I don't think there's ever been a show with so much built-in anticipation and hype for Disney Channel as Girl Meets World. You have to remember, 1.) Disney Channel had rather modest beginnings all the way through years after making the move from a premium channel to basic cable, and that includes many of the most classically-remembered shows like Lizzie McGuire, Eve Stevens, Phil of the Future and even That's So Raven; and 2.) up until this point all of Disney Channel's greatest hits started with modest expectations, or at least no greater than those of the other shows around it. Nobody knew for sure that Good Luck Charlie or Shake it Up would be the mega-hits they ended up being, and Wizards of Waverly Place actually did pretty dismally out of the gate (there was serious talk among the pundits that it'd be a two-season wonder, at least I've been told). And when Disney Channel entered the automatic hit factory era, well, then every series was expected to be a hit (up through at least Liv and Maddie). See, no series was really given extra special attention over another; every series was pretty much vying to be a potential tentpole, at least out of the gate. Even a show like Dog With a Blog was expected to go the three-season distance automatically (as it eventually did) and it was entirely conceivable for even a show like that to go four if the cards played out correctly. The hype that Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven, WoWP and even Suite Life on Deck and Jessie with such a potential huge built-in carryover fanbase was largely after-the-fact, in hindsight, when these shows having to demonstrate they can actually pull in mega-ratings first before deserving any real tentpole status.
Girl Meets World was really the first show on the network to be built up as an automatic tentpole years before the show even entered production. In fact before the roles of Riley and Maya had even been cast and before Rowan and Sabrina even answered the casting call in the first place (I remember my first serious discussion with other Net Denizens about GMW with speculation that Bailee Madison was actually going to be Riley and that being considered a pretty solid guess given both her veteran experience already on the network and elsewhere, such as on Once Upon a Time and quite a few movies). You might get some passing mention, often sarcastically, of a new Disney Channel show premiere on say AV Club, but with GMW you had sites like IG-Freakin'-N and Entertainment Tonight and as Mike mentioned friggin' Complex freely and gleefully boarding the Disney Channel hype wagon. Depending on how you look at it, it was either The Show That Mustn't Fail, or The Show That Can't Fail No Matter How Hard it Tried. I mean, just how the hell could it even fail? It had Ben Savage! It had Danielle Fishel! RIder Strong and Daniel Williams were coming back! It was literally, very literally, the second coming of Boy Meets World! And the World, Boy or Girl, would rejoice.
Yeah, it didn't exactly happen like that. Here's one random jackass' opinion as to why.
The Hype Machine created a suicidal prophecy
By that I mean, well, you know how hype machines work. They create a level of hype so lofty meeting it is simply impossible. The more seemingly likely a show could actually survive it (c'mon, the Matthews are back in town!), the even loftier the hype becomes, ensuring that no show can meet it (well, any show that isn't Game of Thrones *ducks*).
When you have "outsider" sites like IGN, Entertainment Weekly, freakin' Complex, what have you, it's helping to feed that nostalgia expectations monster. The comparisons to Boy Meets World happen before a single second of footage for the new show is recorded - in fact at least months before the fact, even. Everybody already has their own idea of what the show's going to be like, perhaps so much they feel like they've already memorized every single episode in syndication, and especially when the level of hype tends to homogenize those expectations, it feels like the actual product is watching a different show entirely - and a disappointing one at that.
The "outsider" Hype created the wrong expectations (or at least didn't clue in on realistic ones)
Again, a lot if not most of this hype was coming in from the outside - IGN, EW, Complex, fans of Boy Meets World that never, ever would've touched Disney Channel otherwise, etc. Now normally this would be all welcome, and no doubt Disney Channel was as hyper as Season 1 Farkle being promised a double-date with Riley and Maya with all the extra attention - but Disney Channel is also a unique network with tons and tons of weird, very strange quirks that exist literally no where else on the television landscape, and absolutely no where in all of that third party hype was anybody who wasn't a veteran viewer of the network clued in to what those quirks were.
For example, the whole schedule thing that people cannot. Freakin'. Shut. Up. About. On the IMDb GMW boards. Up to the second season premiere of GMW the premiere schedule was absolutely modus operandi for every show on the network - you'd typically get an order of 20-26 episodes per season (sometimes up to 30 episodes in the second season especially with shows with only a 20 episode first season order) which was typically enough to ensure a premiere for exactly half the year (26 episodes for 26 weeks = exactly half of 52 weeks out of the year total). Now this is pretty standard for broadcast and at least some basic cable networks anyway, but unlike these other networks (which would typically air the bulk of those 26 episodes in a single chunk out of the year, leaving about two-three months or so of the year completely barren of new episodes) Disney Channel rolled out a new episode every other week. This is actually sheer brilliance on the part of the network because it'd ensure there was no month out of the year left barren of new episodes at all, and kept an extremely predictable, easy-to-remember schedule (new episode of Jessie this week; new episode of Jessie the week after next, roughly). It also meant that the "gap" week was filled with brand new premieres of other shows (new episode of Jessie this week; new episode of A.N.T. Farm next week; new episode of Jessie the week after). In this way the gap week of one show would be the premiere week of another, and vice versa, making true gap weeks for the network itself a relative rarity compared to more conventional scheduling. This type of scheduling actually had tons and tons of advantages; it meant that rerun weeks were kept to an extreme minimum (you had literally the rest of the network's schedule for that, particularly Saturday and Sunday mornings) and you effectively doubled the space on the network for new programming (particularly critical for a network that only had two premiere nights to speak of, Friday night and Sunday night - with Saturday introduced as a half-assed premiere night from '13 through '14), all the while making sure attention spans weren't cut short by rerun fatigue. You also made your audience more "captive" for other shows to try to make the ratings on the network more uniform, hopefully for the better (this is a big reason why every show on Disney Channel was given equal promotion up until GMW).
However, this kind of thing really only works if there's at least two shows the audience really cares about and those two shows fall on each other's gap week, ensuring the audience has reason to come back every week. Well, when the audience starts caring only about one specific, exact show and one show only, then you start running into serious issues. This wasn't an issue when you had enough of a crossover audience between say Jessie and A.N.T. Farm to keep the little kiddies entertaned (well, up to middle-ish teens at its peak and, um, people who are way, way too old to really be watching like certain very bored bloggists who keep insisting on using red text in 12 pt Arial font and referring to themselves as "bloggists" or as one certain infamous IMDb GMW board denizen keeps putting it [and misspelling], "man-children"). But this was a problem when you have a way skewed-older demo who's overwhelmingly coming over for one specific show for the nostalgia factor and they're coming in for the very first time.
The end result is, despite theoretically this type of schedule structure being easy to remember, a whole bunch of people logging onto IMDb and complaining where's my show?
Yeah, you know, I understand legitimate criticism of both the show and the network (like Christian and Sean and Mike and Spongey and other bloggers) but I mean, c'mom man. Some of the stuff being complained about here is so simple it does make me want to side with people with such colorful names as "Manna-Fest" and especially, um, "crotchrocket." Not that Disney Channel is completely in the clear on the scheduling front either, with nonsense like that absurd week-long premiere of Season 2.
But there are tons and tons of other quirks that the outsiders-cum-newbies (and yes "cum" is being properly used in this context, get your mind out of the gutter) simply were never able to get used to, up to and including even the early premieres on Watch Disney Channel that even Rowan herself complained about (that's another thing I'm with on this "crotchrocket" person but more on that later). Perhaps the biggest and most bizarre thing is the neverending chorus-like insistence that the series need to be "grown-up" and "DeGrassi-Lite" despite the fact that this is on a blatant children's network and that don't they even remember Boy Meets Word at all? And this goes back to the cries of the audience wanting this to be on ABC Family/Freeform despite the fact that that network's multi-cam sitcoms are if anything cheesier than even on Disney Channel (have they seen Young and Hungry? Baby Daddy? Have they even heard of those shows?)
The Hype Machine brought the wrong kind of attention (including a highly poisonous fanbase)
Here's another thing I'm onboard along with "Manna-Fest" and "crotchrocket" at that hellhole known as IMDb.
