Friday, January 6, 2017

Girl Meets World Reviewed: World Meets Girl (S3E19)

...you just didn't want to write an episode!

I don't know what to write, so here I go, freak it
If the plot comes, then you know I'll seek it


What is it? Normally half-hour multi-cam sitcom, but in this case a 1-hour behind-the-scenes (BTS) special in semi-single cam documentary/"freestyle" format.
Where did it air? Disney Channel, aka Not Freeform
Who stars in it? As much as the episode itself wants to sell the idea of you (as in actually you, the viewer/audience), of course it's Rowan Blanchard, Sabrina Carpenter, Peyton Meyer, Corey Fogelmanis, Amir Mitchell-Townes, Ben Savage and Danielle Fischell as always. That said a bunch of audience members actually did get to participate and be on camera - this ended up being a pretty interactive episode, after all. Well, provided that you were lucky enough to be in the audience on taping day. Oh and I guess Micheal Jacobs got to be in his own show this time too, whee.
Why are we reviewing this? Something something blah blah Girl Meets World. But seriously, while some people might dismiss the "gimmicky" and arguably throwaway nature of a BTS special like this I find it fascinating and interesting enough to warrant a full review anyway.

I wanted to make sure I got the jump on this ahead of Mike to address a specific issue because I know what you're thinking, ooooOooooooOOoohhhHhhh, Unknown, we all know how much you hate Girl Meets World so you're probably going to shit all over this obvious self-congratulatory attempt at the production crew weaseling out of actually having to do an episode, and virtually on the eve of the show's finale to boot! But that's where you're wrong, all wrong because 1.) I don't necessarily hate the show (hate's a strong word, you know) but just like Christian, Sean, and perhaps Mike I am disappointed with the overall result (and a lot of issues tangentially or more directly related to the show, but that's a near-future blog post on its own) 2.) I was coming into World Meets Girl anticipating actually liking it because I've always had a strong interest in the BTS production of TV shows, especially multi-cam comedies and World Meets Girl certainly didn't disappoint (well, for the most part) and 3.) I mean, let's face it, it's not like they were coming out with a bunch of great scripts lately anyway so why not? 

That said it's going to be hard to cover the details of something like this, when the episode is all about the details, just with absolutely no plot whatsoever. There's certainly enough bizarre moments to talk about, starting with the very beginning with the "golden ticket" thing. Now, sure, I get what they're going for, and hey if you're standing outside waiting to be a part of the live audience of a GMW taping a golden ticket would be a pretty nifty souvenir to take home, except I guess they only bothered to make two even though they probably cost a penny for a baker's dozen of them and when they let the crowd into the audience seating there's like a whole 9 of them, and they literally disappeared in what half a minute as Rowan and Sabs moved on to the catering table? Yeah I don't get that, and quite frankly this half-baked execution serves as a microcosm for a lot that's gone wrong in this series (not everything, but a lot for sure).

But that's the only real complaint I have with this BTS special (well, that and it seems like Peyton Meyer's show flashbacks were entirely about the Lucas-Maya-Riley love triangle, and therefore mostly from the Meets Texas episodes and Meets The New Year, and for some reason about six friggin' minutes long which is at least twice as long as the flashback segments for the other characters so yeah needless to say I fast-forwarded through most of that crap) and I have to admit...it made me feel good about the series. Let me repeat that: it made me feel good about the series. Not feeling good for it finally ending, not feeling good that they finally put out a halfway decent episode, it just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside about this show and characters existing, something this show should've been doing regardless, in fact something the show should've made its mission statement, and yet way too many times failed at. Row, Sabs, Peyton, Corey and Amir really made it feel that they were a family, and at least the BTS nature really sold it as being authentic. 

Speaking of which, like I said I've always been interested in the BTS intricacies of multi-cams in particular and I've been doing whatever research and studying on the Disney Channel creation and filming process I could casually Google since back when Jessie and Austin & Ally were still premiering brand-new Season 1 episodes. Even if I learned absolutely nothing new about the general process from World Meets Girl, it's always fascinating to see the creation and cast culture of each and every show - every single individual show ends up being its own culture and nationality if you want to think of it that way, and there's almost nothing two shows will do the same. Like the little "classroom" they showed on World Meets Girl ends up taking on a personality all its own distinct from, say, the equivalent room on Liv and Maddie and Good Luck Charlie. This culture and these distinct personifications, of course, being a reflection of the synergy and personalities of the cast themselves - which means you really can tell a lot about these people when they're off-book through stuff like this. And again, at least the way they present it when they still know they're being filmed, it comes off very authentic.

