I Watched 'Girl Meets World' Episode 1 And It Was Okaaaaay

Michael Jacobs, the original creator of Boy Meets World, has created it’s sequel series Girl Meets World but you wouldn’t know that from watching it. In many ways Girl Meets World is, what we all feared, Disneyfied. In other ways, it is a lot like the original series. Unfortunately the areas where the show is Disneyfied tend to overpower and overshadow the positive aspects of the series.
What’s most notable is the huge disparity in either acting ability or style amongst the young and old actors. Ben Savage, who plays Cory Matthews and Rowan Blanchard, who plays Riley Matthews, can’t act, it seems. Cory had clearly gotten a little over the top by the end of BMW in his utter goofiness (“UNDA-PANTS!!!“) but Ben Savage could deliver those lines with a sincerity and contrast them with the heart and earnestness that made his character more than two dimensional. In Girl Meets World, Cory is relegated to the overbearing father and teacher who won’t give his daughter any space but has heart-to-hearts with her in front of class, while all the other students look bored, confused and disinterested.
Rowan Blanchard is trying her best but her acting is in the likeness of all the other horrifically over-the-top Disney actors. All of Riley and Cory’s dialogue is so on the nose, you’ll be cringing through that opening sequence where they exchange these words. “It’s not your world yet—it’s my world,” Cory says. Riley replies, “How long do I have to live in my father’s world?” Cory answers, “Until you make it yours—go ahead, make it yours.”
The sheer amount of times they say “the world” and “my world” which is approximately 68,000, will make you wonder, “WTF am I watching?” Boy Meets World, Full House and Family Matters, didn’t stoop to such  corny, obvious acting and still managed to appeal to kids. The story lines were corny, the acting was believable. Cory and Riley are so animated and cheesy, which wouldn’t even be a problem if all the actors were matching this energy but they are not.
Rowan’s best friend, Maya (Sabrina Carpenter), the fake Shawn Hunter,  is acting circles around her. Topanga (Danielle Fishel) is acting circles around Cory. And my goodness the best part of the entire episode was the one liners dropped by the baby brother, Auggie (August Maturo). Maya’s character is the resident bad ass, like Shawn, that Riley wants to imitate. She is vivacious, daring and acting on a much more realistic level than Maya. Her acting is so much better that the scene Maya shares with Cory makes Ben Savage a better actor and gives the show the old gravity and weight of Boy Meets World.
It was gripping and when you see it you’ll think, “This is how parents talk. This girl behaves just like someone I know and this is exactly how adults deal with her.”
Another issue is that the pilot condenses 9 seasons of the Shawn-Cory relationship into a heavy handed 20-minute episode. Riley is the good girl who likes doing her homework. Maya is the bad girl who doesn’t want to do homework and wants to climb out of windows and down firescapes. The episode’s job is subverting this stupid binary projected onto girls, while empowering their friendship, which is interesting and very BMW.
Riley  has to learn that the coolest version of herself isn’t a cheap imitation of Maya and Maya has to learn to be a little bit more like Riley otherwise she’s going to end up in more trouble than detention. Like Shawn and Cory, they need each other to have a fuller understanding of “THE WORLD” and to become more self-actualized.
By far the most embarrassing part of the episode, more so than all of Ben Savage’s lines, is the very end where Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) appears as an apparition telling Cory, “Well done, Mr. Matthews.” As EiC Alex points out, having Mr. Feeny as the teacher was important to BMW because he was so serious. Even when he was funny he had a straight face. He was old and full of wisdom which  gave the show a sense of importance and gravity that is missing when we have the wacky Ben Savage filling in. Topanga is certainly more wise but she was hardly in the episode and when she was she infused the scene with an energy that the show needs. She really hasn’t changed a bit. More Topanga!
There’s Farkle (Minkus’ son) who is a nerdy, overachiever in love with both Riley and Maya. His lines are hit or miss but he is mostly good. The show has a lot of potential to be its own unique, great thing. It certainly feels made to handle more serious issues of the week but who knows if it will go as far as BMW did with substance abuse, abusive parents, drugs, cults, sexual assault, promiscuity and infidelity.
Pilots are difficult to write and so are spin-offs, so I am more than willing to give the show a change if not just to get another glimpse at Rider Strong’s amazing hair. Cory and Riley might just be a little rusty and need some time to simmer and settle into their characters. Whereas Maya is really enough of a driving force to keep me interested. Sabrina Carpenter is great as Maya and after watching her here, you’ll want to see her in other things. Little brother Auggie’s sheer sass alone will become a favorite.
Ultimately the execution of the story lines and dialogue leaves much to be desired but could be fixed with some minor tweaks. 6/10, I guess? Girl Meets World premiers June 27th but you can see the pilot now on WATCH Disney Channel or find it through nefarious internet streaming ways. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXFLpND4Q_g&w=590]

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