Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Girl Meets World Season 2 in Review: The Performance Appraisal

A MIKE AND UNKNOWN PRESENTATION. No-holds-barred!!!

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. 


You know what? Maybe I do understand why they chose this episode now. Unknown, I'll let you think about Debby Ryan for a bit.

The point is, I was excited for the new season anyway but I recognized that high expectations weren't exactly something to have. I do remember having my mind blown that there was going to be a new episode every night. That gave me genuine enthusiasm. I knew season one had glaring weaknesses, but there was more than enough time to grow. Then the season premiere came and I was floored. It might be the worst episode this series has ever done, and left me legitimately disappointed. I remember the complaints on IMDb, I remember the phony attempts at giving the audience something emotional, and I remember how smugly self-referential it was the whole time. It's never a good sign when your first episode back is "Gravity." I would review it, but that ship has sailed a long time ago. 

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.

Season two of Girl Meets World just left me confused more than anything else. At times, it was genuinely funny, the writing was sharp as a razor blade, the characters were genuinely entertaining, and I felt like I could actually empathize with them as well. The next four episodes after "Gravity" turned the tide completely and gave me hope that the series had finally arrived. "Pluto" is in my personal top five right now. Even when certain plots didn't work in later episodes or just annoyed me, I still wasn't seeing any genuinely bad episodes, just things that the show could have improved on. Then September hit and I watched "Cory and Topanga," and that's when I realized GMW was falling into old habits. These old habits plagued the rest of the season, and with the exception of all three "Texas" episodes and "Forgiveness Project," nothing else really got me. It was either decent for what it was or just....plain terrible. I don't know what happened, but I guess this Jay-Z lyric could explain it:

"Had a spark when you started, but now you're just garbage"

This is the best way I can sum up season two. It had a hot streak with a bunch of genuinely great or good episodes, then sometime after "Yearbook" (which felt like a true game-changing moment), it started flaking out on us and we started getting episodes that were unfocused, bland, or irritating. Then the love triangle happened. I remember reviewing the "Texas" episodes and showering the writers with praise. Honestly, they deserved it. It was a three-part episode that could have easily lost steam after the first one, and although it wasn't perfect, it was Girl Meets World in rare form. Mature, subtle, great characterization, actions that made sense, loads of enjoyable comedic moments, and potential for an entertaining storyline in the future. If you really wanted to watch your first GMW episode, I can't think of another one that puts it all together and have it make sense like the "Texas" trilogy did. These episodes made me realize that there is nothing stopping Jacobs and company from making a solid Boy Meets World sequel in this era. They have potential to do something really special and showed it in October. 

Which is why it frustrates me when this series continues to make the same mistakes. A lapse in characterization, a bad joke, a plot that goes nowhere, these things happen all the time and can be dealt with if they happen every once in a while. But this show does the SAME REPETITIVE TRASH ALL THE TIME. They can't get into a groove episode-wise because something has to break up the pace and get in the way. The Halloween episode that did absolutely nothing for anybody. Maya constantly crying about her broken home and how her dad is evil. Riley being legitimately stupid. Cory trying to Feeny the kids but he is given nothing to work with. Farkle never getting interesting episodes focused on him. Topanga doing nothing. Auggie becoming overexposed. Lucas...........actually being an entertaining character. Yeah, I'll definitely give them credit for that. 

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. 

