Dear Riley Matthews,
Been nice meeting you. You’re so adorable it oughta be illegal.
Yes, Girl Meets World wrapped up its first season last Friday, and I’d say it was a smashing success. I’d been a little worried about whether the show would live up to its predecessor, Boy Meets World, mainly because I was afraid Disney Channel would water it down and compromise the spirit of the original series. The first season exceeded my expectations, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves down the line.
For the uninitiated, GMW tells the story of Riley Matthews, daughter of Corey and Topanga Matthews, the main protagonists of Boy Meets World. She is 12 years old when the show starts, and accompanied by her best friends Maya Hart and Farkle Minkus, she embarks on the same coming-of-age journey her father did on the original show.
Probably the best part of Boy Meets World was the fact that it combined great comedy with life lessons, and GMW did plenty of that. The show took on bullying, popularity, sibling rivalry, friendship and other topics in an age-appropriate fashion. Probably my favorite episode along these lines was “Girl Meets Sneak Attack,” which encouraged kids not to grow up too fast, and enjoy their childhoods while they last. I think that this is a good message, and cuts against a lot of pop culture, which frequently sells young girls Halloween costumes like this and encourage them to pair off as soon as possible. GMW, on the other hand, encourages kids not to live in the future, and enjoy the life they have.
Another of my favorite episodes was “Girl Meets Flaws,” which tackled bullying, but instead of the common kid show method of “Ignore what he says, he’s a jerk,” for dealing with bullies, GMW got at the root of why bullies act the way they do. In one of the best scenes of the season, Riley had all the members of their class write their flaws on their heads, and tried to make the main antagonist from the episode realize what he was doing and change his ways. The response on Twitter to the episode was pretty cool too, as people started tweeting their own flaws with the hashtag #girlmeetsflaws. This is how I knew GMW was catching on.
The show also featured some great comedy, but most fun for me were probably the “meta-jokes” that the show made that referenced Boy Meets World. Such as this moment when Topanga makes a horrific realization…
Speaking of Feeny, GMW featured many happy returns from former castmembers of its parent show. From Harley Keiner, the bully who now works as a janitor in Riley’s school, to Stuart Minkus, the nerd from the original show who is the father of GMW’s nerd character, to Cory’s parents Alan & Amy. And, of course, finally everyone’s favorite best friend, Shawn Hunter.
The show is also very well-acted. While we knew the adult characters were good actors, I was very impressed with the new kids on the block. Rowan Blanchard (Riley) is very good at physical comedy and snappy repartee. She also does a great job of channeling Corey’s neurotic and upbeat personality and Topanga’s studiousness. Sabrina Carpenter brings a maturity beyond her years to her role as Maya. She has also proven herself to be an exceptionally talented singer, and has released several songs this year. Corey Fogelmanis’s performance as Farkle even grew on me, once I saw how good of a friend he was to Riley and Maya. Actually, probably the least interesting character for me was Lucas Friar, played by Peyton Meyer. While he has his moments (such as in “Girl Meets Flaws”), he also appeared wooden at times and seemed to have been cast just to give the show a pretty face (which they indirectly poke fun at in “Girl Meets Master Plan”).
So what’s ahead for the girls? Well, the first season surely left me wanting more, so I can’t wait for season 2. Thanks to the GMW writers, who have their own Twitter account in which they release interesting nuggets of information about upcoming episodes, we already know a few details. Many more Boy Meets World alums are coming back, including a more substantive appearance from George Feeny, Shawn’s father Chet in a hallucination, and Shawn’s ex-girlfriend Angela. I, for one, am very intrigued to see how they handle Angela’s appearance, given the plotline they’ve constructed in which Shawn and Maya’s mother Katy are being set up as potential love interests. My main concerns about the show’s future can mostly be summed up with the phrase “Because… Disney Channel.” Disney has a tendency to cancel popular shows long before their time has come, such as Even Stevens, which was pulled after 3 seasons despite consistently strong ratings. I’m also still worried that Disney won’t be comfortable with the show when the characters grow up further and deal with more mature subjects. Though this tweet from the writers allayed my concerns a little: