What feels like three years ago but was probably less, word came from The Internet that a sequel series to Boy Meets World was in the works. As like seemingly anyone born in the early ’90s, I have been working hard for 15+ years to model my life after that of Cory Matthews. I’ve yet to gain a trailer park badass best friend, a valued mentor figure/eternal stalker, or a celery poster in my bedroom, but I did watch the first episode of Girl Meets World, and I’m going to talk about it, so you might as well listen.
We start with our two twelve year-old protagonists, Riley and Maya, in Riley’s New York City bedroom. Maya is trying to convince Riley to sneak out and ride the subway against her parents’ wishes. Immediately we establish our status quo: Maya is Shawn Hunter minus the goofy leather jacket, and Riley is Cory Matthews, because her face does this:
The two sneak out the window, only to run right into Riley’s overbearing dad, the identity of whom should be pretty obvious to anyone ’90s enough to read this review.
After the audience has a goddamn heart attack over his existence, Cory gives the girls a parental lecture. And to be honest…this scene, which you may recognize from earlier promos for the show, is really awkward. There’s something sort of off and stilted about a lot of the dialogue in this episode (particularly the script’s insistence to say the word “world” at any opportunity), and these problems are at the most noticeable in this first scene. Here’s some dialogue between Cory and Riley:
“Here’s what I’m thinking: it’s not your world yet. It’s still my world.”
“How long do I have to live in my father’s world?”
“Until you make it yours.”
“I will. And when I do…will you still be there for me?”
Boy Meets World is a cheesy show, but this is some pretty weird dialogue–it’s really unprovoked and doesn’t sound like anything anyone would ever say. But it doesn’t really matter because oh my God it’s TOPANGA
The scene ends with Riley and Maya running out of the room in unison with the Matthews’ blessing, but does it really matter what happened or why? Today I looked upon my television screen and saw this:
Riley and Maya hit the subway station, where Maya cements herself as Badass of the Year by dancing with a street musician. Cut to the subway ride, where Riley is putting on lip gloss, something she, according to Maya, “doesn’t do.” Well, Riley is re-inventing herself this year, and she’s gonna be just as cool as Maya. This is ground we covered a lot on Boy Meets World between Cory and Shawn, and it’s a fine set up for a pilot plot. They notice a cute boy sitting on the subway. He’s reading a textbook, even though it seems to be the morning before the first day of school. After Maya does some minor flirting with him, a sudden jolt of the car sends Riley careening into his arms.
Riley tries her best, but she is quickly cockblocked by…Lisa Landry from Sister, Sister? I don’t know why Jackee Harry is here, but suffice to say her jokes fall pretty flat, and I hope “weird lady on the subway” isn’t a recurring bit.
We launch now into the theme song, which I think is performed by one or both of the lead actresses. It’s much less simple and more wordy than the Boy Meets World intros we all know by heart, but it’s fun and boppy, and the sequence makes use of the flying paper airplane bit from Season 1 BMW. The episode clips featured are a mixed bag, as far as boding well for the future: there’s a lot of Riley and Maya in silly costumes and weird situations, which is very modern-day Disney Channel; there’s also some more interesting stuff, like a mirror reflection showing classic middle-school hippie Topanga.
At John Quincy Adams Middle School (get it), Riley and Maya head to class. One of them hasn’t done their homework, and I’ll let you figure out who. So I guess it’s not the first day of school, even though the subway “reinventing myself this year” dialogue really set up it to be such; as does the dialogue when they reach the classroom, as Riley warns Maya that “this teacher” is Feeny-strict. Of course, this awkward exposition leads us to a punchline:
I’m very on board with Cory becoming a teacher–it’s been easily long enough since we last saw him for our brillo-head boy to develop an interest in the field, and besides, he never had much a defined career goal during the original show anyway, except for those two weeks he wanted to be a filmmaker, or his forgotten dream of pitching for the Phillies. Yeah, it would be a lot more satisfying for Eric to be a teacher, but what can you do? This also works well for both the older and younger audience: BMW fans get to see Cory in a funny role-reversal, but kids can still get humor out of Riley having to deal with her embarrassing dad as a teacher. He seems to teach history, by the way, so they’re really going all-out with the Feeny parallel.
Anyway, this scene is straight out of early Boy Meets World. Cory is trying to teach them about the Civil War, and Ben Savage is absolutely loving this, he’s having so much fun being this character again. Riley knows all the answers and is eager to learn; Maya calls it “the Civil Bore” and banters with Cory, trying to excuse herself from being a late with a forged note from Cory himself.
We also meet another student of Cory’s: Farkle.
He’s basically a Minkus equivalent, but even more extroverted and in love with both of our protagonists. He also talks about himself in the third-person and often takes over the classroom, even having his own Farkle name-plate for the teacher’s desk. I eagerly await the Season 2 premiere, Girl Meets Farkle’s Unsettling Mental Diagnosis.
