Thursday, September 1, 2016

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets Gravity

It's not my 'Krainian episode.......'cause this one sucks.

This......this episode. "Girl Meets Gravity," the season two premiere of Girl Meets World. How does one manage to talk about one of the worst episodes in the history of the series? You might remember that I have made my disdain for this episode clear on several other occasions, but I haven't seen it since its original airing. I just remember it being so bad, there was no point in ever watching it again.

I recently saw it for the second time and let me just say that I hate this episode even more now. Especially considering all the crap that this show has done since then, and you keep this episode in the back of your head through it all. When you do, you realize that the writers recognized what people didn't like about Girl Meets World a long time ago, but they don't intend to change anything because that's just the way things are supposed to be. I can't say it's the worst ever, because stuff like "World of Terror 2," "Commonism," "Triangle," and "Ski Lodge" exist. If I were putting together a bottom five so far, "Gravity" would find a place though. It's reflective of everything people can't stand about this show, and it came at a time when we were expecting a lot better. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's go.

The episode starts in the weirdest way possible: With Riley standing in front of a green screen meant to resemble the universe and talking some crap about outer space or something. I'm sorry, I just can't take this seriously. This bizarre narration by Riley is done several times throughout the episode, and each time, it just breaks up the pace and reminds me that I don't have a clue of what's going on. It would have been absolutely horrible if Riley started doing this every episode, so thank God for that, or as our narrator puts it, the mind of God. But yeah, remember Clarissa Explains It All and how Clarissa would always speak to the camera? This is what happens when you do that wrong. We're not even a few minutes in and already, I'm annoyed.

So the real important stuff starts when Riley is forced to get out of bed by Cory and Topanga. Riley doesn't want to get up even though it's the first day of school because she's afraid Cory is going to be her teacher again. Then we have a joke about how Mr. Feeny was teaching the kids all the time on Boy Meets World......because that's exactly what happened. They're not exaggerating to be funny, it's a genuinely hilarious joke that works with the situation. This is how you do meta humor correctly, when you have the history to back it up and you can poke fun at yourself. But that's pretty much all the quality self-referential jokes we're going to get tonight. Maya comes in, the girls talk about how mature they are now, kings and whatnot, then they leave barefoot. What a weird freaking joke. It's not like they forgot to put on shoes, they're just not wearing them. Why would Maya not be wearing them? Yeah, things are not looking up right now, guys.

So the kids walk into their new eighth grade class and meet the new teacher. They do this whole somewhat funny bit about how Cory let the kids do whatever they want, but this new teacher's hardcore, yo, and he's not playing around. One of the biggest problems with this show, at least at the time, is that they constantly point out things that don't make any sense, joke about it, and continue to do it. Being self-aware is pointless and unfunny if you don't plan to do anything about these problems because they seriously hinder the enjoyment of the show. By doing this, it's like a middle finger to the fans because you're essentially saying that nothing is going to change. Joking about it over and over again doesn't fix anything. And of course, Riley and Maya act like socially awkward weirdos and get the new teacher out of there.

Guess who their teacher is going to be now? You'll never guess. Could it be............yup, Cory. Betcha didn't see that coming, lol.

Look, we all know Cory was going to be the teacher again. There was some hope, but they kept beating it into you how things were going to change that when Cory finally walked through the door, none of it mattered. We all knew what was coming but they kept dragging it out.

So of course, Riley and Maya don't want to deal with Cory again and decide to leave for a new class. Meanwhile, at the bakery that we're just now seeing for the first time in ages, Mrs. Svorski is doing her shtick with Topanga and Auggie. Also, green screen Riley talked about sipping on gin and juice from the sun, the stars, and the moon. I don't know, something like that. Anyway, it seems like Mrs. Svorski knows something we don't and wants to be ready for it so she passes ownership of the bakery to Topanga. It must be really stressful to juggle, what with the lawyer job and all, but she accepts anyway. I guess the Ukrainian bakery joke is pretty funny. Maybe it's just the accent.

So back at school, Riley and Maya meet their new teacher and classmates. It's literally the same joke as before. The girls expect the world to cater to them and for things to go one way, but then they go the other way and they don't know how to handle it. Right now, Riley and Maya are insufferable. When your two protagonists are off their game and no one picks up the slack, that's a serious problem. Of course, this classroom scene is unique because the joke is that there are Riley, Maya, Farkle, and Lucas clones here. Except that's not a joke because none of it is funny. I'm serious, I'm just sitting here not understanding what's going on at all. We know what the lesson is here, but that's not going to stop them from hammering it in as much as they can, because kids can't pick up on subtlety at all and they're dumb. Seriously, at this point, just make the theme song "Sledgehammer" by Fifth Harmony and rewrite some of the lyrics. It's going to work just as well.

