Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Girl Meets World: The Memorial Service

What can you say about Girl Meets World? It was about a girl.....who met the world.

Okay, somebody bury this.

I decided to take another look at "Girl Meets Goodbye" and I have plans to write a more critical review. Some of that came across on inauguration day but I feel like it got lost in my exaggerated rage yeah like pooping on a 16 year old girl for not being as good as frickin' Beyonce. Besides, it's not really fair to judge it the way I did considering the strange circumstances surrounding it. None of us can really know for sure what happened between Disney and Michael Jacobs. Some of these things were out of the writers' hands. They probably expected a fourth season for months, and when they didn't get it, they had to hastily wrap up everything they had planned and stuff it into this one episode. If you really look at it, the beginning of season three gives no clues that this is the end of the road. And with the Matthews staying in New York, there's always the possibility of the show picking up where it left off if Netflix ever changes its mind. Or if it ends up going to Freeform so it can be "edgy," or even back home to ABC.

With that being said, I just wanted to share my feelings on several aspects of the show as a way to figure out why it ultimately failed in the end as a spin-off to one of the best sitcoms of the nineties holy crap you're old enough to remember the 90s?!?!. I had been waiting for this opportunity for a while, so let's see what we can discover about Girl Meets World that hasn't already been talked about over the past number of reviews.

I believe that one thing that hurt this show in the long run is their approach to stories. There's not a whole lot in the show to latch onto, or at least take with you for the next couple of years. The lessons all make sense on paper, but looking back, they were never executed how Michael Jacobs talks about them. That's not to say this show has always gotten it wrong. There was a lot of potential in that first season to become even better. "Girl Meets Smackle" was the first episode that had me thinking how great this series could be. The lesson is not only relevant to our society, but it's taught in a way that doesn't come off as hamfisted or preachy. The show always had a chance to tell stories in a thoughtful way. But then something happened. Instead of looking at episodes like "Smackle" and "Brother" for inspiration, the writers started looking at material like "Game Night" and "Friendship." Those episodes were terrible, but they also created the blueprint for many more to come. It's a shame when I wrote the review for "Gravity" a few months ago and I saw that not much had changed at that point. It got to the point where I felt like half the time, the characters didn't even talk like regular kids. It's just them reciting things. It's almost like the writers had this responsibility to the audience to be this perfect, morally upstanding show when that was never the case with the original.

Cory, Shawn, and Eric weren't degenerates, but they were kids who got into trouble from time to time and made a lot of mistakes. I mean, take the classic "Uncle Daddy" where there's a subplot of Cory forgetting to fill the car up with gas and he ends up getting grounded when his parents are stranded in the middle of the street. It's not even treated like a huge deal, just something to service the main plot of Eric dating a single mother and realizing the difficulties that come with being a parent. If Girl Meets World had that Cory plot, it would be the main conflict of the episode and it would involve Topanga thinking Riley is rebellious and not even knowing who she is anymore, and life turning upside down because the universe is no longer in order. See what I mean? Boy Meets World was always a thoughtful show, but it was never about drilling lessons into your head like a lobotomy. They were just taught as the characters actually went through these experiences, and by the next week, the reset button was hit so the characters could continue making mistakes. Lessons like dating around so you know who you're compatible with, not ignoring your friends when you're in a relationship, surviving in the world with a fine mind and a good heart, Shawn's "I'm my own worst Eskimo" realization. Anybody could relate to these things, and because the characters spent time going through them, we feel closer to them and they actually are meeting the world.

There wasn't as much to relate to in Girl Meets World because the writing never allowed it. "Demolition" is a perfect example of that. In the original show, Cory and Shawn would have gotten swindled and they would have to handle things on their own. Who knows if they would even succeed? Here, it's Riley, Maya, and Cory all getting conned, then Topanga takes care of everything and it's revealed that Aubrey just wants to be a good person. What? And then there's also that astronaut/horse symbolism thing, which sums up everything I don't like in an episode of the show. It was a perfect little shenanigan that Riley and Maya got into but then we find out that the store owner is really nice and cool and just wants to be their friend. You're really not learning anything about the world because it's done in a very unrealistic way. It's like episodes couldn't just have things happen. They always had to be about something more. That's why even though Fuller House is a much worse show, and really only exists as a nostalgia trip, I have to give it credit. It knows what the original show was about and follows it to a T. Full House was a real sappy sitcom, the king of all sappy sitcoms, but its spin-off is actually less annoying with the lessons than Girl Meets World. There's one episode in season two where Stephanie and the moms decide to reform the band Girl Talk from the original show, even bringing back Gia for it. But of course, the idea fails and the episode just ends.

There's no major realization in this episode. The main plot is never even resolved. It just starts with the girls forming the band again (which Stephanie had to be convinced to do), they argue about Gia using e-cigarettes and ends with them throwing up their hands and saying, "You know what, screw this idea" like it never happened. An episode like that would never be in Girl Meets World because Riley would most likely wonder if Maya could ever be a negative influence on her or something like that. "Life will never allow you to hurt me, Peaches. I know that for a fact." If someone pays me fifty bucks, I could write a whole script just like that.

