Monday, January 16, 2017

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets Sweet Sixteen

Life knew that this show had to end sooner rather than later.

I had a quote from the episode pulled up but I forgot it

I don't care what anyone says, Girl Meets World had a death wish. The fact that they even made this episode along with this Friday's series finale is proof that Michael Jacobs and company knew time was up. Disney most likely told them months ago that the show was cancelled, but they weren't ready to announce it publicly and wanted the writers/producers to keep it a secret. Rider Strong knew it, or else he would have never came out and said that it ended on that podcast. Things just seem a little bit too suspicious. Like, the show's team was uncertain about the future so they made these episodes? Stuff like this has finality, it has a very big feeling of cleaning out the closet. I think the fans just didn't realize this until the episodes came on TV.

Eh, it's pretty standard practice for the network to pull this sort of stuff off. Especially since we have an example of the type of disaster that can result when networks actually bother to be upfront and honest with its audience. It had been known since, I dunno, March '12?, that the run of new Victorious episodes between August '12 and Feb '13 would be the very last, and that run was the lowest rated of that entire show. It went from being a 3-4 million viewers per episode show to less than 2 million per practically overnight and it pretty much kicked off the start of Nick's hard tumble down until when it didn't so much as recover as much as Disney Channel just tumbled harder and further (i.e. the past year). So if being a little disingenuous about the show's fate can help the ratings, well, eh I can't blame 'em. Though in this case it's a bit like trying to close the barn doors after the horses had already run away, joined the circus, got the circus act closed down due to animal rights abuse accusations and then got high-power jobs on Wall Street where they went back and bought the farm and turned it into another strip mall with an anchor store that sells specialty products for horses. 

As for the show having a death wish, well...I'd certainly agree although maybe not in the sense you're getting at. I'm really, absolutely now convinced that Jacobs just simply didn't change in the least bit since the final dreadful season or two of original-flavored Meets World, and any hope that we had about him putting together another out-of-the-park series was just wishful thinking. Not to mention, as Sean at GMWReviewed mentioned time and time again (or was it Christian?), the vast majority of Boy Meets World's success was a hands-off affair as far as Jacobs was concerned. Being a Star Trek fan and recognizing how the best years of The Next Generation happened after Gene Roddenberry died (or the original series where it wasn't so much Gene Roddenberry as it was Diane Constance Fontana who move a lot of that show's creative decisions, and would go on to do so for a huge chunk of TNG until she simply aged out of being able to do so), or even as a Jessie fan and recognizing that Pamela O'Connell kicking Tuber and Maile (and depending on who you believe, Debby herself even) out to gain more control over the series resulted in its very noticeable nosedive in quality in Seasons 3 and especially 4 - yeah, I think I can get that.

As I watched this episode on Friday night, I was left confused at certain parts. I was having mixed to positive feelings about it. Hell, at one point, I was considering this episode as one of the best of the series. Yeah at no point was I thinking that. I was fully prepared going in hoping so, but I think the constant naval-gazing was a clear signal that it was a no. That is, until I watched it again. I didn't want to have an incoherent review where I said something I didn't mean. That puts you a billion lightyears ahead of me! Watching it again, I really made the right call. The episode was considerably worse this time, and some of it, to me anyway, represented what I despise about this show. But despite all that, I don't really feel any anger towards it. It's not even disappointment. At this point, I just feel pity. I pity this show because of what it could have been and what it ended up being. This is one of the biggest cases of wasted potential that I have ever seen. Episodes like "High School," "Triangle," "Ski Lodge," "World of Terror 3," "World Meets Girl," and all of the other crap we were put through over the last three years were all leading up to this. It's all been destiny. It led to an episode where the kids had to take a hard look in the mirror and examine their friendships in a way they never had before. It also forced the writers to take a hard look at their own show and reflect upon everything they had done over the last three seasons. The saddest thing is I think the writers feel they've already done that - not in this episode, nor in Meets Goodbye, but in World Meets Girl of all things.

Of course, that would be interesting if it hadn't already been done. Try this one on for size. Riley and Maya are worried about their friendship lasting. They say they're forever, but then they start wondering if that's true. The kids don't know if their friendships will survive in the future. Riley doesn't want anything to change or anyone to change. An unforeseen circumstance threatens to destroy the friendship of Riley and Maya for good.