There's another thing I want to talk about since they keep doing it: The self-referential stuff. It gets very annoying very fast because the writers are relying on it as the one joke. It's not funny because these problems have plagued the show for a while, and the writers have done absolutely nothing to change that. Well, not absolutely nothing. To the show's credit, it did improve after this episode, but it just ended up with other problems. Also, it almost feels like Girl Meets World hasn't earned the right to make fun of itself. These meta jokes come off like the show has been on the air for years and is just now deciding to respond to critics. I would compare this to "Eric Hollywood," but what's the point? That's the kind of comedic brilliance that GMW has never reached.

Let's just save time here. Riley and Maya head to the bakery and it's pretty obvious that Riley is annoyed. For some reason, it feels like her parents are constantly circling her, like planets as she explicitly states because nobody was getting the metaphor before. No, seriously, thank you for being so on the nose about it. I didn't get it when you have been staring at me through outer space several times, breaking up the pace of the episode and wasting my time by trying to come off as deep. So it turns out that the girls find out about Mrs. Svorski's plans and Topanga is now the owner of the bakery, their supposed hangout. I say supposed because I've never seen these two step foot in this place before this episode, and after this episode, they spend all their time there so why are they complaining? Riley doesn't have to go to 'Krainian bakery if she doesn't want to see her mother. Who hangs out at a place like this anyway?

Topanga has also brought in Maya's mother to help out, and this gets the girls so freaking hot.......with rage, get your minds out of the gutter. They just flat out say that they don't want their parents all up in the videos dancing anymore. God, can somebody slap Riley and Maya? I haven't enjoyed either of them in this episode, and they've had the most screen time so I can't just ignore it. All they do until the you know what scene is complain about everything and talk in ways that suggest they know they're on a TV show. Look, I love meta humor and breaking the fourth wall. When it's done well, self-references can be absolutely hilarious. But this is just too much and none of it is even funny. So Riley and Maya sit down in the bakery as the Matthews family leaves. Mrs. Svorski is on the far end of the bakery and it looks like her bones are going to fade into dust through the walls as Auggie looks at her one last time. Apparently, she gave him a present, which should be a cause for concern because she's not acting like she's retiring. She's acting like, well...................

...................anyway, we cut back to Riley doing her best Carl Sagan impression. It looks really weird because she's not looking at the camera and it's even more apparent that she's standing in front of something so the illusion of the Milky Way is gone. Then she walks to her left next to a picture of Mrs. Svorski and it turns out that Riley has given this off-kilter, inappropriate speech in front of a small crowd of people who came to honor Mrs. Svorski after she killed herself. Yeah, she killed herself, I'm going with that. When this episode first aired, we all knew Svorski was going to die. It was just a matter of how. We're never told how, but considering everything that we saw in this episode, I don't think Mrs. Svorski just knew that it was her time. She was trying to end it all and no one seemed to realize her cry for help but since this is a kids show, that's not really something we're ever going to address. But yeah........the woman committed suicide.

With that being said, this is absolutely jarring. It's one thing for Riley to do this narration away from the episode because it at least helps kids understand the metaphor even more than they already did. But you really expect me to believe that Riley Matthews gave this long-winded, metaphorical, bizarre speech at the wake of some woman she barely knew? No, I'm not buying what this episode is selling. It's funny because Riley talks about not being the center of attention, but she's taking the time at a reception for a woman she barely knew to explain how she learned that? It's just so abrupt to cut from the other bakery scene to Riley's narration to this. "Oh yeah, kids, it's okay. Mrs. Svorski most likely splattered her brains all over the walls, but Riley learned her lesson so it's all good that she's saying all this." I'm sorry, but I don't feel anything for this scene. We barely knew Mrs. Svorski ourselves as fans, so this scene just comes off as needlessly sappy and a way for the lesson to be taught as blatant as humanly possible.

Also, Mrs. Svorski left Auggie a suicide note in her present because apparently, that's something you do to a little kid. "It's not my 'Krainian bakery. I'm dead." I don't know why in God's name she thought it was okay to give Auggie that, and that pretty much confirms the theory that she killed herself, but either way, that's the funniest thing in the whole episode. I swear, it's just so unexpected and callous, that I can't help but laugh at it. It's definitely the best joke in these 22 minutes of anti-humor.

What comes next is truly one of the most heartwarming moments in the entire series. Cory calls up Mr. Feeny late at night just to see if he's alright. Feeny confirms that he's alive and well, and that's the end of the episode. That one scene is seriously what keeps this episode from getting an F, and if I didn't know better, I would say that they put this scene in just to save the whole thing.

So yeah, I still hate this episode just as much as I did when I first watched it. There's really not much to it other than a lesson bashed over your head constantly, smug meta humor, Riley and Maya being turned up to 11 just so they could learn the lesson, and a forced attempt at emotion by killing off a character we barely knew. I mean, when Sesame Street killed off Mr. Hooper, they........you know what? I'm not even going to state the obvious. Mr. Hooper's death was everything that Mrs. Svorski's wasn't, especially considering the fact that Mr. Hooper never left Big Bird a suicide note like this: "I'm dead. No one else is going to make your birdseed milkshakes, so get on with your life." Seriously, this episode was so embarrassing to watch the first time. It was the season premiere, and they decided to open it up with that? It almost seemed like Girl Meets World didn't want to change, and considering everything else we've seen since then, that just might be true.