Which leads me to my next point: This show was focused way too much on Riley and Maya. Yes, they are the most prominent characters on the show and the viewer's entry into the world they live in, but a lot of the time, we never saw Riley and Maya in action, going out into the world, seeing what trouble they could into, learning lessons from everyday mistakes. They sat at the bay window, and talked about their feelings, and we were supposed to be invested because that's how our main characters see the world. It doesn't work because Riley and Maya had a limited perspective on how the world worked and how life worked. It makes the show look even worse because they see things in almost the exact same way. That's not how it was at the beginning, and that's how it should have stayed, but at times it felt like Riley and Maya were interchangeable. Half of what they said could have been written for either character. And it's not like that was the joke and people clowned them for it, like Cory and Topanga in the original show. We were supposed to see them as noble, intelligent, remarkable human beings with the insight and thoughtfulness of Huey Freeman. What if, just once, Riley and Maya didn't appear in an episode? How about an episode where Farkle, Lucas, and Zay get into some trouble? Or an episode about Smackle's home life? And then at the end, right before we find out where Riley and Maya have been this whole time, they cut to black? One of the best things about the original show was that we got to see the world the characters live in through different perspectives. Cory didn't see things like Shawn, who didn't see things like Eric, who didn't see things like Alan, who didn't see things like Feeny. Everybody had to learn something about the world and possibly change their perspective. Even though Boy Meets World had admittedly terrible continuity, I still feel like Cory, Shawn, Eric, and Topanga became different people at the end of the series. At the end of Girl Meets World, I still feel like Riley and Maya are the same characters from season one, Maya even more so because she just feels like a lazier, snarkier version of Riley.

It would have been interesting to see the different ways each character navigated through the world. But instead, all we got was Riley and Maya crying about the possibility of their friendship hypothetically ending several years down the line. I don't believe Riley and Maya will ever lose touch. They're best friends and they love each other like crazy, I'm sure they'll find a way to deal with it. So why were these two constantly so insecure and concerned about their friendship? If I told them one day that they won't attend the same college, because Riley is going to NYU (apparently, she has the grades for this, but I see her as more of a Medgar Evers/CSI type) and Maya is going to Hunter, they'll lose their minds and start crying about the possibility of making new friends and never seeing each other again. Keep in mind that these schools are less than four miles apart from each other, and all Riley has to do is walk for about five minutes to the station, wait for Maya's train to come and meet up with her ..........at the Bleecker Street station, which is the same station they go to every day for school. I looked up this information just now and decided to bring it up because it represents just how exaggerated the drama was on this show half the time.

I realized in my last review and in this write-up that there are a lot more things I disliked about Girl Meets World than I thought. Maybe I should just level with anybody reading this: I never grew up with Boy Meets World. The show was already in its fifth season when I was born, and I remember Disney Channel doing reruns in the 2000s, but I never paid much attention to it. It just felt so alien to me, and it seemed like it was way too mature for me to get into. It wasn't until the summer of 2013 that I started watching episodes, and it was after the spinoff was announced so I actually had a good reason. Sean's blog made me see the show's true power, and once I started looking at Boy Meets World the same way, the show became very special. Michael Jacobs probably realized it too, which is why he and the writers went so hard in the paint trying to recreate the original series. The fact of the matter is, I was way more willing to give Girl Meets World a chance than a lot of other people who may have scoffed at the idea of their favorite show being redone on Disney Channel. Once I started realizing how great Boy Meets World was, Girl Meets World became even worse in my eyes. The fact that it came from a legacy, and the writers/producers fumbled the ball numerous times trying to uphold it, makes it a very disappointing show. I can't talk about Henry Danger like this because it was never a great show in the first place and declined just as soon as it started. But I could talk about Dan Schneider as a creator and how far his material has fallen since the iCarly/Victorious days. I can't talk about Fuller House like this because it doesn't strive for anything and never has. But I could talk about The Simpsons, or Family Guy, or the last season of The Boondocks because they all represent material that used to mean something, but then fell off. That's why I'm not looking forward to the That's So Raven reboot when it comes, because I grew up watching it first-run and Disney Channel has changed a lot in the decade since the original show ended.

The point I'm getting at is Girl Meets World could have been way better than what it was. The potential was there from the moment Maya told Cory that she has no one at home to help her with her homework. We needed a Girl Meets World in this era, where across the board, live-action shows for kids have stagnated. The animation side is thriving just fine and is a major improvement on the 2000s, but on the flip side, we have no Drake and Josh. We have no Suite Life, no That's So Raven, no Ned's Declassified, no Even Stevens, no Lizzie McGuire. Hell, we don't even have an iCarly or Big Time Rush anymore. The last kids live-action show that could be put in this class is Good Luck Charlie, and even that was meant to be the opposite of what kids were getting when it first came out. Girl Meets World could have lived up to the hype, and could have inspired a new generation of kids. It could have been a great comedy, and incorporated lessons into its episodes in a way that didn't feel dumbed down or preachy. It could have simplified its stories and earned its emotional moments. It could have treated its audience maturely and rewarded them for paying attention. But instead, what we got was a show that did those things sometimes, or every once in a while, instead of most of the time. You might wonder if I'm being too harsh on GMW, and I wonder that too sometimes. But when I see all these websites mourning the loss of this show like it was early SpongeBob, Hey Arnold, and Degrassi rolled into one, and praising it for what it gave kids and how mature and realistic it was, I have to give it a second thought and think, no. I'm not trashing this show. There's no shame in coming up short every now and then. And for what it's worth, Girl Meets World was a really enjoyable show when it knew what it wanted to do and didn't try so hard.

Sometimes, when it comes down to things like this, it's a lot more rewarding to listen to people like Christian and Sean and not whoever's working for Complex.

Here here on that last part especially! Anyway I think I've interjected enough as it is; I gave my series grade in Meets Goodbye and I'm going to write my own essay on some things beyond just what were in the hands of Jacobs and crew (and of course it'd only be fair if I allowed Mike to interject there as well if he wishes).

Series Grade: B-
Series MVP: Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter. They were both fantastic in their roles and I really hope they continue working as actresses.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic. Mike . I couldn't said it better myself. So much potential. Too much Riley and Maya. Split the epi between character s bullies, racism- like that so Raven.😧😧😧😧😧😧😧😧

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