I know what you're thinking. We've seen this story before. And you're right. Because that's what "Bay Window" was about. That's what "Legacy" was about. That's what "High School" was about. That's what "Hollywood" was about. I would have no idea because I just refuse to see that episode on principle. That just smacks of exactly what I suspect of Jacobs and his staff being unable to grow out of the 90s-era tropes they've plied their trade with. Because let's face it: your average, slice-of-life American sitcom family suddenly becoming Hollywood stars out of the blue for exactly one episode (or one extended episode) is exactly the ultra-gimmicky kind of schlock that was popular in the 90s. Fuck that decade. At least for all their faults all these other Disney Channel shows dare to incorporate it into their very premise so you can't complain about it being a desperate one-time grab. And if you really sum it up, that's what Girl Meets World has always been about. It's not about a kid's journey through life, the obstacles they face, and what they learn from their experiences. It's about two kids sitting around commenting on what might possibly happen if they went through these experiences. You mean like the ultimate "tell, don't show" show? This episode was a reflection of that.

Now that I'm looking back at what I've inserted above, even I'm taken back a bit by just how mercilessly snarky I've been on the show. My sentiments about how I've been frustrated by this show have now been spread over several posts (including this one) and will continue to be at least through the end of the month, I figure. And I'm seeing a whole bunch of it on the IMDb board. It seems that everyone's just had it with their frustration now that it's a known, advertised fact that the series will be coming to an end when the reign of God-Emperor Trump begins (and I don't care what cloudcuokoolander knuckleheads say, it's the end of the series, period. Netflix has zero incentive to pick it up now that Fuller House is firmly established and there just isn't any home for it other than Disney, which is why it ended up there in the first place). I know there are guys with really lively names like, uh...."Crotch Rocket" and "some Dan guy" and some other dudes who are really laying it on (this, uhh..,"Crotch Rocket" guy even came out with a rather lengthy, bloviated list of "deadly sins") and you know what...I agree with them. The best way I can put is if...ok, imagine if Disney Channel were a house, and everybody who watched Disney Channel before Girl Meets World were the regular denizens/inhabitants of that house. And now pretend that those inhabitants (which for ease I'll just refer to as "we"/"us") decided to bake a pie and let it cool on the window sill - again, for ease of reference let's refer to this pie as, ummm...how about "Girl Meets World." And then you have a bunch of interlopers come in and they say, "hey, guys, we remember a pie that smells a lot like the pie you just baked. It was a very delicious, scrumptious pie, and we'd appreciate it if you'd let us have some." And we say, "sure, I remember that pie! It was the same pie our moms used to make! I'm trying my best to replicate that recipie, and I hope I nailed it, so why don't you come in and try some!" And then we invite them in and they try a slice of that nice, fresh-baked pie we just made, and their response is "well it's not as good as mom's, but we'll keep trying." And they try the pie again. And again. And on the fourth slice they say "well it's got promise, but it's not as good as mom's" and by the time they finish they're screaming and yelling at us and telling us that our pie is complete and total shit and that we have no business ever making pies again.

And yet, they ate the whole damn thing. They didn't even leave any pieces for us.

Oh, and on top of that they also insulted our cake and told us it was a piece of shit (let's just call this cake, um, how about "Liv and Maddie") and they also helped themselves to our tiramisu and called it a piece of shit (let's for convenience refer to this tiramisu as "Jessie") and they saw our couch that we lovingly have named "Best Friends Whenever" and just helped themselves to it, all the while spilling all of our "I Didn't Do It" guacamole and "Austin & Ally" salsa all over it (while telling us it tastes like shit) and complaining that our couch is a piece of shit and put all their feet up on our "I'm Running Out of Series Titles Here" coffee table and complaining about how all the decor in our house is shit.

Yeah, they do that in my house, I'm a gonna be all FAUUUUULLLLLLLL! CAAAAUUUUN! PAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnCHCHCHCHCHCHCCCCCCHHHHHHHHH!!! them all in their fucking faces.



So yeah, I'm a little frustrated about things. Things way, way beyond just the show itself.

It's reflected in the opening scene when Riley and Maya want to have a surprise Sweet 16 party, despite the fact that neither of them are 16. We never see them throw it, and after the classroom scene, it's not even part of the story anymore, but it drives the rest of the episode where they're supposed to act like they're 16. It's also reflected in one scene where Riley goes nuts when Farkle and Smackle start talking about the possibility of them going to Princeton in a few years. And apparently, this causes Riley to freak out and tell everyone that they're not going anywhere. At this point, I started wondering for the very first time if Riley had special needs. A couple scenes before, she was confident in her friendship with Maya. Then she started getting doubtful, and then she started thinking everything was going to stay the same. I don't understand how someone can "meet the world" like Riley did and not expect anything to change. It was different in the original series because Cory was actually going through changes in his life. Topanga was considering Yale, Shawn was ready to invest his time in his photo assistant job and forget college, Feeny was retiring and moving to Wyoming, Chubbie's was bought out and rebranded. Everything was changing for Cory and that's what caused him to act irrationally. Here, Riley is freaking out over hypothetical situations when she knows what the world is like, and then she goes back to her optimism in the classroom scene. The story here is just really confused and I'm left wondering what I'm supposed to take from any of this.

