I'll let Mike do his thing first before I go through.
Alright, my partner in crime.
Sure! I hope you don't mind if I interject here and there, and feel free to do the same for my words.
I remember it being April 2015. We got our first taste of the second season of Girl Meets World when "Girl Meets Demolition" first aired. Michael Jacobs was adamant about this episode not belonging to a specific season, but serving as a bridge between seasons one and two. This doesn't even make sense. I know people declare episodes to be "out of season" and "specials" but unless it's explicitly non-canon (i.e. a "bizarro" episode) or an extended special it has to be a part of some season (and even then most specials are declared a part of whatever season they air in). It sounds like instead of just giving a straightforward answer Jacobs wanted to take advantage of the meddling Disney Channel likes to do to try to trump up his show for being more than what it is - and while a part of me has to admire that, he's done it so often (virtually every. Single. Time. GMW even freakin' airs now) it's lost all meaning - not to mention he has a nasty habit of being extremely transparent about it, bankrupting any meaning it had to begin with. I'll share more details about it very soon, but just to let you know, the production code of Meets Demolition is 2.07 - as in Season 2, Episode 7. So yes it is a Season 2 episode aired out of order, sorry people who want to argue otherwise YES I'M LOOKING AT YOU CHRISTIAN JUST DEAL WITH SEAN BEING RIGHT ABOUT THIS ONE. I have no idea why he did this because it is obvious to me that this is a season two episode (yup!). Riley looked taller and her voice was noticeably deeper. Well, at least a little different. I feel like Disney Channel just needed an episode of the show for their theme weekend, the writers were left in the dark about making one, and they just chose this episode for no discernible reason. There's actually a number of discernible reasons if you're familiar with the backstage workings of this theme weekend and boiling down to not only Disney Channel giving Girl Meets World a weird special treatment that frankly it not only did not deserve but only served to creatively hamper the show, but even messing that up. And it's related to why Girl Meets Fish was aired out of order too - see, Meets Fish was filmed first and intended to air relatively early in Season 1, in the September-October or even August timeframe of 2014 depending on what sources you read - end of story. It was never intended to air as part of a theme weekend. I'm not even sure if Jacobs was even aware that the detective-mystery theme/Whodunnit Weekend is a tradition at Disney Channel, if he even bothered being aware of the traditions of the network at all. But as soon as Disney Channel execs saw the episode, they knew it was pretty much tit-for-tat an unsolicited Whodunnit Weekend episode and decided to punt it all the way to the next season in order to pass down the marching orders to the rest of the network shows to crank out their own Whodunnit themes. As for how Riley, Maya and Farkle would be noticeably changed by this to the point where they seem like they've magically aged backwards for an episode - year, Disney Channel really doesn't give a damn about that. The usual confused viewers will ask about it on Twitter and IMDb, someone else will tell them exactly what I'm typing here and life will move on. As is tend to be with these multi-cam sitcoms (it doesn't really matter if they're kidcoms specifically or not) continuity and logical plot/story sense takes a backseat to almost everything else, especially the bottom line. If you're looking for any hope of continuity you're really looking for a single-cam drama series, or at least something outside of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Anyway, this created an obvious gap in the Season 1 episode order so they just filmed an extra episode of Season 2 to fill in that gap, and hey while they're at it why not also make it a theme weekend? Given the short notice the What the What? theme was pretty easy to insert, just have all the shows grab other stars from the network for the guest spots those episodes called for. It just so happened that Debby was called over for Meets Demolition, though given the "flagship" status both her show and GMW shared at the time, and how Debby was the reigning "queen" of the network at the time, it's pretty obvious another move done to help GMW's high network profile. Even considering all that, this episode still sucked, especially with that awful attempt at symbolism near the end. It turned a simple joke about Riley's dimwitted nature that was actually funny into vapid, transparent schlock meant to get a reaction.
No it hasn't! We've reviewed episodes long past their sell-by date on this blog before (and by that I mean going back to episodes that aired before even Christian and Sean's blog existed) so I see no reason why we can't review Gravity when it's opportune. I'll set my DVR to record it and you can catch it when you can.
