Farkle and Riley for the amount of As in season 1. I think there are a few other examples as well; Permanent Record springs to mind.

      Mary Sue is a name given to an 'author insert'. It's most often used in fanfiction; where the author creates their own character who is actually better than all the ones in the universe already. So in the GMW universe, someone who's 'cooler' than Maya and Shawn put together, smarter than Farkle, and destroys Topanga in a law suit.

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    6. Riley's straight-A average is brought up twice, in two of the best episodes of the series. In "Maya's Mother," Riley is stated to have 699 'A's, while Farkle has 700.

      (As an aside, I wish that had been Farkle's role in Season One. A friendly academic rival, who competes with Riley to have to the most detailed, over-the-top projects and presentations).

      The second time is in "Permanent Record," where Riley's long-term good grades in elementary school and middle school mean diddly-squat in high school.

      As for Mary Sues...well...this website can probably provide some information. But don't click the link if you have anything important to do tonight.

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CommonMarySueTraits

      Riley has a few Mary Sue traits, but no more than any other Disney Channel heroine to my recollection (In fact, probably less so. Say what you about the classroom scenes, Riley isn't actively pursuing fame).

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    7. tvtropes.com. That website is a giant time sucker. It's like a drug trip. You start clicking and all of a sudden it's 3 hours later and you have no idea how you go onto the trope/series page you're on.

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    8. Precisely why I warned Milestones about it in the first place. But it was also one of the more concise sources of explaining what is and isn't a Mary Sue.

      Haven't seen you in a while, Kit. What are your thoughts on Riley?

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    9. Except for the whole fact that one of those links actually states: "It's unclear what makes a Mary Sue".

      Personally, I think if you call Riley a Mary Sue you may as well call Cory the male version of one in the original show.

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    10. Thanks, guys, I think I get the idea.

      My calibration of Riley began with Pluto. I remember that scene from Maya's Mother, but it just seemed like a bit they were doing, comedy trading on a competitive relationship between Stuart Minkus and Topanga. I don't think the implication of an academic equivalence between Riley and Farkle even registered, a different apprehension Riley already set.

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    11. It might not have registered, and yeah, it was comedic, but it was definitely setting the bar that Riley followed after her mother more than her father in regards to academic achievement.

      But I think that's part of my issue with Riley in particular; though all the children suffer from it. Inconsistent writing.

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    12. Cryptid456-What I like about Riley is that she's her own person. She isn't a mini me of Cory or Topanga. She wants her friends to be happy like Cory. She's a good student and isn't afraid to be strange and different like Topanga. She also has a sweet goofy innocence that is very much like Eric.

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    13. Yeah, it always seemed that Riley was a good student, and would get good grades just by virtue of doing what she was supposed to do. This isn't necessarily at odds with her noteworthy naΓ―vetΓ©. I agree with Kit that she always seemed like her own person.

      But she never gave the impression of being a future genius grant recipient or anything. If nothing else, she wasn't getting an A in Art, probably not in Phys Ed, and if she was excelling in Science, Farkle's "stand back, I'll save you" bit from STEM would have fully merited her reaction in the episode.

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    14. Milestones - That is my big issue with the STEM episode. She's not Farkle-smart; but there has never been any indication that she wasn't doing well in science. And that's also the problem with Permanent Record - it's stated as what, her first F ever? She's getting good marks in art with some pretty badly drawn purple cats?

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    15. Will, for me Permanent Record was a largely successful episode, but not one I enjoyed unreservedly. And, yes, its set up strained credulity. But it was the sort of thing I would always go with as long as there was pay off, and there was here.

      Episodes like STEM and Real World are other matters. There I'm just looking to get whatever works out of them.

      I fully agree there are anomalies. But I think they have to do more with contortions made to set up a situation, or a joke. As performed, she seems far more consistent, comic exaggerations notwithstanding.

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    16. As far as STEM goes, it could be seen that Riley's good mark in that episode is because of Farkle the Report Hog, which does not negate that she may. be capable of doing well in science on her own merit.

      Real World is its own beast--and like I said, probably only exists as it does because Riley has to act as Audience Surrogate.
      Assuming the target audience is ten-year-olds, it makes sense: When I was ten, I didn't know beans about the way of the world beyond the most basic blurbs on the nightly news.

      As for the art classes--I can't speak for the high school, but the middle school class may well be extremely loosely graded or else on a pass-fail system.

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  16. My predictions:

    4. Eric
    3. Shawn
    2. Cory
    1. Feeny

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  17. Oh, by the way Christian, I did want to say thank you for a level-headed analysis of Riley Matthews' character.

    Reddit turned into a circle-jerk of hatred against Riley, and the show in general, and most of the other fan sites won't hear a word against her, so it's nice to see a balanced analysis.

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    1. Ha. I've found Reddit in general, leans towards hatred of characters. It's a reason I've sworn off their fandom based stuff.

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    2. Crytpid, how are you guys making out with the snowstorms?

      I only know vaguely of Reddit. When trying to find somebody who was saying something about GMW, I foolishly ventured into IMDB message boards. It was very disturbing.

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    3. Funny you should mention that, Milestones. The city nearest Shipping and I is due to get thirty-five inches of snow by the end of the weekend storm systems.

      Good-bye, my friend.

      As for Reddit, it's one giant message board. You ain't missing much. Though for the most part, it is better than IMDB.

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    4. The Reddit hatred is honestly news to me, but then again I don't typically go to Reddit. Then again...this news almost makes me tempted to go there.

      And IMDb had its own weird sense of balance, but...that's IMDb.

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  18. I am a bit surprised that Riley is ranked so high especially since, honestly, I think she's a big reason why the show ultimately tanked. Yes, she is the most important character on the show - and so she'd be the character that'd most likely bring the show down. No, I don't think she has anywhere near the comedic talent (or raw talent period) of Sabrina (and I think Maya is more than just a Shawn clone, although when it's most obvious that the writers are pushing that, that's when the show also tends to tank), and as I've said on my own blog her performance on Invisible Sister was so wooden it was outright bizarre (and it wasn't even the only problem with that DCOM, though certainly the biggest). I understand where you're coming from and I am keeping in mind Rowan is only 14/15 herself, but it doesn't stop me from considering both the character and the actress highly overrated.

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  19. "But all in all Riley anchors this show, and for the most part, as an anchor, she works. "

    Isn't the show's cancellation the ultimate proof that she doesn't work?

    I honestly find Riley to be one of the most unrealistic tv characters lately. I don't hate her or Rowan, I just don't think Rowan did a good job with the part. Whether it's the writing, the actress or a combo, I just don't think it worked.

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    1. No? This show was getting long in the tooth for Disney channel, and because of its nature as a sequel was likely more expensive than original programming. It still was, I believe, among the highest rated Disney Channel shows. Lots of things go into something like that. If you didn't like Rowan, Riley, or the writing for that character specifically, that's fine, but it wasn't an issue we found. She wasn't perfect, but I think she hit more than she missed.

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    2. This is way late, but yeah, I agree with Christian. Live action shows on Disney Channel have never lasted longer than four seasons, and it's usually only three at most.

      And it likely was more expensive to produce than other Disney shows--even if the majority of the sets were leftovers from old shows, those guest stars had to add up.

      I'd argue that the show's cancelation is more likely due to the nature of Disney Channel's live-action line-up. Other factors (such as the rather toxic shipping-oriented fanbase) likely played a role as well.

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    3. Cryptid, you're alive! Did Shipping survive the blizzards too?

      Speaking of being way late, I've been meaning to reply to your last Maya comment, from two weeks ago now. With this Monday off, I might finally get the chance.

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