It feels like a bad compromise because they wanted to cram what they wanted to end the show with on Season 4, but they have to do it at the end of Season 3 instead when their characters are nowhere near emotionally mature enough (and for that matter the actors physically mature enough) to really pull it off, so here we go, we have this shitty tell don't show compromise instead. But telling, not showing has been the go-to form of narrative this show has chosen time and time again. Meets Money and Meets She Don't Like Me have been memorable because they've been some of the few episodes to want to bother to show. If the show had been more engaged in the showing instead of the telling, maybe we'd be here a year from now at the end of Season 4 instead of here now. Hell Jessie has done better in the showing department - but no, I still have knuckleheads barging into the house telling me I'm wrong, and I guess I just gotta keep Falcon Punch!-ing my way out of this one.

This is another thing I mean by this show being held back by people stuck in a 90s style narrative. Sitcoms in the 90s could still get away with more telling than showing, if for nothing else because cable hadn't reached the point yet where it provided serious competition to broadcast sitcoms, so you had more of a captive audience. Jacobs and crew are learning very, very harshly that the things they got away with in the 90s just don't apply anymore, and that's even given on a network that's the most tolerant of that kind of obsolete comedy narrative, and insulates them the most from ratings fears. GG Jacobs and crew.

What I believe I'm supposed to learn is that Riley and Maya are best friends and they're going to stay together no matter what happens to them. But I already knew that. The show's covered this topic many times before. Riley literally asks why people become friends if it's not going to be forever. I'm not going to lie, that might be one of the dumbest lines I've heard in this entire series. It's one thing for season one Riley to ask this question. But this is the second to last episode of the series, and Riley is still insecure about her friendships with people, especially her friendship with Maya? I don't get it. In real life, that's just what happens. As soon as I entered high school, I got a serious wakeup call that the kids I knew from junior high were never really my friends. They were just people I went to school with. I know this because at least 85% of them gave me the cold shoulder as soon as they could, and I haven't heard from them in years. I've tried many times in the past to resurrect those friendships, but it was pointless because it was always one-sided. When you stop being useful to somebody, they're going to shut you out and eventually cut their ties with you altogether. In 2017, I literally only talk to two people from junior high, and one of them's my best friend. Even after graduating high school, I knew what was going to come next and I already accepted the fact that I'm most likely never going to talk to 95% of the people I went to high school with ever again. It's something we all go through. It's not the fact that the writers brought this up that annoys me. It's the fact that they constantly bring it up with no new insight or commentary on the matter.

I just got done watching a movie yesterday called "Date and Switch." It's about two friends who are trying to get laid before prom, and one of them comes out as gay very, very early in the movie. And most importantly, there's a scene where Sarah Hyland kisses another hot chick. Now for some reason this movie only has a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I'm like, why? It's actually a really good movie! See the thing is, it's not about some guy's best friend coming out as gay or Sarah Hyland macking on some other hot chick or Dakota Johnson actually being in a good movie; it's really about two friends who decide they need to get serious about dating and they help each other out and be each other's wingman and before you know it, holy shit they've got dates. But they spend so much time with their dates that they sacrifice time they spend with each other and they start just drifting apart. And you know what? I think I like this movie so much because it's relatable. Because that's how friendships end, especially in high school. Because stuff like dating, work, school and just changing interests take time away from friends. Now we're not all lucky enough to be like Riley and Maya where we have such an arbitrarily lucky circle of friends that we can just date our different-gendered friends if we happen to be straight, but it just highlights that this show has completely and utterly failed to be relatable to all but those who are just so outwardly desperate to see Boy Meets World characters again. 

Boy Meets World was relatable. I can still name episodes that were relatable. Boy Meets World helped me on my fucking driver's test. And you know what, Jessie is relatable. Jessie helped me when my fucking ex-fiancee dumped me and I got fucking cancer

I don't see Girl Meets World helping me in anything like that.

And in all fairness I don't exactly see Bizaardvark or KC Undercover helping with that either.

God No if School of Rock ever ends up being relatable or helpful then I've probably died and ended up on some sort of Dali-esque sick joke of an afterlife.