This is such a frustrating show to watch in that it refuses to grow in some aspects, but then it has shown this season that it can grow. I don't know how to explain it accurately, but I feel like this show is going to continue to be this way. I really don't want to have all this doubt, but season three is sink or swim like I said before. The gloves are off now and this series is in dangerous territory. The territory where it is an average show that has potential to be better. For a lot of Disney shows, this is the standard, but after hearing so much buzz about this show initially, reading so many tweets from the writers, and seeing the interviews where Michael Jacobs raises GMW up as having Community's humor, Breaking Bad's drama and Adventure Time's emotional content, I expect better than this. I think a lot of people did. And in all honesty, Girl Meets World has been a disappointing show over the past two seasons. I don't know what's going to happen in season three, but one thing's for sure is that I might stop watching after that. I'm fine with the show making mistakes every now and then, but when they never learn from their mistakes and make them so frequently, I start to get scared at how season three will turn out. Will it be even more melodramatic now that the characters are in high school? Probably. I want to be proven wrong, but I'm pretty sure I said the same thing last season and look what happened.
On this blog, that day is today. And every day. By all means, when you have the time and motivation I'd love to see what kind of essay you feel like venting out over GMW.
Season Grade: B. At one point, this season was on its way to at least a B+, but a string of underwhelming/genuinely terrible episodes ended up leaving a lot more to be desired. The season showed definite improvement over the first one, as the acting, jokes, and emotional content have all taken the next step. The writers dropped the ball on the love triangle for no reason, a lot of the filler episodes went absolutely nowhere, and the series still has problems with centering episodes around certain topics like Asperger's and communism. The good news is GMW is on its way to becoming a genuinely good show. The bad news is the mistakes being made can be erased easily but they continue to pop up and hurt the series more than help it.
Season MVP: Sabrina Carpenter. In spite of the way the writers handled Maya's character at certain points, Carpenter continues to be the reason why Maya is the most compelling part of the show. You hear it all the time, but Carpenter steals the show every time through the way she allows you to feel Maya's pain and become this character. Her comedic timing, mannerisms, and natural camera presence are very appreciated. Could you imagine Sabrina with even better material than this? She would be unstoppable. Rowan Blanchard got a lot better as well. The way Sabrina becomes Maya, Rowan becomes Riley. "Rileytown" and "Texas" showed that she can handle heavy emotion, and while Carpenter deals with the serious stuff, Blanchard's niche is bringing genuine laughs. If nothing else, these two are arguably the best one-two punch on kids shows right now.
Best Episodes (in no particular order): Pluto, Yearbook, Texas, Mr. Squirrels, Rileytown
Honorable Mentions: Hurricane, Forgiveness Project, Secret of Life, New World, New Teacher
Worst Episodes (in no particular order): Gravity, Cory and Topanga, World of Terror 2, Commonism, Fish
Dishonorable Mentions: Rah Rah, Bay Window, Belief, New Year, STEM
Fun fact: if I hadn't gotten sick over the weekend and gotten off my lazy butt we actually would've beaten Girl Meets World Review's Season 2 retrospective to first publication date. Not that it frankly matters as we're not in a competitive race to see who's blog is "first" - and truth be told, I'm really glad I got to see Christian and Sean's opinions first because they hit up on a lot of stuff I would've missed had I just tried to rush through this to get it all up by Easter.
On that note - and as you can see I've already added some info to Mike's words - I'm going to go ahead and put this up right now but I'll add some additional thoughts later. I'll just let you know, that Girl Meets World, as a TV show and more specifically as a "kidcom," is a very complex beast, and not in the good way. Some of you may have bothered to read my ranting on the behind the scenes of TV show production, but if not, it might be worth while to dig through as I talk about those details in "Stuck in the Middle" and "The Mysteries of Laura." But in summation: to a certain degree multi-cam sitcoms, and especially "kidcoms," tend to be throwaway programming. That's part of GMW's problem. The other part is related to how apparently Jacobs thinks GMW should be somehow exempt from this cold hard reality - and how Disney Channel executives apparently are not in total agreement, with contradictory attitudes that at once it's a prized flagship show head and shoulders above others and yet at the same time subject to the exact same budgetary and production restrictions as everybody else. Compounding this even more is Jacobs' apparently refusal to budge and be flexible in regards to how the network actually sees the show, or how the show is actually produced, instead believing his own hype that Girl Meets World is quite literally the most revolutionary television program physically possible.
But I'll get more into that later. In the meantime enjoy what Mike (and Christian and Sean) have to say.
..all right and I'm back. I've added more commentary to Mike's words, whether or not you find it insightful is up to you, I suppose.
I've had time to absorb Mike's words, as well as Sean and Christian's words. I know Sean wants to be a voice actor and animator (and if you've seen him in action, in my own unqualified judgement I would readily consider him very talented) but if either of those fizzle out I hope he can hack it as a television writer. He has a lot of insightful things to say and it's obviously he's learned a lot about what made Boy Meets World Boy Meets World - and conversely what doesn't make Girl Meets World Boy Meets World.