And the audience interaction was a nice touch too. Usually with these live audiences they know exactly what episode that's going to film that day - for example they'll literally have a ticket (not a golden one though :( ) that says "Girl Meets World Season 3 Episode 6 Girl Meets She Don't Like Me" and the date of that filming. So at the very least they would've known they're sitting in on the filming of "Girl Meets World Season 3 Episode 19 World Meets Girl" but I don't know if they would've known they're walking into an interactive BTS scenario or weren't given any assumptions or clue-ins by any of the production staff. Either way, I have to admit the flip on the usual expectation on the audience asking the questions to the cast ended up really driving home that, yes, as much as I may be a curmudgeon to this show it does matter to a lot of people. And...I think this might be the best use of the infamous Bay Window in the show's history.

Well, I think that's about all the review I can put out without going into Extra Thoughts, time to grade and let Mike take over.

Episode Grade: A+, and I don't hesitate to say that behind Meets She Don't Like Me this is actually my favorite episode of the entire series (sorry but my expectations for the two remaining ones is rather quite low).
Episode MVP: That incredibly gorgeous woman in the green dress who was sitting at the very end of her row next to Corey Fogelmanis when they were asking that one girl what she thought of whatever, and I hope to God she's in her 20s I was tempted to give it to Ben just because all his efforts to goad someone, anyone, into admitting that Cory was their favorite character came to naught, except they did find someone, or rather the best friend of someone, who had a crush on Cory/Ben (a redhead named Jessie - yeah, never seen one of those on Disney Channel before). But instead I think I'll do one of my famous cheese-out compromises and just name the entire main cast - Rowan Blanchard, Sabrina Carpenter, Peyton Meyer, Corey Fogelmanis and Amir Mitchell-Townes. Oh, and don't forget Ben Savage and Danielle Fischel. Part of it is because, yes, this could be just as much the series finale as the actual one in two weeks or so, and this is kind of the cast's last chance to show their audience just how much they've bonded through the course of the show, but also because they each individually contributed something to make this special more than just a self-congratulatory pat on the back. Row and Sabs did a great job bringing their Riley and Maya characters to life even "off-book" (although especially in Row's case much toned down compared to Riley - proving Christian and Sean's point that, yes, the character needs to be toned down) and suggesting that there is something real to their on-screen chemistry; Peyton and Corey did a great job being their goofy selves in their own way, and Amir excellently demonstrates that great timing and raw talent that, if raw talent were the only guarantee necessary (and in this case I certainly hope it is) he'll go very, very far in Hollywood. Ben and Danielle, meanwhile, show that they've still got the Cory and Topanga touch, even if it is behind the scenes.

Extra Thoughts

 - I kind of wish they'd do more BTS specials like this for all the shows actually, if anything. In a way they have in the past, but not a dedicated episode's worth - Wizards of Waverly Place did a BTS of some of the stunts during the end credits roll of "You Don't Always Get What you Carpet" (the first episode actually produced for that series, and I'm convinced the first episode actually intended to be aired instead of "Crazy 10-Minute Sale") and sometimes some show will do a gag/blooper reel during the end credits roll. Jessie did a BTS special of sorts too - short 30 second or so snippets during commercial breaks featuring equally short BTS snippets like how Mrs. Kipling (actually Frank the Lizard) does his (and yes it really is his) stunts and other "interesting factoids" (wow I must subconsciously miss A.N.T. Farm to keep bringing it up) that aired only during commercial breaks for the big Jessie marathon during the lead-up to the final season which was...huh, exactly two years ago from the very day I'm posting this actually, go figure. Wow how times flies. Anyway, those clips are also available on YouTube from the official Disney Channel, uh, channel, I believe.