I don't need any more reminders that Riley and Maya are best friends and these people love each other. It doesn't mean anything anymore because of how much they bring it up. In the original series, Cory and Shawn were best friends and we knew that. They knew that. They did address the possibility of growing apart, but it was no more than a few episodes. It literally feels like Riley and Maya are afraid of no longer being best friends in every other episode. If that's the case, they really shouldn't be best friends. It takes effort, trust, and understanding to have a meaningful friendship. Even keeping in touch takes two to tango. I find it hard to believe that the characters always feel this way because if these kids are as tight-knit as they appear to be, then they should learn to trust each other by now and have confidence in what they built. People drift away, no matter what. Sometimes, people will stop talking to you with no explanation. It's just a part of life. But if this show actually demonstrated that, then this review wouldn't exist.

I really wanted to like this episode. It's not like I hated everything about it. I laughed a few times, they wrapped up a running gag that I hated since it started, and there was a sense of reflection that did feel earned at times. It's just that after everything I've seen, I feel like this series really has nothing left to say. Maybe a fourth season on Netflix or Freeform or wherever will change things, I don't know and I'm starting not to care. But if, hypothetically, there's another episode where Riley doubts her friendship with Maya, then maybe it will be time for me to stop watching the show. Just a thought.

At this point I might as well just demand the writers write "show don't tell" on a chalkboard 100 times.

Episode Grade: C-
Episode MVP: Either Amir Mitchell-Townes or Cecelia Balagot. All this episode did was remind me of how much they wasted the potential of the sextet.

Episode Grade: C-
Episode MVP: Amir all the way, though I agree with one of our readership on Twitter, you really shouldn't be touching a girl when she's powered down.

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-This episode was written by the man himself, Michael Jacobs. It's really fitting, honestly, that this is the guy to write an episode that I believe really defines what Girl Meets World is. Not a compliment or an insult.

-I really liked the opening scene. Riley and Maya's chemistry is a sight to behold sometimes. It's like they speak their own language that no one is capable of figuring out.

-The first classroom scene was really weird. I keep trying to figure out what Cory was getting at, but I couldn't. I really feel like this show complicates the simple things. With Mr. Feeny, I never got the impression that he was saying something complex that his students couldn't understand. This is what it sounds like when Cory talks sometimes: "Life is......DUM DUM DIDDAY!!! Do ya, dap dap, dap! Brrrrrrruh, ooooooohhhh, RAPADOOOOOO!!!! What is going to define you when you...... comma comma comma comidio. Mama say mama sa mamakusa."

-The scene where Maya references "Girl Meets Father" was so odd. I don't even know how it became about Cory being the best teacher there is. I was enjoying the possibility of a surprise Sweet 16 until he started mentioning landmarks. When Maya mentioned what she learned from the test, I genuinely thought it was a joke.

-Zay feels like one of the few human characters on this show. Him being creeped out by everyone's surprise faces, trying to get Smackle going again after she "shuts down," calling Riley and Maya strange. Girl Meets World really could have benefited from having more characters like him to counteract the drama.

-I was ready to pitch a fit about Smackle flirting with Lucas again, but they finally, finally addressed it. It was like getting your filthy tap water turned into imported champagne by Jesus himself. And I actually like the reason for it. It makes sense that Smackle would have doubts about her relationship with Farkle. It's the first one she's ever had and she comes from a place of science, not feelings. And after everything that she said just to see if her relationship with Farkle was strong enough, I had no problem with Lucas and Farkle's sting operation. It had to happen, it needed to happen, and I'm glad the writers didn't drop the ball on the reasoning.

-I'm just pointing this out because it says a lot about this show, but Farkle asks to talk to Lucas outside. Then Zay tries to recharge Smackle's "batteries," and while that's happening, Riley and Maya are talking about whatever. I don't really care about what these two are talking about because I want to see what the other characters are up to. And after the commercial break, that's when Farkle and Lucas start talking. So how long were they out there? I'm surprised we even heard their conversation. I'm going to elaborate on a lot of things this coming weekend, but one of those things is that this show was focused way too much on Riley and Maya.

-Anyone want to make heads or tails of the Auggie joke? I feel like it needed more context.

-Cory walking in with two different socks is one of the most in-character jokes they have ever made on this show. And it was hilarious. It's like they, for a time, remember things like comedy and structure and characterization. And then they forget about it the rest of the time.

-"When did things start going bad?" "Oh, the triangle took all the life out of you." I'm having a hard time figuring out if this is directed at Lucas or the show itself because I feel like it could work for both. Either way, that joke was fantastic.

-I could sit here and tell you that Topanga being made the head of the law firm in London should have been built up a lot more, hinted at throughout the season, possibly been a story arc instead of a plot device. But we've seen how well this series does with story arcs. Besides, that's like me telling you the sky is blue, The Simpsons hasn't been good in years, and Hulk Hogan is a racist. I'm just stating what we all know.