Episode Grade: D-
Episode MVP: William Daniels. The Cory/Feeny scene deserved a way better episode to belong to.

Credit to Christian from GMWReviewed for coming up with the Mrs. Svorski suicide theory. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-I will be forever grateful to the writers of this show for changing Farkle's character.......and sticking to it. This episode reminded me just how satisfying "Yearbook" was.

-The Farkle Time bit was actually pretty funny too. I don't think anybody has referred to using the bathroom as taking a farkle.

-Apparently, Riley's narration stuff was supposed to be a reference to the play Our Town. The play is also explicitly mentioned twice, so there's evidence to back it up. I've never read Our Town, but I have to assume there was nuance and subtlety when it used this narration compared to this episode.

-Seriously, it's really weird how Mrs. Svorski acts in this episode, just knowing she's going to die soon and no one ever questions it. They kinda just ignore what she's doing the whole time. I'm still holding onto the suicide thing, especially since Moesha did this exact same plot. The main difference is when one of Moesha's friends did what Svorski did, she was actually going to kill herself. Put this episode in the hands of a different show and I don't think it turns out the same way.

-I was going to use my regular green for this but I started writing in black and I realized that it looks really nice. This might become my new color.

-I'm honestly surprised Joshua Jacobs or anyone else in the family didn't write this. It was actually Randi Barnes. Then again, after looking through her track record, I probably shouldn't be surprised. She penned "Father" and "Brother," both pretty solid episodes. But she was also one of the three people responsible for the abomination known as "Game Night."

Hey guys. Yeah I'm coming in...19 days late. It's been a hectic September, I worked my butt off just to make sure the 100th/1 year anniversary post came in on time.

Not only that, but I'm 100% in agreement with Mike. This is my favorite part since I don't have to do anything, yay! No, seriously, for someone trying to be an author I sure hate writing and I love reading, so it's deeply satisfying to read someone else's thoughts and analysis, especially when they agree with you :)

The only thing worth adding is that I think we've seen the consequences of GMW thinking it's too clever than it is - that instead of truly returning to Boy Meets World's roots, it just bought into the hype - and stuff like Meets Gravity be it.That's why it was trying sooooo hard to be profound from the green screen opening effect/Old Town quote onwards.

Well, there's a second thing worth adding - I think the "It's not My 'Kranian Bakery, I'm dead" was their attempt at Disney Channel-friendly dark humor, but it just ended up falling flat and, well, dead. Nice try GMW staff (from this point on instead of singling out Jacobs or Menell, yeah I'm just going to blame them collectively for everything wrong - and right, when it happens. And yes even in Season 3 it happens).

Episode Grave: F. The misspelling is very intentional because that's where it freakin' belongs, right alongside Mrs. Svorski. Let that be the epitaph on this episode's tombstone. 

Episode MVP: William Daniels, duh. Mike's explained why, Christian and Sean's explained why, I don't think it really needs to be explained any more why.

Extra Thoughts:

 - I also agree with Mike that there are worse episodes, but both Ski Lodge and Triangle are Season 3, so that greatly improves the chances of Gravity's title as Worst S2 episode. Plus I for one am not hesitant to award multiple Fs per season. On the Gravity-Commonism-World of Terror 2 spectrum I'm not really sure how I feel about the placement, other than Gravity really did set an awful precedent, it was the worst episode by far of the string of episodes it was included with (maybe even for the entire first half of S2), and it was such a bad misfire the crew should've learned their lessons from it, not build on top of it. On the other hand, I'd eagerly rate World of Terror 2 as the worst episode of the entire series. I'm not even going to say "so far" I'm calling it now, all the way to the series finale. Not only did it manage to be horrifically bad (and given it's the Monstober episode, not in the way they intended) but by dragging Austin & Ally in with it it managed to actually spread its damage to other shows. That's an impressive feat of shit-stirring right there. The message board equivalent of that would pretty much result in an automatic suspension if not outright ban of the offending parties pretty much universal, no matter where you go. Although in all fairness by and large the whole Monstober crossover concept was an abject failure depending on the show (some shows did well with it, others...really should've been exempt for their own good).

 - You know, not only all that stuff Mike talked about but even the very concept of the Monstober crossover event is a result of that "corporate thinking" our 100th/1 year anniversary post (and follow-up) talked about.

 - I'd be tempted to include Our Town in a list of most overrated novels in history.

3 comments:

  1. I remember being netruel to this one, outside of liking the twist, but only because it took me by surprise and involved death, rather than being well handled.

    At the moment, my least favorite is Bay Window, but I'm sure pother episodes have worse sins, by my standards anyway. I dislike Bay Window because it's BORING and not interesting, like at least this one is.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm just now reading this, but I should review Bay Window one day. It has a special place in my heart because it was so crappy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm just now reading this, but I should review Bay Window one day. It has a special place in my heart because it was so crappy.

    ReplyDelete

Raven's Home: First Impressions

Something had to replace Girl Meets World, right? You might remember That's So Raven as one of the most popular and long-running series...