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm just too old for this and I should start watching shows like Mad Men or Parks and Recreation. The X-Files has been on my bucket list for a while, so I could always get into that. I've gone from watching kids live-action shows (as a kid) to outgrowing them...and then I ended up watching them again. I wouldn't say it's cyclic - most people probably never watch another kids' live action show for the rest of their lives past 14, even if they end up having kids of their own. I just ended up in a place where...well, I guess if I don't mind being hard on myself "emotionally regressive" due to things (you can read my Jessie retrospective on what those things are). But I did discover that were were plenty of "adults" who watch these shows for a variety of reasons - many just like to watch them with their kids, many feel almost forced to watch them through their kids and can't stand them, and many, including parents but, um, "other people" (we'll call them something nicer than "losers") just find them legitimately better than most "adult" comedies, especially multi-cams (when The Big Bang Theory is pretty much the best around...yeah). Even on the single-cam front the only ones I can remember from the past ten years that were truly universally loved are The Office and Parks and Rec, and even there that's not entirely true as a lot of people screamed and yelled about Steve Carrell somehow being magically inferior to Ricky Gervias until as late as O-US's last few seasons. It's funny because NBC used to be the home of single-cams, but now they've pretty much "found refuge" on ABC where they're not nearly as fondly remembered as they once were. Even Modern Family has pretty much dulled into a weighty tarnish, Black'ish won't quell naysayers until it scores a third season and even The Middle, The Goldbergs and Fresh off the Boat are very divisive. The Real O'Neals is pretty much a non-starter and The Muppets is the Hindenburg in the form of a TV retro-franchise sitcom. But now I'm really getting off-topic. The point is that you really won't find much better comedy elsewhere, at least multi-cam, at least on basic cable, and dramas are great (I've mentioned a few of my favorites over other reviews like Justified, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire) but it's nice to have some reliable, dumb and truly uplifting entertainment to return to. I think that's why these shows had such surprising staying power with older audiences, at least up until the 2014 "Kidocaylpse." But again, that's another time. Although it's funny you mention X-Files because I've been meaning to do a review of the latest season as well - I even have parts of a draft up and everything. Would love to have you join in, doing these "off-network" reviews by my lonesome has been getting kind of...lonesome. Kids live-action has become so stagnant in such a short time that I wonder if there's a point where you stop watching it. There's that theory too. There's a theory that the best shows - like Liv and Maddie, and Drake and Josh, and Good Luck Charlie, and even Jessie, and of course Girl Meets World - let the show evolve and grow naturally and try their best to remain fresh and not use the "kiddie show" crutch as an excuse. And there's another theory that most shows - like A.N.T. Farm, and Game Shakers, and Bunk'd...and Jessie...and Girl Meets World...just don't care, that the "kiddie show" excuse isn't just a crutch but an excuse to not even put effort into it in the first place. That the core demo will inevitably grow out of it, so why bother? Why bother giving them a reason to watch as a distraction from studying for their driver's test or even later in life? Why bother trying to rope parents in? Why bother proving internet critics wrong? The show's locked into three, max four seasons anyway. After a while you do start to wonder among the production crews and staff who views this as a legitimate TV show and who views this as just near-guaranteed job security for the next three years.  Then again, I look back to other kids shows and I realize that they don't pull the same BS that GMW does. I can still watch a Drake and Josh episode and hurt myself from laughing too hard. Likewise! We should review that show too some day. But yeah, I'll stop butting in and save my words for later. 100 Things to Do Before High School, as I said before, took what GMW was trying to do with the love triangle (I don't believe the writers when they say there never was one) and condensed it in one entertaining and intriguing episode. Hannah Montana had better filler episodes than this series ever has. And from what I have seen of Fuller House, the vibe is a lot less restrained and it is not trying to live up to the original series because the cast and crew are actually here to have some fun. Why can't Girl Meets World just calm down and stop trying to do everything at once? 

Maybe this show just isn't all that good and never was in the first place. It has no standards to live up to on Disney Channel and was gassed up by people who thought Boy Meets World was this gritty hardcore drama so the constant repetition of that got in the heads of Jacobs and the writers, so now they feel like they have to go for broke in fear of losing their fans. But why? This is a sequel to Boy Meets World, not season ten of The X-Files. They have all the time in the world to get the audience invested, develop the characters gradually, and just come up with simple plots that flow naturally without having a lesson chained to them. 

Or maybe I'm just thinking about this too simply. In the end, season two of Girl Meets World did a good job of expanding the world (no pun intended) of the characters and giving us new insight into who they are. The classroom scenes improved to an extent, the dialogue became snappier and less hacky, a true comedic presence was developed, the lessons in some episodes were streamlined and blended into the main story smoothly, and the emotional content actually started carrying more weight. The guest appearances from BMW characters were almost all top-notch, and in spite of the many issues that I had with this season as a whole, I admittedly saw genuine growth and just enough progress to justify tuning into season three. I don't hate this show and I never have. I want it to be successful. We all want it to be successful. But when the same problems continue arising, you start wondering if this is even the best show on Disney Channel, much less kids television. I would try figuring that out, but that's a lot of uninteresting mediocrity to choke down and I don't have that kind of time so I guess I'll start small. But that's for another day. 

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

I know Unknown's been chomping at the bit ready to speak, so it's time for him to grab the microphone and let his words rip. 

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).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mysteries of Laura S2E15 The Mystery of the Unknown Caller and S2E16 The Mystery of the End of Watch Part 2

Yeah, instead of a quotation from the episode in question, why don't I just throw up a video of what the experience of watching The Mysteries of Laura is like:


What is it? yeah just go back to Part I and read all that, nothing's changed.

So here I go trying to watch beyond the first twelve minutes of "The Mystery of the Unknown Caller." I thought I had stumbled upon a winning formula to actually get through this....

It still doesn't work!!!!!

Immediately the episode continues to dive into a poorly written cliche storm. Now that I've had a few days to sit on it, a lot of the writing, cliches and tropes would fit right at home on Disney Channel after all. The whole "oh I'm not totally bringing up this completely random yet specific subject up for a reason" switcheroo. The stock, one-note characters. The freakin' guest star, literally, the freakin' guest star. And it gets worse.