-When Riley and Maya were crying (AGAIN) at the end, I actually felt the emotion the first time. Watching it again, all I could do was laugh. If this show actually has the balls to send the Matthews to London, I'll be impressed. That would be a Meets World moment.

 - Yeah, the whole Maya referencing Meets Father out of nowhere was...the most unnatural thing I've ever seen on this show. And I just spent several paragraphs berating this show for being nothing but unnatural. It was just there, bam!, out of the blue and because it references an early Season 1 episode (Christian hadn't even started his blog yet when that episode first premiered) it became almost impossible to follow. Wait, wtf is Maya talking about failing the theory of evolution? Wtf's a boat named Beagle got to do with this?

 - In other news, I actually like this style of Mike doing the review first and then I just insert my thoughts. It feels more like what Christian and Sean are doing, which I really like, and feels more natural as a back-and-fourth.

 - also I like the black-and-red better than the green-and-red

7 comments:

  1. Wasn't the Auggie joke just a callback to Cory's hair in Cory's Alternative Friends? That's what Sean got from it.

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    1. I wish I remembered the Auggie joke. Or Cory's Alternative Friends (hello TeenNick reruns!) Also welcome new poster who I don't recognize from before! (no I'm not going to do that every time someone anonymous posts)

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    2. Hi there, and thanks! I've been reading Sean/Christian's blog for about a year now and just discovered you guys' blog a few weeks ago. I've been reading quite a few posts here but I don't really comment much (when I comment on their blog, I'm also anonymous). I definitely like the scope of this blog and that it covers such a wide array of shows!

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  2. While we're on the subject - do you guys have any intentions of reviewing older Disney/Nick shows? I personally would love to see you guys tackle Zoey 101, Hannah Montana or Drake & Josh. I grew up with all of those shows and thoroughly enjoy them, but I'd like to see your guys' take on them.

    It seems like someone actually intended on making a Zoey 101 Reviewed site, but literally abandoned it from the onset: https://zoey101reviewed.wordpress.com/

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    Replies
    1. Oh God Drake & Josh is like the finest sitcom ever. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration - but it's one of the few shows on Disney Channel or Nick that I think has the best chance of standing up with the greats like All in the Family, Cheers or Seinfeld. It's also, incidentally, one of the very few that treats its two main leads as shrunken down adults more than as just kids/teens. You can tell Schneider definitely had more of a classic sitcom influence there than just writing down for tweens/teens.

      Incidentally, Pamela Eells O'Connell created a lot of these same classic sitcoms - Married...With Children, Mad About You, and Just Shoot Me which to this day remains one of my all-time favorites (when the last few seasons of that show aired I was actually still in the pre-tween/early teen demo Disney Channel's gunning for. But man, it still makes me feel old). You know what else she created and wrote? Jessie. Yes, seriously.

      But heck yeah we can cover older sitcoms like Drake & Josh! I know for a fact Mike loves that show as much as I do, maybe even more. I haven't really seen a lot of Zoey 101 actually since I hadn't "returned" to Nick yet during that show's run (I've caught Drake & Josh entirely on reruns, which I think with my adult sensibilities actually made me appreciate the show even more as a sitcom rather than a kidcom). The only episode I've seen in its entirety is the Halloween one which...was just one of the strangest things I've ever seen on either network.

      And I've seen an old rocker jump and land on Kira Kosarin dressed as a princess and Aiden Gallagher claim it's a canon fact he's tongue-bathed Isabella Monier.

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    2. Totally agreed! Drake & Josh is easily Dan Schneider's best show IMO. His later shows haven't been nearly as great. iCarly is probably up in the top 5 somewhere, though. I know you guys (like Sean and Christian) like to criticize shows often, but positive reviews of Drake & Josh eps would be just as good, since I'd just love to see a review of the show's episodes in general, especially from a fellow fan's point of view.

      You didn't mention Hannah Montana, any experience with that one? I actually watched all of the season 3 and 4 episodes over my winter break (when they were showing the re-runs on Disney Channel) so I could catch up, as I sort of fell out of the loop by season 3 back when it premiered. It's really a guilty pleasure show but it did suffer from a lot of first-season awkwardness, I think the quality much improved later on.

      That's crazy about O'Connell! Writing Married with Children as well as Disney shows is one heck of a turn. There's like no similarity there.

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    3. Please review HM, that's so Raven, old teen Titans, hey Arnold, Doug victorious,suite life of Zack and Cody, and on deck cory i n the house, proud family, and all that.😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😂😂😂😂😂😂😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢

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