 - my favorite bay window confessional was the two guys who decided this was the perfect opportunity to cosplay as perfectly still statues of themselves.

 - seriously though, those bay window confessionals were legitimately powerfully emotional, and I guess there might be something to this Bay Window Magic after all (I have to see what Christian and Sean think of that). Except I couldn't help but notice that it looks like each and every one of them went through the makeup department first, yes even the young redhead twins. Is this how everyone in LA dresses/grooms like? 

 - I know that there are typically three ways to get invited into one of these episode live-tapings: be personally invited by a cast or crewmember (in fact I understand there's even a VIP area of sorts for these type of invites), be a Greater Los Angeles County Unified School District elementary or middle school student and hope that you're lucky enough to score a class field trip to the studio, or the easiest way, just book some tickets on TVTickets.com (I just linked to the Girl Meets World page even though at this point it's obvious they're not doing any live tapings anymore, ever, but none of the Disney Channel/XD/Nickelodeon shows are scheduled for live tapings, in-production or not, so I figure why not). The nice part about it is that these tickets are (usually) just given away freely as long as seating is still available, so you only need to worry about actual transportation and lodging costs for once you get there.

 - I think this might be Girl Meet World's first (and therefore only) one-hour special. Back during Disney Channel's height (or at least pre-fall) in the 2010-2014 era this would be nearly unheard of; nearly every series was guaranteed a one-hour special. Including crossovers Jessie got five (that's one more than Jessie even had seasons total); Good Luck Charlie had four including crossovers. Hell even A.N.T. Farm got one, in the first season no less. Dog With a Blog snuck one in nearly at the last minute with Stan Has Puppies. I don't know if making the BTS special the one-hour special feels like a copout as so much as if it really counts. They could've just made at least the first two parts of Meets Texas a combined one hour (K.C. Undercover has done exactly this multiple times - for nearly each of its one-hour+ specials so far in fact - and since Meets Texas is more obviously congruent in plot than most of the KC Undercover 1 hour specials which feel more like individual episodes with a common over-reaching arc, they easily could've gotten away with it) but whatever. Maybe Ski Lodge was an hour long, I don't know, I didn't see a lot of reason to religiously watch the series by that point.

 - Either way the lack of one-hour specials seems to be a new trend now. I don't think Austin & Ally actually had a formal one-hour special which is unusual especially for a wildly successful show from its era, although they did end up stitching together the final two episodes into one (I think they've separated them in rerun airings). I don't think Best Friends Whenever ever had one, and I know neither did I Didn't Do It. Maybe if they had gone to three seasons but usually a show'd have a one-hour special at least by the second season so they can at least get it during their guaranteed run.

 - and yeah, any thoughts about the ending of the series will be in a future post. At least two, in fact.

Unknown is only doing this to get back at me for doing the cancellation story too early. I'm only tossing this off as an accusation and I have literally no evidence or proof to give you, but I'm putting conviction over facts here.

I'm going to come right out and say that this show has had a death wish for a long time. There's no way any other show would do an episode like this without knowing its days are numbered. I just get this sense of them closing the book with an episode like this. And if the next episode is anything to go by, I assume that Disney knew they didn't want GMW anymore, but the writers were just being led on this whole time. It's a little sad, but there has to be more behind all of this than the writers just wanting to do something for the fans.

With that being said, this episode sucked. I say that because I'm judging it by what it chooses to be, an episode. This wasn't a behind the scenes special where we find out how episodes are made and potential story ideas. This was a behind the scenes special functioning as an actual one-hour episode, without any irony or attempt at telling a real story. If it wanted to be a behind the scenes special, then it could have been by all means. I wouldn't have a problem with that. But it's an actual episode.....with a script and people who worked on the story. I don't even know what that would look like, and I'm curious to know, but whatever. I don't understand why this couldn't have been a YouTube special instead of a two-part episode. It just makes the viewer think they're going to get something substantial when they're really getting something that's usually online. 