Bringing in a fanbase that's clueless to the quirks of a particular network is one thing - yeah it can get kind of annoying if they don't manage to pick up on them in the span of three frickin' years, and some if not many of the actions on the part of the network itself certainly didn't help - but it's another thing when that fanbase starts ruining the fun of people trying to watch the show, watch other shows and overall just act like a bunch of poisonous dicks who need to be deported to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
I'm talking about the people who kept complaining that GMW needed to move to Freeform because Disney Channel is "too kiddie" and strangling Jacobs' creativity; the people who would shit on the other shows (like immediately writing off Best Friends Whenever as a ripoff just because the hair colors of the two main leads match the hair colors of the two main GMW leads) and people who would still complain about how GMW is too much like a typical Disney Channel show and then turn around two seconds later and talk about how it's at least so much better than all the other crap on Disney Channel.
Now, I know what you're thinking - it sounds like I'm taking a massive Republican tax cut-sized dump on Christian and Sean and GMW Reviewed in general since they did a lot of this too. Hell even Mike here has been guilty of some of the above from time to time. But I'm not - but I can't really explain why not without explaining how there are two if not three sides to this whole "poisonous fanbase" problem.
The first side consists of all the people who came strictly to watch Girl Meets World and only to watch GMW, overwhelmingly for the nostalgia factor to such a degree where it's fair to say it's strictly for that aspect (as with Christian and Sean as they themselves discovered when they tried to watch the other shows). These people always had the intention of leaving as soon as GMW was over and for the most part they have. Now, it's important to understand that a network's top priority is to make sure it's audience is well-served and to cater to that audience/fanbase in order to make sure they keep coming back so that they can throw advertising dollars at that audience - and especially don't poison the well so badly that they leave a bad taste in that audience's mouths and God Forbid to the frickin' degree where that taste is so bad the audience starts spreading that poison themselves, intentional or not. Well Disney Channel really, really dropped the ball here because that worst case scenario is exactly what happened. I don't know if Disney Channel was really that dangerously unsavvy about the type of older viewer most excited about GMW or if they were just in denial or if they just figure everything would work itself out without any interference or guidance - maybe they'd figure most of the audience that grew up on Boy Meets World were now married and with children and therefore had at least a passing familiarity with most of the shows already on the network as it was if not already watching them with their children anyway, despite the fact that 1.) birth trends in the U.S. along with the rest of the industrialized world have been going down with the exception of immigrants and recent-immigrant legacy families which means that not only a sizable chunk at least of the old Boy Meets World nostalgia fanbase would be completely childless, and most of the actual tween/teen demo of GMW would be from families with relatively few older members who either bothered to watch Boy Meets World in the first place or even have ever heard of it prior to GMW (like, maybe, the parents grew up in households that didn't even have a TV until they were able to go to college and obtain job security themselves) and 2.) most families treat Disney Channel as a babysitter stand-in network - plop the kiddies in front of the TV to distract them long enough so you can do whatever whether it'd be watching Game of Thrones, cooking a meal or going out. In other words, these parents would only have a very passing familiarity of the other shows at best (usually a flitting few seconds) and if impressions on IMDb are any indication those impressions are overwhelmingly bad to the point where most people look at these shows as an avalanche of obnoxious unbridled celebrations of consumerism, brattiness and pop star celeb entitlement (and looking at a lot of these shows it's not hard to see where that impression comes from).
My point is Disney Channel did nothing to keep the adult single or childless couple demo satisfied (other than freaks like me who were watching before GMW even premiered) beyond the fact that there's a show with the words "Meets World" in the title and Rider Strong and Daniel Williams occasionally make guest appearances in it. There's two schools of thought you can go into with this - 1.) well who cares, Disney Channel only cares about marketing to kids anyway so one million single adult viewers might as well be zero adult viewers, or 2.) hey, maybe the adult viewership would help raise our street cred and give our programming more credibility.
I'm going to go ahead and invite you, the reader, to take a wild guess which of the two should've been the correct response, and which was the actual response Disney Channel elected to settle with.