So Laura goes visits her dad or something and there's some cliche dialogue exchange here and there involving Laura trying to find Lily and Laura extorts the info from her dad with blackmail revolving around porn.



It leads to a phone call with one of Lily's supposed associates where Laura poses as a...uhhh...what's the word I should use with the consideration of what this blog is? A paramour? An escort? ...a random fuck buddy? Who might also be a pedophile? Anyway Laura gets there and pedo-guy-maybe is surprised that, yeah, Debby Messing is like hella old. And then Lily shows up and Laura chases her up an escalator where Lily doesn't realize that going backwards doesn't help and Debby (Ryan) just quite frankly embarrasses herself. And then Laura says some faux-witty one-liner that isn't worth repeating and Debby (Ryan) just has a look on her face that says it all - you know, over a year ago I was pretty much the Queen of Disney Channel. What happened?



...and I'm not going to lie, that's where I stopped watching, because it was pretty clear it was going to be pretty bad and I didn't want to write another ultra-long review going over every cliche and still have another episode to follow up with that. So I fast-forwarded all the way to the end where it turns out Lily's boyfriend was tied up with some drug kingpins and it leads to a really big bust in an airport hangar and I'm sorry even just reliving it is pretty ridiculous. This is what happens when someone realizes that they kind of have this semi-quirky "character" procedural drama that fails at even the "semi" part and then decide to have a Miami Vice-style big bust at the end. Oh and Jessie Lily will be sticking around being Jessie Laura's new semi-live in babysitter.

Ugh.

The Mysteries of Laura really is a very, very bad Rizzoli and Isles rip-off and even that show isn't exactly the greatest or most gripping procedural in the history of television - or even during just this television season, for that matter. Even just on broadcast, there's Chicago PD, SVU, and if you want drama without the procedural The Blacklist is way better. And every single one of those shows is also on NBC! Or hook up USA Network OnDemand and watch the best drama this side of AMC, Suits. Or for that matter Mad Men. Or freaking Shondaland playing right opposite of Mysteries of Laura. If you just demand having "quirky character"-focused procedurals for whatever dumb reason then there's a whole slew of shows that are so much more superior in every criteria imaginable, whether it's the "quirky character" part, having an actually compelling mystery or from a pure dumb entertainment standpoint - the aforementioned Castle on ABC, CBS's Elementary and Limitless, the aforementioned Rizzoli and Isles, or just throw up a few episodes of Monk from the Netflix archives. I mean...in this day and age with every other TV expert talking about "Peak TV" there's no reason to subject yourself to mediocrity. That goes for you the viewer/the five of you who are reading this, and that goes for you, Debbys.

Well we're done with the 16 minutes of  The Mystery of the Unknown Caller that I'm willing to tolerate, let's move on to The Mystery of the End of Watch.

If you're familiar with the last summer season sleeper hit of, what was it, two or three years ago or whatever?, or with procedurals in general, you'll know the term "End of Watch" refers to when a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty. So yeah, spoiler alert, though I don't know what good it will do you since the spoiler is in the episode title itself. At the very end of the last episode while they were doing their big celebration press conference on the drug bust, Laura's boss ended up taking a bullet from an unseen assassin, sad face.


This has nothing to do with the episode, except that since I brought up the word "assassin" I just wanted to be reminded of something I'd rather be doing instead right now.

It turns out she has a kid who looks like he could be a young Josh Peck if all you're familiar with Josh Peck is Grandfathered (that's another show we'll have to look at). And then we have more cop cliches like the grieving cop who grieves silently and "just needs to process it in his own way." I have an odd feeling this episode's going to spend a decent amount of time spinning its wheels and devoting itself to filler much like the last one. 



Meanwhile Josh Lucas-I-guess invites his current girlfriend over who's freaking out over the captain's death and they find their mutual grieving to be...arousing?

In the meantime of the meantime, more cop tropes you've seen in literally every other cop show ever. In the process they found out Laura was the real target, because her name is in the show's title. Laura instantly thinks it's the crime boss she just took down, and they flashback to him being dragged off in cuffs shouting you'll be dead! Dead! in a way exactly as you'd expect in a Simpsons episode.



Of course he can always plead the "it's really German!" defense.

Laura wants to haul Mr. Bad Boss out of his cell for interrogation, only to find that he switched identities with another con scheduled for release that day, because the writers need to figure out a way to make sure this guy remains a threat and it's not like people in jail are threatening at all.



Oh, and we finally cue the intro credits.

It turns out the guy switched with him because he's straight up scared for his life, which I guess nowadays qualifies as a twist because usually it's oh I gotta pay off my student debts this and I wanna make it to my daughter's birthday that. It's actually refreshing to see someone for a change just say dude I'm afraid this mofo's gonna cut me up

Oh, and yes they actually did use the word "mofo" in this, because on NBC Quentin Tarantino circa 1995 is still fresh.

