Girl Meets World: Progress Report

When it was first announced, there was a lot of excitement for Girl Meets World, a sequel to the hugely-popular ABC sitcom Boy Meets World. Promising to follow the life of Cory and Topanga’s daughter Riley, it was a chance for new fans to meet while classic characters, while letting old fans see what happened to one of the great TV couples of the 90’s. Now about halfway through its first season, I felt it was a good time to take a look at the show and see what it’s done right, and where it’s gone wrong.

Pro: Solid Casting
 

One of Boy Meets World’s biggest strengths was the talented group of young actors the producers assembled. From Ben Savage’s neurotic Cory to the manic delivery of Will Friedle’s Eric, the show was able to sell over-the-top madcap antics and heartfelt moments in equal measure because of how likable and relatable its cast was.

While they’re still settling into the roles, the cast of Girl Meets World is surprisingly strong right out of the gate. The strongest character so far is Sabrina Carpenter’s Maya, who brings just the right mix of sardonic wit and hidden pain to stand toe-to-toe with Boy’s Shawn Hunter. Augusto Maturo’s Auggie, the youngest Matthews child, meanwhile, is a perceptive kid with a penchant for snarky lines. And because no Meets World would be complete without a member of the Minkus family, Corey Fogelmanis’ Farkle is a surprisingly entertaining character, one with far more depth than the early trailers indicated.

Though there’s still room for the supporting cast to grow and develop, the core cast of kids makes it easy to forgive the show of its growing pains. Of course, there are definitely problems, and the first one I’ll bring up is the one cast member that has to make a strong impression.

Con: Lucas Friar
 

I hate to single out a single actor or character as a major problem, but the truth is that Riley’s potential love interest Lucas has failed to do much for me yet. In fairness, he’s yet to have a real focus episode, at least as anything other than an object of Riley’s affection. Still, actor Peyton Meyer hasn’t really shown himself to be worthy of any focus. His delivery has just been too wooden, something that’s painfully obvious against the more energetic performances of… well, pretty much everyone else.

On top of that, the character is fairly uninspired in and of himself. The whole “cowboy in the city” shtick wore out its welcome pretty quickly, and his other defining character trait is being attractive. Honestly, it feels like the show is trying too hard to introduce a quirky love interest, even though Topanga’s popularity on the original grew naturally thanks to Danielle Fishel’s chemistry with Ben Savage. Here’s hoping the character can get a bit of an overhaul in season 2. That, or disappear to the other side of the camera like Minkus before him.

Pro: Riley Matthews
 

Might as well go from a bad character to a good one and talk about the star of the show herself, Riley Matthews! I chose to talk about her separately from the other young characters because, well, she’s the protagonist. Like her father before her, it falls to Riley to be the true heart and focus of the show, and she’s so far risen to the occasion admirably.

What makes Riley great is that she truly feels like her father’s child, with Rowan Blanchard bringing the exact sort of spastic energy and over-the-top delivery that Ben Savage did – and still does – to Cory. It’s hard to not to be on her side and believe how much she cares about her friends and family. She may not be the most interesting or energetic character, but she remains someone we want to see grow and change over the course of the show.

Con: The Disney Channel Factor
 

This was a concern most fans had the second the show was announced, that having Girl Meets World on Disney Channel instead of ABC would mean a far less sophisticated, “dumbed down” show. And though it’s not nearly as bad as other shows on the channel, there’s no denying an overall kid-like feeling to the show.

Juvenile humor, a much brighter aesthetic and softer approaches to heavy material like bullying all mark a shift from Boy Meets World. The show is still managing to evoke the feeling of the original series, which helps make it easier to swallow the changes, but many fans still hope the show can mature alongside its characters as the seasons wear on.

Pro: The Boy Tropes
 

The truth is that no matter how much the show feels like a Disney Channel program, it’s all worth it for the chance to revisit such a beloved universe. Appropriately, as mentioned above, Girl Meets World fits nicely into the canon of the original series, while giving plenty of callbacks and similar story structure that feel familiar.

From the appearance of classic characters like Harley Keiner and Mr. Feeny, to subtler references like Cory’s appreciation of the school lunch lady, Girl Meets World makes fans of the original feel like they can go home again. Even just having Cory and Topanga back on TV is enough to bring a smile to my face.

 

So while the show has issues, there’s still enough here for any Boy Meets World fan to love. With a second season already ordered, it’s reasonable to hope they’ll have figured out what works and, much like Boy before it, be able to radically change the approach and tone of the show as the years go by. For now, I’m happy watching Riley and her friends take on the world in what has so far been a hugely enjoyable first season.