I know there's at least some crossover with the adult viewers of Disney Channel/Nickelodeon and [adult swim] so some of you may be familiar with Eureka 7. If not, well, unless [as] reruns it watching it ain't cheap so, um, good luck. The dynamics of anime isn't anything remotely like what we Westerners expect of animation (the so-called "animation age ghetto") and considering there are entire multiple blogs dedicated just to that subject, it's neither here nor there but let's just say Eureka 7 isn't exactly the most roaring comedy ever created and it most certainly focuses on the dramatic and depressing aspects of war and authority. That said, there's a curious episode just before the final arc where the entire cast plays a game of soccer. And that's it. The creator of the series said that the whole intention of the episode is to show the characters having fun before the big moment when in anime we'd usually expect to see a lot of regular characters no longer be regular characters (because they're dead as Red Letter Media would put it). It hearkens back to the idea that in order to have complete characters, they need to have complete life experiences. Granted there are tons and tons of successful dramas that don't bother, but the best dramas aren't all about depressing, tense or dramatic moments, but break those moments up with brevity. Mad Men greatly excels in this, especially and most famously in its series finale. Even shows about gangsters and fantasy warlords like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones have their brevity moments. Justified had a ton of brevity moments, hell it reveled in them, often in the middle of what should be incredibly tense moments like car chases and high noon-style shootouts.
The flip side of this is allowing dramatic moments to break up the monotony of a comedy series, but it seems that GMW has either gone way overboard or completely missed the memo of it being a multi-cam comedy series. Sean's absolutely right, we never see Maya or Riley have fun. They're always at the bay window. I am tempted to place an actual bet that if you went up to Micheal Jacobs and pressed him about it, he would say Maya and Riley at the bay window is Maya and Riley having fun. Mike's absolutely right, GMW and Jacobs are infested with "brain bugs" and the idea that either Boy Meets World is much greater and much more profound than what it actually is, or, most likely* they think Boy Meets World is as great and profound as it is for all the wrong reasons and misinterpreted the reasons for their own success. They missed the memo about Boy Meets World being great because it was able to balance drama and comedy better than other, lazier shows, and instead got the idea that it was great just because it had drama - and got the idea that if a little bit of drama made Boy Meets World great, then a lot of drama will make GMW great, which in turn eventually devolved into the idea of GMW's greatness being directly proportional to how much drama it has - i.e., if we just keep endlessly pouring drama into this episode we'll win ourselves frickin' infinite Emmys!
I'd like to point out that this kind of very bad math, incidentally, is literally the same kind of bad math that got the Space Shuttle Challenger crew killed. Oh, you think I'm exaggerating? Nope!
And Sean's right, the mistakes Maya, Riley and crew made are barely mistakes at all. It honestly kind of makes me nervous to say it, but Maya and Riley especially come off almost downright godly, in a half-literal sense. Or at least a modicum more divinely than their peers. That's...I'm pretty sure that isn't even healthy.
I've talked about this on IMDb (before I just threw my arms up and deleted my account in protest of IMDb's extremely poor moderation policies). There have been moments throughout all of the Disney Channel series where they at least tried to tackle serious moments, and were for the most part successful. They didn't buy into the hype of this show being near-literally godly (as only GMW is saddled with this hype to begin with) and came up with some honest, real moments.
Here's some of the examples I used on IMDb:
When Liv and Maddie dealt with breakups
And bullying, specifically with women's body image:
When Best Friends Whenever dealt with growing up:
(I can't find the clip so deal with this promo)
When Jessie dealt with break-ups in a surprisingly very adult way:
When Good Luck Charlie dealt with cheating boyfriends:
Meanwhile, Girl Meets World's approach to everything most closely resembles this:
I feel like GMW's problem (one of them) is that they have a tendency to "dumb down" more than even other shows other people accuse of in turn being dumbed-down. Like they're a freakin' after-school special. Like Salmon Cat.
But enough agreeing with other people. What do I actually think of GMW S2? What do I think of GMW as a whole?
I understand a lot of people were expecting or at least hoping for greatness. As Mike said, some of this may have come around and poisoned the GMW crew itself, and again I have no doubt that's at least what partially happened. A lot of people were nervous because of the "Disney Channel" label but were sure that somehow, magically, GMW was going to be the exception thanks to Micheal Jacobs' dedication to the craft (this is why you still have a lot of people rooting for it to be switched to Freeform, as if the Freeform multi-cams are any better. Have these people actually seen Young & Hungry? Baby Daddy?).