Watching this drag on and on and on, and seeing all the fans interact with the cast, it made me realize something. This show shouldn't have been a spin-off. When you do something like this, it's supposed to try and capture the tone of the original series. In spite of how I feel about Fuller House, it captures the tone of Full House very well. It walks, talks, and feels like the original show was transported into modern times. Girl Meets World never did that. And it doesn't look like that was ever the intention. You see teenage girls talk about how this show has helped them out, you see the meaning of friendship, you see little girls look up to Riley and Maya like superheroes........this doesn't feel like Boy Meets World. These shows don't belong in the same universe. Watching the best BMW episodes, followed by the best GMW episodes, it's like night and day. It's like if Degrassi: The Next Generation ended up being like Even Stevens when it first came out. These shows are so alienated from each other, they don't even need to be together. 

I don't know. I would have been more invested in this if there was something more interesting and unique about it. So much of this is spent with fans talking about what they like about the show, 95% of them teenage girls. It's the cast asking the audience questions, which isn't a bad idea, but it goes on for way too long and it's not something I needed to see in an episode. I could seriously go to YouTube right now and find another show doing something like this. The closest this episode came to doing something unique is the bay window scene. That stupid window still irritates me something fierce and I want to shatter it with every fiber of my being, but seeing real life best friends break down like that when they sat in front of it was pretty touching.

It got me thinking that this is the best the bay window has ever been used. And that's sad considering this is a throwaway episode. Think about it. What memorable moments have come from this window? The only one that comes to mind is when Riley broke down in tears when telling Maya about her bully. That was a powerful, heartfelt moment. But everything else is just in one big blur. Riley and Maya's best bay window moment was in this episode, when they became Rowan and Sabrina and talked about their real life friendship that would have never happened if not for the show. 

If nothing else, this shows how much of a family the cast really is. There's this level of closeness and genuine pride in what they do that doesn't always come off as sincere. But the cast and crew really do operate as one unit. I don't see any egos or feel any negative vibes here. This special was a sign of how devoted these fans really are to the show they love, and how much the people working on this show care about their demographic.......I mean, fans. 

Like I said, this doesn't work as an episode at all, because it's not. It's one of those Girl Meets World things where they try something new and it just falls flat on its face. But as a behind the scenes special, which is what it should have been, it's satisfying enough and actually helped me realize just how much I'm going to miss this show when it closes its doors in two weeks. It's not Boy Meets World, but it's its own thing, and that's what it should have been from the beginning. 

Special Grade: B
Episode Grade: D-

Special MVP: Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter. That moment at the end when these two cry at the window and reflect on their friendship......beautiful. That's what you call a meaningful moment, when you have the history to back it up.

Episode MVP: Alfonso Ribeiro. I was watching Fresh Prince last night, the one where Ashley starts attending Will and Carlton's school, and the scene where Carlton doesn't realize that the hot girl is Ashley until Will points it out is absolutely hilarious. Carlton's scream killed me so much, I had to rewind it constantly. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-I wouldn't recommend this episode to anyone. You know, because it's not an episode. Seriously, I don't get why they felt the need to make their first one-hour special a behind the scenes clip show. 

-"Michael, why are we doing this episode?" "Yeah, it's weird." "Well, we wanted to include the fans in an episode and this is it." "So you're saying you just didn't want to write an actual episode?" "Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying." This is the gist of an actual conversation in the episode. I'm pretty sure the actors had no idea what to make of the script when they first saw it.

-It's really jarring to watch all those old clips from season one. I only say that because these kids have grown so much in less than three years. Literally all of them. Also, I've been meaning to say this for a while, but Rowan looked older in season two than she does now. I don't even know how that's possible, maybe it's her wardrobe. 

-One of the funniest moments of this episode is when Smackle's actress appears on screen and starts talking about fans all over the world. It's really awkward because she makes a joke about not being included enough, but it was framed so seriously that I didn't even  know for sure and I busted out laughing. I feel like this special could have justified its existence as an episode by being more self-aware. I don't know, just deconstructing the whole behind the scenes special thing like The Simpsons did. 

-Michael Jacobs said that Peyton Meyer was a great comedian and nobody plays deadpan better than him. I don't think he's playing, honestly. 

-Ben Savage trying to get kids to name Cory their favorite character was pretty funny. 

-"What are your feelings on 'Ski Lodge?' I have a lot of feelings." Are your feelings that the episode was a terribly written, emotionally scarring waste of time that should have never made it to air?