Anyway he has legit reason to be afraid, because this same crime boss mofo actually did cut up his own now ex-living ex-fiancee, and their kid is now a central lead in finding him before he continues going after Laura. Laura's especially afraid that he might go after Lily next, so of course I'm hoping she'll fail and Debby (Ryan) gets to move on to singing full-time. Or maybe Josh Lucas so they can find another cardboard cutout from the studio lot to replace him. 

As soon as they find out the location of the baby this leads to a scene where all of the important characters who more or less show up in every episode in full battle gear pointing their guns at a nurse holding a baby asking where Crime Boss Mofo is. This scene is played straight without a hint of irony or quirkiness. Fortunately Mr. Crime Boss is less a badass motherfucker and more a dumbass stupid-fuck who is over in the next room and easily taken down trying to climb a fence because he should've spent more time in jail actually hitting the exercise yard than concocting half-assed escape plans that somehow still work. 

Now we get to our standard interrogation scene, and if I went ahead and fast-forwarded some hot Debby on Debby action in the last episode you betcha I'm gonna fast forward through this.


This oft-promoted still image is the best I can tolerate.

Blah blah blah don't care don't care and my fast forward button lands on the captain's wake. And wait...Laura's last name is Diamond?



At the wake they discover the captain's son had been kidnapped. And then we get to something finally worth watching - a commercial for Universal Orlando Park (in Orlando, Florida!)

They start looking into the captain's ex who of course like everybody else who isn't a main character is a cliched scumbag and stalker, and because I guess the whole drug syndicate thing they insisted carry over into this episode stopped being a thing now.



They start thinking that captain's ex was the real killer all along and the timing of the drug bust was just coincidental, proving that the tie-in from the previous episode is a giant bait-and-switch.







They deduce that in order to stage such an elaborate hit he needs money, which leads to both the revelation that he needed a loan and a joke about how great minds think alike because three people shouted it out at the same time in the space of all the two seconds needed to figure out, hey, there's these things called loans that exist. 

Oh fucking goddamnit they're doing another one of these cliched scumbag profiles like they did when they "introduced" Lily.


At this rate I'm going to have seen all of 16 minutes of the entire episode when I get done with it...again.

At this point I'm skipping straight to the next commercial break and well what do you know....


They did get Miranda Cosgrove onto this network after all! NBC: where teen starlets go to have their careers die.

The show is called Crowded and it's about some empty nesters who have all their children come back to live with them, because if there's one thing rapidly aging Boomer-generation television execs love, it's finding ways to remind themselves that they're still better than Millennials.

Yeah. Sigh. ...we'll probably cover that one too. Just a heads up, I already covered how equally unspeakably bad Undateable is and I saw the episode of Grandfathered where Drake Bell shows up and...while I want to say overall it kind of sucked, there were some legitimate good ideas in it, plus it's hard to beat the duo of Bell-Peck (there's a reason why Drake & Josh is probably the greatest live-action show in Nickelodeon's history). But again, we'll get to that one later (maybe by the end of the week if it's still OnDemand?)


After the break, Laura actually gets home and we see more Lily again, adjusting to life in her new role, which is exactly the same as her old role. 


Trial version because I am a cheap bastard

It is LITERALLY JESSIE!!!

Oh oh oh oh ooo~ooh, Hey Lucy! Hey Lucy!

It feels like your sister investigating crimes ever~y day! Hey Lucy! Hey Lucy!

Also I just noticed I kept calling her "Lily" throughout this review. I'm too lazy to correct it.

Anyway, Lucy says something that inspires Laura on how to find the missing kid, in the meantime Josh Lucas does relationship stuff I don't care about, namely proposing to his girlfriend who isn't Laura. I got that much while fast-forwarding. Pretty sure I'm accurate.

Meanwhile Laura decides that there may be clues in the captain's old files, and take a guess that she used the same password the department originally gave to her - yup, the "impossible to remember" (actual show quote) randomly generated ones that you get at school or work or whatever. I guess this is a lighthearted quirky joke. It turns out there's a kid-finder app that the captain was using and with any luck this episode should be wrapped up and I can go back to watching What's My Car Worth? on Velocity.

...oh wait it's only the halfway mark of the episode? Damn.

Anyway they find the scumbag dad and take him down and find the son which kind of brings to question yeah what's going to happen for the rest of the episode. Oh wait, WHAT A TWEEEST the kid wasn't kidnapped, he came voluntarily. Ok.

Yeah the dad was trying to protect his son because he was spooked out. The cops are a bit perplexed why he would be spooked out, I mean nothing big happened other than his ex-wife getting assassinated on local television. Anyway they put him through a polygraph and of course Laura knows he's telling the truth despite the polygraph saying otherwise because this show has to throw out a TWEEST!!! literally. Every. Damn. Minute. 