The cute kid from the subway also shows up as a new student from Texas. His name is Lucas, and he’s not gonna do much today, but he’s got a nice smile. Cory assigns the class their homework: read pages 1-40 (again, how isn’t this the first day of class?) and write a paper about something they believe in, just like those fighting in the Civil War believed in their ideals. Boy Meets World was always big on drawing parallels between school lessons and life lessons; this one is a bit of a stretch, but okay. Of course, Maya decides she believes strongly in not doing any homework, and launches a “No homework, more freedom” campaign. We did this in Boy Meets World, too, when Cory led a protest against Turner’s pop quizzes.
Cory and Riley arrive home at the same and complain to Topanga about each other. Cory reiterates that Riley is only going along with the No Homework plan to be more like Maya. She storms off, he and Topanga have a cute moment together, I can’t believe this show exists, and I mean that in the best way.
We’re introduced to Riley’s little brother, except not really, because they forget to give him a name.
Whatever, he’s kind of funny; Riley runs through her tween-girl problems aloud, and he goes issue-for-issue with questions like “Do bears know how to smile? Will my drawings EVER get any better?“, which is already funnier than anything Cory’s little sister Morgan ever said. TAKE THAT, LINDSEY RIDGEWAY.
The next day, Maya encourages Riley to talk to Lucas in the cafeteria (which looks a lot like the BMW cafeteria set. Neat!). They don’t get much time to smalltalk before Cory appears and literally drags Lucas out of the room by his chair. It’s pretty funny, but I couldn’t get a good screencap of it.
In class, Maya takes her homework protest a step too far by stealing a sparkler from Farkle’s diorama and attempting to set her homework (which Riley did for her, pretty funny) ablaze. This sets off the sprinklers.
Everyone panics to hide from the spraying water. Riley takes shelter under Lucas’s jacket. Farkle runs back and forth in a crisis of too many options, then decides, somehow, that his best option is to climb Cory like a tree.
Cory gives Maya detention while Farkle continues to climb all over him. This leads to a confrontation with Maya in the hallway. Cory tells Maya that she always takes things too far, and that she needs to suck it up and do her assignments. Maya responds with heartbreak in her voice: “I have nobody at home who helps me with my homework.”
Back on the subway, we revisit another classic BMW scenario: Maya tries to distance herself from Riley, believing herself to be a bad influence. It blows over pretty quickly and they resolve to always stand by each other. Lisa Landry is in this scene again, but I’m going to take America’s example and not talk about her anymore.
Riley brings Maya back to the Matthews house. They have a heart-to-heart: Riley is making the world her own by choosing to stick by her friend and help her. She’s standing up for what she believes in, and in doing so, has won her own Civil War. Well, I guess.
This satisfies Cory and Topanga. We cut to the subway station, where the entire cast is assembled to watch Cory present his daughter with a MetroCard of her very own.
Cory tells Riley, “I’ve already met the world. It’s your turn.” Yeah, it’s a little forced, but it is what it is: a passing of the torch between generations, and really, that’s what this whole Pilot serves as. The girls board the subway train, knowing they now have a big world to explore…even if they have to be home by 5.
The tag shows the girls getting back to the station, where Cory and Topanga are waiting for them, and oh my gosh, guys, I hope your heartstrings are ready to be pulled. Cory tells his daughter, “It’s not so easy handing over the world without knowing that everything’s going to be okay.” Then he turns to look at the wall behind him…
“Well done, Mr. Matthews,” says Mr. Feeny. We cut to Cory smiling fondly, and when we see the poster again, Feeny is gone, leaving only his “It’s Cool to Stay in School” poster behind. We go to credits with the Michael Jacobs Productions logo, the tune to which you know by heart, trust me.
Moral of the Week: Stand by and support your friends, but be your own person and make the world your own. But still, do your homework because you’re twelve.
Did the Girl meet World: Undeniably. It took Cory like 7 years (a few of them stuck in a time-vortex void), so comparatively, she’s doing very well.
First, we should take a second to realize the impossibility of this show existing. Ever since its announcement, fans of Boy Meets World have debated whether it would harken back to our favorite ’90s sitcom, or if it would be a cash-in of little resemblance featuring a pretty tween girl who wants to be a pop star. Honestly, the end result is somewhere in-between. It’s a little more fashionable, a little more situational and goofy, and a little different than its parent show. But even though the moral of this particular episode was quick and a little muddled, the show still went for heart and a life lesson over, I don’t know, a dog who can blog. The girls are good actresses, Farkle is funny in small doses. Cory was excellent, very in-character, and Ben Savage seemed incredibly happy to be playing this part again. Topanga didn’t get much to do. Even the little brother seems fine. I’ve got faith in this show. It might not ever be as clever or even as memorable as Boy Meets World was for us, but at the same time, it’s not really FOR us. Even so, they threw us a remarkable amount of bones in this episode. And c’mon. That Feeny scene was perfect.