And it's not like Disney Channel hasn't flirted with an older demo before - they've made efforts when their major-draw stars grew older and their fanbase either grew with them or even started to actively draw in older viewers. They did this with That's So Raven, The Suite Life on Deck, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place and Shake it Up. Hell Good Luck Charlie and Jessie were with the very idea that an older and even adult peripheral demo might work out for the network, especially with Jessie where they took a considerable gamble banking on a legally adult star - and hey that show lasted to 100 episodes! Nickelodeon took this same approach too and it helped get iCarly and Victorious (and to a lesser extent Drake & Josh and Zoey101) to mega-star ratings. So it's not like Disney Channel or Nickelodeon have exactly zero experience or expectation that older viewers might be attracted, and that these older viewers might be particularly fickle.
Ideally, GMW should've encouraged the other shows currently in production to step up their game, and to encourage shows with greater crossover appeal for future production like GMW, Good Luck Charlie and Jessie. Instead Jessie went completely in the other direction and GMW itself went nowhere - but more on that later, we're just talking fanbases now.
In the end, this particular "side" of the fanbase had little reason to watch other shows or help spread good word-of-mouth for the rest of the network - and after enough time, not a lot of good word-of-mouth was being spread about GMW itself. The end result is what you have up at GMWReviewed with their reviews of the other shows getting B's at the very best and noted that they're inferior to GMW even though they're all practically the same show (another thing I have to agree with some of the trolls on IMDb) and a lot of murmurs about how much is Disney Channel holding back Jacobs and his crew. That's the exact opposite of what you want to happen as a network.
Now this side of the fanbase isn't actively trying to be poisonous although the bad taste left in their mouths by some of the action/inaction by Disney Channel may have spread itself regardless - but then you do have an actively poisonous element of the fanbase in play here. They'd be the "Manna-Fests" and "crotchrockets" of IMDb - and the GMW fans they troll like "dandanger" and "JPBMILLIONS" and other, ummm...colorful characters.
These are the "fans" who actively spread poison by incessantly making new topics and talking about how it would be better if it were on Freeform, how it would be better on Netflix, how the other shows suck, how Disney Channel is holding them back etc. The main difference is that they make it almost their mission to spread this, be obnoxious about it and in unfortunately many cases chase down the fandoms of other shows specifically to shit on them. Needless to say this is the exact opposite of what you want to happen as a network.
Or, to pull from what I wrote in the Meets Sweet 16 review:
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.
And then you have the final side of this triangle - the professional reviews. Again, the IGNs, the EWs, the Complexes, the AV Clubs, etc. Generally they tend to be somewhere in between those first two groups depending on how reverent or sarcastic they feel like being (which even for sites that aren't specifically gunning for that, given the Disney Channel subject is something they tend to do anyway). These are actually the most dangerous of all because it's what the general public's going to most likely see given they have the largest exposure by far - which means that every "Girl Meets World manages to rise up above the typical kiddie-faire of Disney Channel" or "Girl Meets World, despite the rich nostalgia mine at its disposal, refuses to rise above the kiddie-faire of its host network" deals blows to the overall network PR to at least some degree.
Mike talked about Fuller House on Netflix. Once upon a time there was another show on Netflix - Richie Rich, brought to you by Jeff Hodgson and Tim Pollack who were executive producers of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Suite Life on Deck and A.N.T. Farm (and responsible for some of the most lousy episodes of especially the latter-two series). Richie Rich was panned and rightfully so as one of the most awful multi-camera or live-action children's series to be carried on a "professional" network in the 'States. That doesn't mean that all that panning was fair as many reviewers for some bizarre reason kept insisting on comparing this obvious multi-cam kidcom to frickin' House of Cards and other "killer app" shows on Netflix. In a lot of ways it was the reverse scenario of what's happening to Disney Channel.