Yeah when you start doing that the TWEEST!!! starts to lose its effect.

It turns out the ex is involved in yet another massive-scale criminal smuggling ring. Does everything have to involve Laura taking down huge crime syndicates? Well in this case it makes sense since it turns out to be the same one from the previous episode (uh I think) and they killed the captain not only to knock off a big wig involved in taking them down but they can also use her ex to pay them the life insurance money.


This naturally leads up to a sing operation and big action scene where the vestiges of the syndicate are taken down.


 

Of course they catch the bad guys and Laura says something that's supposed to be a witty one-liner. They wrap things up with the ex and his son and there's a scene where they honor their fallen captain. I have to assumed it's emotional because I just fast-forwarded through it. 

Laura goes home and Lucy's back and it's raining which is why you know it's emotional. And aww the Debbys hug. Oh and Laura found out about Josh Lucas proposing to the new girlfriend and this elicits Debby (Ryan) who up to this point was actually doing some pretty good acting to shout what the hell! in a manner that just makes it all too clear she spent waaaaaaay too much time on a network where the worst word she could say was "heck."

Oh, and she also says "seize the moment by the balls."


Just watch through the title card to get why I posted this here.

So Laura gets out and races to try to meet Josh Lucas before he makes his proposal and it naturally ends on an awkward quirky cliffhanger. Season finale yo! (In February. Rarely a good sign).

The Mystery of the Unknown Caller

Episode Grade: A gigantic big fat solid F minus Congratulations NBC you put out an episode that was worse than the Minority Report pilot.I at least managed to actually watch through all that, somehow. Even if say for example you are such a major, huge fan of Debby Ryan that you would almost literally watch anything with her in it...

...oh, wait.

Yeah. Let me stand as living proof that there is almost nothing redeeming in this episode. At all. I'm not even going to bother to conjecture on Christian and Sean going through with this if they didn't even like Debby on Jessie. She's been in the episode for maybe like 10 minutes of run time total. I don't blame Mike for completely sitting this one out.
Episode MVP: A tie between Mike from CAR*BROS (see top video) and Roman from Regular Car Reviews (see video right above).

The Mystery of the End of Watch

Episode Grade: D-, probably because I'm feeling generous. Debby (Ryan) was in this episode for even less, slightly under four minutes of run-time, but then again it's not her show. Then again, ummm...what is she doing here, exactly? Seriously.The plot wasn't necessarily any better or worse than the first episode, nor was the writing or the (rather poor for the most part) the acting. Given all the other entertainment options out there (watching the other shows I named, watching Regular Car Reviews on YouTube, tweeting about your Disney Channel blog, writing your Disney Channel blog) there's simply no reason why to watch this show. If you somehow manage to be an even bigger Debby Ryan superfan than I you're better off either DVR'ing whatever reruns of Jessie Disney Channel bothers to throw up anymore or just GIS Debby and stare at that. Given the low ratings (even for NBC) and "bubble" status of Mysteries of Laura that might be a moot point next season - I'm just glad it's the end so I don't have to worry about it until fall, if not forever.

I kind of feel a little bit what it was like for Christian and Sean to track down all the episodes of other shows with Row and Sabs in it, even though I legitimately like those other shows. I hate to think if they need to do the same thing I just did and track down a legitimate crappy paint-by-numbers droll-ama like this bereft of any actual tension or suspense just because it had Row or Sabs in it.



One time I did that back when I was really into Sarah Hyland and she was in SVU. See NBC that's how you do one of these shows. You still have SVU you know how to friggin' do this.

Episode MVP: Debby Messing because she legitimately has acting chops. Or Debby Ryan because she actually displayed some decent acting here too (very honestly much better than nearly everyone else. She earned that "and" credit, for multiple reasons, not the least of which just agreeing to be on it). Or Debby Ryan because reasons of waifuism


...so, Mike, care to join me for Grandfathered, Undateable and Crowded? Maybe throw in some Dads with Brenda Song too? Maybe dig up an old episode of Young & Hungry while we're at it?


Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets Legacy (Season 2 Finale)

This is their legacy, legacy.........yeah-uh............there's no guarantee, it's not up to me, time for season three........

Well, after a season of untimely deaths, long-awaited returns, new characters, episodes that changed the complexion of the show, episodes that made me want to claw my eyes out and choke myself simultaneously, and everything in between, we are finally here. Girl Meets World's second season is officially in the books. I'm going to refrain from talking about the season as a whole in this review because I still want to do a performance appraisal with Unknown. That's when I'm going to really let loose and be completely honest about how I feel when it comes to the series. You see, unlike Lucas, Riley, and Maya, I never chose to stop because I never had to keep my GMW feelings inside. 