-The one girl who named her favorite episode "Home for the Holidays" was pretty adorable. 

-The only good thing about the bloopers is that I got to hear Lucas' British accent again. That was pure comedy. 

-There was this one girl that was breaking down at the bay window thinking about how she was jealous of her best friend in elementary school. I'm sorry, but I couldn't even pretend like that wasn't funny.

-It's really funny to me how 95% of GMW's fanbase is teenage girls. I wanted to hear an adult's thoughts on the show. Then again, most of the BMW fans who first tuned in probably never came back. 

11 comments:

  1. Best Friends Whenever actually did have a couple hour long specials, including the finale. That's all i have to say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh, I guess I did. That's my forgetfulness acting up I guess.

      Delete
    2. Hey Unknown, is there a way to block Jamie Davis? I let it ride long enough and now her friend's threatening to break my legs if I steal her ideas.

      Delete
    3. Very honestly I have no idea. Of course as soon as I remove posting restrictions I'm made to immediately regret it. Story of my life.

      I'll figure something out - I guess an interim solution would be to just delete "her" posts (Jamie is a gender-ambiguous name - I should know since it's the name of one of my friends - and well, we're taking Jamie Davis' word here that this actually is "Jaime Davis"). And hey, it could be worse - some exceedingly creepy guy is not only stalking one of my ex-girlfriends but her entire graduating high school class as well. True story, one that I'll be having to testify about soon. Yay.

      Delete
  2. From what I know of Fuller House (Haven't seen it because it have 0 interest), it is techinally a direct sequel with a focus on the main player from the series, even with all the new guys. GMW is more of a sequel /and/ spinoff, being about the kids of the leads of that how, so it thus appeal to nostalgia by having Corey and Topepenga around but be it's own thing for a new audience...supposedly, at least. Hence it's not exactly like BMW, i'm sure if it's supposed to be, which is an issue for many reasons but we don't have all day.

    I have nothing to say on the special thingy itself. It's a neat idea at least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think for a long time, Girl Meets World suffered from an identity crisis. It didn't know whether or not it wanted to be Boy Meets World 2.0 or its own original thing. Fuller House came right out the gate with Full House references and made it clear that D.J., Stephanie, and Kimmy are going to be the main focus. Riley and Maya could have easily been characters created without the Cory and Shawn parallels. It's like in the Christmas episode where they keep saying that Riley and Maya are like Cory and Shawn. The fans already know that, so why keep bringing it up? It's not going to make us believe it any more than we already do.

      I think Sean said that if GMW was made the exact same way, without any lineage to the original show whatsoever, he would never watch it. And in all honesty, there wouldn't be too much of a difference if Girl Meets World was just its own thing from the beginning.

      Delete
    2. Even if it was on it's thing, it would still be better than a lot of crap on Disney channel. I stand by that, even with episode like Bay window or whatever. The show at least has some form of a heart.

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    3. I agree with that. The show's heart has, for the most part, definitely been in the right place. It just didn't meet expectations and had a legacy it couldn't live up to.

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    4. The phrase "it's still better than a lot of crap on Disney Channel" sure got thrown around a lot during GMW's entire run. Frankly, unless I just don't have the right rose-tinted glasses, I just don't see it. I mean it's better than a lot of shows lately (Bunk'd especially on Disney Channel, School of Rock and Game Shakers on Nickelodeon) but other than that it's not really any better or worse. It had episodes as crappy as a lot of other shows, and other shows have had episodes as good as GMW. Even some of the more recent ones like Best Friends Whenever and Stuck in the Middle (which frankly feels like a much better fit for Disney Channel than GMW anyway, which in my mind reinforces the idea that maybe GMW was just a bad proposition for everyone involved to begin with - but that's another blog post). Hell I think there have been episodes of NRDD that have been as good as at least some decent GMW ones. And yes I mean it.

      Delete
  3. Fuck me, I actually enjoyed this.

    Sure, it was cheesy as fuck but was Ceci and Amir were awesome and Danielle was a sweetheart.

    Those best friend moments...damn.

    I'll never watch this episode again but I'm glad I saw it.

    ReplyDelete

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