There's also a fourth side to this making it a square I guess - the fans who have been on the network prior to GMW - like Mike (and me, I suppose) and Spongey and Shipping Wars are Stupid and a few others on Twitter. Yeah we had pretty high expectations too and at the end of the day as Mike said in his retrospective we feel very little but to walk away disappointed. Unlike the other fans it may or may not have tempered our expectations of shows that were already airing, premiered in the middle or are just airing their first episodes or have yet to premiere - but, well, we expected more all the same.
Disney Channel's idea of damage control is completely non-existent
Of course none of this would matter or even exist if Disney Channel was better at damage control. Whether it's more direct through their PR channels, better promotion or just trying to provide a better product, it was all in their wheelhouse. Instead what we got was just endless apathy for their own existence, and the increasingly lengthening string of shows cut down after two seasons is directly a byproduct.
Jacobs and his crew and the show itself dropped the ball
Mike and Christian and Sean have already covered this extensively, and apparently I've made it so clear people apparently think I hate the show?, but yeah, it certainly dropped the ball. In my Emma's Chance review (see next post) I talk about having a positive, feel good message at the expense of everything else and while GMW didn't exactly do it in spades, it certainly went overboard at the expense of narrative and good storytelling. People may complain about how obnoxious and bereft of life lessons the other shows are, but given how the era those shows represents is a ratings megabuster and the era GMW represents is one where Disney Channel is struggling for fresh air, maybe those "obnoxious" shows were on to something.
Besides, it's not like GMW was somehow the only show trying to provide good, decent family entertainment instead of just whatever appeals to the most base, obnoxious tween demo. Good Luck Charlie, Liv and Maddie and even Jessie, let alone classics like Lizzie McGuire (which honestly I find incredibly boring) all tread the exact same path GMW got lauded for. I've said it before, and I'm still left wondering if Jacobs is simply too stuck in the 90s or if he's just lost his touch. Others have said it on IMDb too - sometimes it feels too dangerously close to an after school special and Meets Tater Tot, which I maintain is the worst episode of the series (quite possibly of the entirety of Disney Channel) really pushed that boundary with actors talking more like the eponymous puppet than actual human beings.
It got too damn obligatory and too much of a damn chore to watch
The fastest way to kill a show for me is to make its viewing feel obligatory. What do I mean by that exactly? Well let's take another series example - The Walking Dead. I've never seen an episode of TWD and I refuse to. The lousy reception it got in its first season and ongoing, particularly from AV Club, pretty much permanently turned me off from it - but what doesn't help is, again, the hype, the feeling that you must watch it if for no other reason everyone else is. Peer pressure is a shitty reason to watch TV, and 9 times out of 10 it just makes me hate the show out of spite.
That's what GMW has gotten itself into, whether for its own fault or not. Because of the huge nostalgia connection it become the Disney Channel "it" show. The other "it" shows - Good Luck Charlie, Shake it Up, Austin & Ally - at least I found them entertaining enough on their own merits (hell, I'm a huge fan of Game of Thrones despite quite possibly being the most hyped show in history). But when GMW came along it pretty much swept out everything else on the network except maybe A&A to become that it show. And it wouldn't be so bad if the episodes were actually, you know, good. Instead we get utter shit like Meets Tater Tot, Meets Gravity, Meets Whatever and now watching it feels like a fucking chore. And when TV - goddamn fucking TV - starts feeling like a chore to watch, then congratulations TV, you just defeated your own fucking purpose. It makes me want to take a sledgehammer to my own 1080p HD TV and break it down into a million pieces, shoot down all the TV satellites and finally move to a different planet where I'm allowed to swear off TV forever for its lack of existence there (and well maybe air too but that's a minor issue).
Basically, it's all of the above cascading into a borefest that makes me want to curl up into an impenetrable hateball. This, BTW, is the whole reason why Mike had been handling GMW almost exclusively up to its very end. I just couldn't fucking take it anymore. I've reached peak GMW fatigue, and clearly so had a large chunk of the audience.
But, ugh, I already feel I've written too much about this as it is. Girl Meets World has had its time, and hopefully all those lessons and more have been learned, but we'll see in the coming year if Disney Channel has really taken those lessons to heart of if they'll continue to struggle while teetering on the edge of ratings oblivion.