I had to do that. Okay, I'll be blunt: It annoys me in ways I can't understand that the love triangle has yet to be resolved. They really should have spent less time on filler episodes that never went anywhere and tried to wrap this up as soon as possible after "Texas." Even after the cluster-f*** that was "Girl Meets New Year's," I still gave the writers the benefit of the doubt in hopes that they would stop dragging this out and just get to the damn point. But there's honestly no excuse for this. This is what frustrates me about season two and the series as a whole: The things that actually matter and can change the landscape of the show move at a snail's pace. You expect me to believe that these absolutely amazing, tight-knit friends never talked about what happened on the rooftop for months? Are the writers really thinking that the fans have that kind of time?

 I want action, I want things to happen, I crave for things to be shaken up on this show. It might be scary, but that's the protocol when you do a coming-of-age series like this. I watched an episode of 100 Things to Do Before High School yesterday and I was left wanting more. The episode handled teenage love, crushes, and heartbreak in a way that was charming, funny, and satisfying. I was left wondering why this show made it look so complex and bizarre. All I'm saying is, you had another chance to wrap it up and you blew it. Time is not going to wait for this show to catch up. Season three is sink or swim for GMW, no way around it anymore.

This episode, in all honesty, was pretty enjoyable. I had problems with some of it which I'll get into and those problems prevent me from grading higher, but the parts I liked, I didn't just like, I enjoyed. After everything this show has been throwing at me for weeks on end, it was nice to see it get back into the swing of things. I loved Lucas using flashcards (writing one word down on each card for emphasis and Maya questioning it was golden) both times, I loved Maya and Lucas' scenes with their authority figures, I loved the way they handled Cory becoming the kids' high school teacher, I absolutely loved Lucas and Zay's dialogue, and I loved Lucas finally making a decision. The important thing is neither Riley or Maya influenced his choice, he finally decided to take action and not pursue either one. Even though I would have preferred he pick one, it made sense to reject them both and just move on from it. And nobody here is saying that the love triangle should be buried completely, never to be mentioned ever again. It can come up later when necessary, but for now, it had to be resolved. I was really satisfied when Lucas put us all out of our collective misery and finished it. I even enjoyed some of the classroom scenes, and the entire graduation piece was flawless. 

But here's where "Legacy" slips up. And they were so close too. Riley and Maya didn't want Lucas to do something that would negatively affect their friendship, but when he chose neither of them, the very next scene showed them unable to even look at each other and on the verge of having some sort of mental breakdown. Why couldn't the episode have just ended with Lucas choosing to stop? Why did they ruin the goodwill that the scene right before created? By doing this, it means that Riley and Maya both wanted Lucas to choose them and would have been upset no matter what the verdict was. They spend so much time emphasizing friendship every damn episode that it seems a little off-putting to just turn into a romantic comedy. You know, most romantic comedies don't even have real comedy so GMW gets the edge there. This could have been their chance to resolve it in a way that made sense, but instead they take one step forward and two steps back in the same episode. Once again, we are left with uncertainty but it seems gratuitous and a little self-indulgent at this point.

Also, the friendship bench. I hate it, I hate every part of it. I hate that this episode brings up what legacy the kids will leave behind. I hate that the last classroom scene had me biting and then they fumbled the ball and turned it over on the potential game-winning drive with this stupid bench. I hate that Zay's name is on it when he is barely on the show and only really has ties to Lucas, so they can't justify his inclusion even though I really like him. And I hate the dramatic feel of the whole thing. Look, I know GMW relishes these moments, but sometimes less is more. When I was in eighth grade, I wasn't thinking about legacy. I was just thinking about this girl I liked who didn't even want me as a friend, going to Europe for spring break, my self-proclaimed "tripolar" math teacher's sense of humor, and wondering which high school I was going to. You're in junior high, what legacy can you possibly leave behind? 

The "people change people" engraving was actually really nice, but like a lot of things, Girl Meets World goes the route of forced sentimentality. I don't know about you guys, but I'm starting to think that some of these emotional moments aren't really......earned. What's the point in being a sitcom for kids if all you're going to do is get them to learn things and cry about everything? Why can't you be funny and goofy as well? I got to watch three episodes of Fuller House so far, and I don't get the feeling from them that they're going to be filling your head with messages 24/7. The vibe is a lot more fun on that show, if not overly self-referential and meta. In spite of that, Fuller House pulls it off pretty easily. I still have to watch the rest of the season, but at least for now, I'm going to see these people become a loving family through actual experiences, instead of having them tell us over and over that they are. 