Not to brag (is it even bragging at this point?) but I had learned to temper my expectations from the very first day when this was announced, way back during the last quarter of 2013. By that time I had watched every episode of Jessie, Austin & Ally, A.N.T. Farm, Good Luck Charlie, Liv & Maddie, Dog With a Blog, and what have you that had aired up to that point, and I'd seen every episode of Wizards of Waverly Place, Suite Life on Deck and Shake it Up! (which incidentally had Fred Savage as a guest star in one episode) ever made. You learn a lot about the network from that, and I knew people were going to walk away from the GMW not only disappointed but perhaps even shaking their fists at their TV and yelling, what the hell is this?!
There's a number of things we can call it, but for now let's call it "corporate synergy." Disney Channel likes a particular style, and the only times it's ever reached out of that style or even anywhere close to it is a little bit with Good Luck Charlie, a little bit with first season Jessie (and they reigned it the hell in immediately with the second season), a little bit with Stuck in the Middle, a little bit more when they finally took the leash off John Beck and Ron Hart on Liv and Maddie, a little bit more still whenever they import a show like My Babysitter's a Vampire or Backstage, and when people watch Girl Meets World and imagine it in their heads. There's also another thing to consider - Disney Channel is run by extremely cheap bastards. Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard - or for that matter, Debby Ryan, Bridgit Mendler, Dove Cameron and even Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus in their heyday got paid a pittance compared to what Nickelodeon paid their network counterparts, namely Miranda Cosgrove and Victoria Justice. How much of a discrepancy are we talking about? Selena Gomez got paid per episode 10% of what Miranda Cosgrove got paid per episode. Yes. Seriously. 10%. You could probably produce at least a few episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place just on Miranda's per-episode salary. Disney Channel's modus operandi is to do everything on a shoestring budget, and if it doesn't show on say Liv and Maddie or Girl Meets World you need to chalk that up to the resourcefulness of the people running the show. Disney Channel hates spending money.
So that's two factors right there that were working against GMW before the first episode even started production, or before Micheal Jacobs even approached Disney Channel or vice-versa, or whatever.
The most fundamental question I've yet to answer is: do I think GMW S2 is even good? Or GMW overall? That's a surprisingly difficult question for me to answer. One of the reasons why I try (tried) to knock out GMW reviews as quick as possible is that I notice I tend to have a lot higher of an opinion of the episode when it's fresh in my mind then in hindsight. Some of it might be sullied by Christian and Sean after I read their blog since they tend to be more negative on episodes than I am. Some of it might just be the result of genuine reflection. I loved Meets Rah Rah when I first saw it - then I had a conversation with Christian and Sean about it and I immediately started agreeing with them. When it was fresh in my mind I think I gave it a B, or at least a B-. Maybe a B+? After Christian and Sean I would've rated it a C, or optimistically a C+. Now I might even go so low as a flat D and write it off as yet more garbage. Almost none of the episodes have aged well with me - very few have been able to retain their original scores, most dropping at least "sign" grade if not a whole letter grade, or even worse.
I raved about Meets Texas when it came out, even though at the same time I have to admit I didn't like the fact that the network was using it to overshadow Jessie's freakin' series finale. I put that on the network and tried to let it not color the show. I still liked Part 1, it's probably the best episode of the entire series right now, but I really, really wish they just kept it at that. It didn't need to be a three-part series. Part 3 was unnecessary and could've been any episode. Part 2 was unnecessary and could've been any episode. I'd give Part 1 an A+, and the other two Ds. I stand by STEM (for all its weirdness) and Meets the New Teacher (for all its weirdness). I guess my own teaching experience biases me on that. Meets Pluto and Meets Yearbook were ok, although I think Mike slightly overrates them. For season 1, I'd give Meets First Kiss an A+ and bestow upon it the title of Second Best Episode of the Entire Series. I'd probably rate the whole first third of the first season in mid-B territory up until Meets Friendship when the show never recovered. Meets Money is probably the third best episode of the series, I'd give it a flat A. Maybe an A-.
As for the rest of Season 2?
Season Grade: D. Yes, that's right. In hindsight, this show has already aged badly. I think Jacobs and the rest of the crew have bought too much into their own hype, drunk too much of their own Kool-Aid. I think the network itself is drinking heavily from Jacobs' Kool-Aid recipe, and all too gleefully. The results are initially ok to legitimately good to watch, but then age into a trainwreck. They've become way too blind to their own shortcomings, and I feel that not only is it dragging the show down, but it's dragging the rest of the network down with it. People aren't sticking around to watch other shows like Disney Channel may be hoping - they're either tuning out immediately after GMW is over (Stuck in the Middle ain't having hot numbers, especially for a relatively expensive single-cam series) or not tuning in at all as GMW's numbers can't break 2 million anymore. It's making me question if maybe GMW was just a bad proposition to begin with. It's funny that Mike mentions Fuller House as a series better able to balance what GMW promises because according to TVByTheNumbers Fuller House might actually be doing better on raw ratings.