Alright, I think I'm done here. Despite my gripes, this episode actually gave me a lot of positives and if nothing else, captured the fear and panic of moving into high school. As Riley put it, they were kings. The straw that stirred the drink, the type of kids that used to think the sky was falling. Now they're going to have to work even harder to make a name for themselves, which means struggle. Which means they're going to have to say what they want to say to the kids that said that they eyeballed them. Which means plenty of ripe material for season three. In the end, "Legacy" represented how I feel about season two as a whole: A hot start, some pretty decent character moments, cloying emotional content, really enjoyable moments, and a broken finish. What more can I say?

Episode Grade: B-
Episode MVP: Nobody. They're all losers, none of them get to win. No, I'm not that cold. Peyton Meyer, honestly. Lucas has come a long way this season and he actually entertains me a lot more these days. And for a couple minutes, he gave me relief from the love triangle when he chose to stop. At this point, he is a lot less annoying than Riley and Maya have a tendency to be, and he earned this award. In extra innings, he came through with the walk off. He commanded a last-minute drive right at the end of regulation to tie up the game. He nailed the game-winning three with one second left on the clock. Alright, I'm done. Peyton Meyer, ladies and gentlemen. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-Seriously, the first couple minutes of this episode were really good. It wasn't until the second classroom scene that the show started falling into its habits. I like how Lucas' flashcards could also double as a joke, like he just chose to use them for no discernible reason. Nice job, writers. 

-Oh yeah, I watched "Bay Window" twice: The first time live and the second time a week later, about two-thirds of it the second time. I liked it a lot less the second time and the ending was really stupid. I don't think I'm going to review it anymore because I might just get upset for no reason. But the joke about Lucas looking exactly the same when he was a little boy as he does now was excellent. Why do they give him all these great comedy bits and drag out the love triangle, which he is directly involved in?

-I also had the misfortune of looking at a Michael Jacobs interview before I even watched this episode. I like Jacobs, I really do, and I think he has a genuine love for developing characters, but none of his ideas are ever translated on television the way he talks about them. And from what I understand, the writing team has a lot of creative control so now I know who to point my finger at if this show declines before it ever had a chance to peak.

-"You didn't teach us enough." WHY IS THAT CORY'S PROBLEM?! WHY DO YOU GUYS KEEP SAYING THAT?! WHY IS CORY BLAMING HIMSELF?! WHY DO YOU GUYS WAIT MONTHS TO TALK ABOUT THINGS?! Ugh, I hated that line.

-This is Nitpicky Mike coming out, but why are they graduating in the spring? They live in New York City and they go to a public school, they should be graduating in June. I would know because I've been going to NYC public schools my entire life and I'm leaving high school in June. They also mention what season it is multiple times for some reason, like they're trying to tell us something. What are we supposed to believe, that this is some magic school system that allows kids to graduate middle school in April? Boy, I hope someone got fired for that blunder.  

-I wanted to enjoy Farkle's moment with Mr. Norton, but these two have no relationship outside of that one iffy episode so I couldn't really care. I think I figured out why Farkle doesn't really show any emotion. As he has gotten older, he has become more cold and calculating, owing to his intellectual, scientific background. Kinda like Agent Scully from The X-Files or Brian in the early years of Family Guy. Him asking Norton if feelings can be stronger than science is an interesting question, and helps display the growth that his character has shown over the year. This is something the writers could focus on in season three, trying to find a way to crack Farkle emotionally and possibly showing a disinterest in science. I mean, if the series wants to become what Jacobs sees it as, then go for it. 

-Words cannot express my hatred for the friendship bench. I know I said it before, but I really hate that they resorted to this. They took a great moment between Lucas and Harley and cheapened it for a reaction. It's really corny and just encapsulates why this show frustrates me sometimes. They keep going for these cliche, syrupy sitcom moments that don't even feel genuine because I don't know much about these characters. They can keep telling us that these people are the best of friends, but until you show me, I'm putting an asterisk next to it. Congratulations. These people are the Barry Bonds of friendship. Wait, that's unfair to Bonds because at least he showed us what his capabilities are. Can you really remember a time where we saw any iconic moments on this bench? Any? Other than that one episode where Maya went nuts because Riley didn't stand up for her, this bench means nothing to me. It's like the new bay window, only now they're trying to make us think that this bench has a purpose when the bay window was bashed into our heads repeatedly as an actual character. If anything, Topanga's has had more game-changing moments than that stupid bench. 

-Come on, we all knew that Cory was going to be teaching these kids in high school. The writers knew it too, and they knew that having Cory just start teaching there without a reason like Feeny would just insult our intelligence. The way they went about it was perfect and made me believe in the role Cory plays in these kids' lives. Now that was a genuine moment. I even got chills when Topanga said that Cory's going back to high school. Stuff like this shows me that the writers have it in them to make season three a big hit. I just wish they could show these realistic, genuine moments more often. They don't have to try so hard so soon. We'll be there for the ride. 

-I inadvertently revealed some things that I'm going to touch on more in the appraisal. Just know that I'm going to be very critical and blunt with these things because I really dig this show. I wouldn't be reviewing it if it was Bunk'd or Henry Danger or whatever. I see a lot of potential for it to be something much better, and as I see it now, it's one of the few kids shows on right now that gets a passionate reaction out of me, good episodes and bad ones. I don't want to bring the tone of the blog down by being so negative all the time, but these things have to be said for the sake of what I do.

Unknown, I'm finished, you want to get a piece?   

Sure I do! Though I don't have much to say on this episode specifically since really it's just a sum of what the series in its entirety has been, both for good and bad. 

But first of all I'm glad you're getting into 100 Things too! I still have that specific episode you're referring to on DVD, maybe we'll review it. I'm also glad that you at least thought it captured the tension of graduating middle school. I don't know if it's necessarily a bigger deal now than it was when I graduated middle school - I remember my dad watching the episode of Modern Family where Alex graduated middle school and the high school-like atmosphere made him launch into a rather Trump-esque "this is wrong with America" speech because apparently pomp and circumstance (both the actual song and actual pomp and circumstance) offends old people for some reason - but middle school does tend to be seen as a blip on the radar compared to the monster that is high school. I remember when I graduated middle school I wasn't necessarily in a hurry to go to high school and leave all my friends behind. Many of them were going to the brand-new high school that had just had its ribbon-cutting ceremony within the graduating semester and were going to be the very first graduating class while I was going off to the "ghetto school." Eight grade was certainly more enjoyable while 7th and 6th grades were...eh. Incidentally 100 Things also had an episode like this, but from the other direction - kids transitioning from elementary/primary school into middle school. No more nap times, no more recess (well, middle school still had recess, it had just "evolved" into lunch period) and of course all the academics took a pretty huge leap in difficulty and complexity. In some ways it's even more jarring than the transition from middle school to high school.

But ummm...yeah. The, uh, actual episode in question. Yeahhhhhhh. 

So. Stuff happened. Uh, we saw more Harley. We saw more Mr. Norton. We saw a bench.

Between Girl Meets World Reviewed and especially after what Mike said, I don't really feel like there's more to contribute here. Especially since to be really honest here I'm not in a hurry to watch the episode again so - thanks for covering for me, Mike! 

That actually brings up another thing - if you're wondering why I've been so tardy to actually contribute to reviews lately, sometimes days if not a full week or more after the fact, well this is part of it - specifically, just quite frankly a reluctance to relive those events. For shows that I actually don't regret like Stuck in the Middle it ends up snowballing into them into a general lethargy. Mike's right, this genre of show has really been spinning its wheels lately. Stuck in the Middle is a nice boost to Disney Channel but in the meantime 100 Things' future is in doubt, though I've been told I should expect a Season 2 renewal (by who? By that guy who goes by "DisneyNickAlive" here on this very blog, if he's even still around here). 

But I'm...like...uggghghghgghgh. Ugh. I'm so glad Christian and Sean take care of GMW on a per episode basis for us. Speaking of which I have to agree with Christian and Sean on this one. Having Cory just blurt out that he's joining the gang in high school ruins the joke. They made that joke in the very first episode, they turned that joke on its head in the second season opener, and now they've gone done and ruined it for season 3.

I guess the only thing I have to say is about leaving a legacy in friggin' junior high school. Like Mike said, normal kids don't think that way. In Middle School, kids' worlds are very small - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lately, if not for the past several years or even longer, "small world" has been equated into "self-centered-ness" and outright "selfishness" and not only is that not necessarily accurate, but not necessarily a healthy thing either. Kids today have it drilled into their heads that they need to have a positive impact and make every breathing moment count for the greater good of humankind while in the next breath being told how self-centered are Millennials and the generation coming up (sometimes awkwardly called "Generation Z" because whoever comes up with this crap has truly given up, other times called "well at least those kids aren't Millennials"). This has been giving some kids the impression that they need to do what's pretty much physically impossible and small intimate moments to just share with themselves or with a small group of friend are bad. I'll get into this more with the general review of Season 2, but there's clearly an obsession with Riley to make every moment not just count, but be revolutionary and world-changing. Again, that's physically impossible. 

One thing that this did nail down is how anxious kids are when they inevitably break up, or if they somehow manage to make it through to the same high school how they're going to transition together.That's what kids are actually going to be focusing on. 

And admittedly a "friendship bench" is at least a realistic thing to leave a physical legacy behind in a middle school. Though, again, Liv and Maddie did it better (and again, more on that later).

So.....

Episode Grade: B-. It's got stuff.*
Episode MVP: Eh, can I give it to Sarah just for the hell of it? Was she even in this episode? If not I'll give it to Peyton because whatever Mike said.

Other observations: 

 - *Stuff! It's a plot!

 - uhh honestly that's it.


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