Yeah. Needless to say my confidence in the show is extremely shaky. Probably as shaky as you can get.
Season MVP: Sabrina Carpenter, duh. She's as much the reason for why I give Meets Texas Part 1 an A+ as anything else. For a "lesser-trained" actor she, at times, has acted circles around everybody else. Sometimes she (and Peyton, maybe Corey?) seem like the only actors who care anymore.
Best Episodes: Well I already mentioned them but...Meets Texas (Part 1 ONLY), Meets the New Teacher and Meets STEM for some reason, Meets Money for some reason too.Oh, wait, Forgiveness Project too, actually, believe it or not. It probably ties or is just slightly worse than Money for fourth best slot, I don't know if I should give it an A- or switch it and Money to give Forgiveness an A and Money an A-.
Honorable Mentions: At this point only Hurricane, just because Chet's reprisal is my favorite so far. The rest of the episode is divisive among the fanbase and even crew for a reason. Maybe New World because it does build extremely nicely from First Kiss, just about the only GMW episode so far in its entire history to do so.
Worst Episodes: Very honestly a part of me just wants to make an easy blank statement and say the rest of them. I can't decide if the Monstober '15 crossover event is one of the best or worst creative decisions in Disney Channel's entire history, but Meets World of Terror 2 makes it lean towards the latter. That's a rare episode that not only hurt the series but managed to even hurt other series not normally related to GMW. In that way I'd even go so far as to call it "The ISIL of Girl Meets World episodes." Yeah, that might be taking it too far, oh well, I don't care. That's how much I hate that episode. The people behind that episode desperately need to be fired.
Before that Tell Tale Tot got recognition for worst episode. The puppet is officially the most annoying thing in the show...since Evelyn Rand. The motivations and especially actions of both Josh Matthews and the "dorm girls" don't make sense and are just not natural in terms of what actual people do. To quote an AV Club review for The Secret Life of the American Teenager (remember that trainwreck?), it's like aliens descended down from the heavens and, with only piecemeal observation of Earth, decided to put together a TV show about the secret lives of American teenagers. Both World of Terror 2 and this are getting L's, because even F- is too high a grade.
Commonism was also pretty horrid. F's all around.
Dishonorable mention: The rest of Meets Texas, Fish, Belief, Rah Rah, New Year, I can go on. There's a reason why I'm giving the season an overall grade of D.
I don't blame you if you want to give up on the show. Just don't take out Liv and Maddie with it. That's a legitimately good show.
On that note I feel Liv and Maddie (or 100 Things, as Mike mentioned) are exactly the shows Sean is looking for - without Pangers and Cory. Pangers and Cory are the only reason why Sean's even interested in either network, regadless of quality. If Girl Meets World Reviewed didn't exist I fully expect both he and Christian to just give up and I don't blame them. The reasons why I feel it's inevitable they'd give up or watch purely out of the integrity of the review site - I've already touched upon them but I'll get into deeper depth later.
Anyway we're going to do a few different things coming up - we're going to review episodes of some more "off-network" shows, specifically FOX's Grandfathered and NBC's Undateable and Crowded (specifically just one each, with the exception of Crowded - we're giving it two since it just premiered). If you've read my Mysteries of Laura review, first of all you deserve a freakin' medal, but you also already know why we're doing this - if not, it's for the same reasons why we reviewed that show in the first place. Just as Debby was in Mysteries, I figure might as well give these shows a shot as Grandfathered stars both Full House's/Fuller House's John Stamos and Josh Peck from a favorite of both Mike and I, Drake & Josh (in fact the specific episode I have is The Biter which guest stars the other half of Drake & Josh, Drake Bell!); Undateable stars Good Luck Charlie's Bridgit Mendler and Crowded stars iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove. Because exactly zero of my readers have yet informed me that my infatuation with Debby is creepy and not at all appropriate, I've tracked down the episodes of The Glades and Private Practice she was in for review, and - oh, here's the exciting thing - you may recognize Spongey444 from either his own blog or his comments from these reviews. Well guess what he's also going to a guest contributor for some episodes! That's coming up next, and I'd like to know what Mike thinks of this (uh, sorry if I'm springing the Spongey thing on you but anything and everything can be subject to change if you need it to be).