Girl Meets World: Girl Meets World
(Season 1 x Episode 1)
Synopsis: Riley Matthews and Maya Hart begin to explore the world and make it their own (with the help of some familiar faces)!
Rating: ★★★★☆ for nostalgia factors
The series premiere of “Girl Meets World” might not be until June 27th, but for people with select cable providers they have been able to view the episode since May 21st through “Watch Disney Channel” apps and online.
Since the first rumors that the show was being developed in 2012 I have been watching with a wary eye. Network television has changed in the past 20 years from when “Boy Meets World” first came out: ABC no longer has “TGIF” programming, ABC Family has a very niche market, and Disney Channel has undergone massive changes in programming too. It was still very interesting to see what direction the show would take, especially when Ben Savage and Danielle Fischel were confirmed to be returning to the show as the teenage sweethearts Cory and Topanga and that the show would focus on their daughter, Riley Matthews.
So let’s get into this recap/ review shall we! The series revolves around Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard) who is the daughter of Cory and Topanga Matthews, the couple the nation fell in love with in the 90’s. They have been located in New York City since Topanga accepted an internship at a law firm there in the series finale where she still works (I bet Sam can talk more to the ridiculousness of this than I but hey). The episode begins with Riley collaborating with her best friend Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter) on how to sneak out of the house and get on the subway so they can go to school. When Riley decides that she’s too scared to confront her parents, they decide to sneak out the window when they are thwarted by her father Cory who’s been hiding out there knowing exactly what they’ll do.
As the cheers from the studio audience raise for him (something younger kids will probably be confused by) he begins a sweet little speech about how it’s his world that she’s living in but he’s already met the world and that it’s time for her to go out and make it her own. When she nervously asks him if he’ll still be there for her no matter what happens, Topanga comes in (to some more rousing cheers) and links arms with Cory, assuring her that they both would be there for her. With bright smiles, the two girls go and run off to the Subway as Cory and Topanga lean up against each other and smile at them.
Here’s where the girls’ stories begin- Maya is rebellious and the “bad girl” of the two of them while Riley is nervous and obviously excited at being in the Metro without her parents. As Maya struts (literally) around the subway and talking to a bunch of random people, Riley shows a huge interest in her friend’s “cool” lifestyle and declares that she’s going to be less like herself and more like her. As they ride the subway to school, they meet the cute Lucas Friar (Peyton Meyer) and Maya goes up and flirts with him and then dumps him in a single sentence before giving Riley the push (literally) to get her to talk to him. During a cameo from Jackée Harry (who people will recognize from “Sister/ Sister” as Lisa Landry) we get to see once again how awkward Riley is, as any 12 year old should be.
The two arrive late to school and surprise, surprise, her father is her middle school history teacher! Taking a lesson from his mentor Mr. Feeny, Mr. Matthews tries to inspire his students to write a paper on something they are passionate about when Maya decides to rebel and lead a “No homework” parade throughout the school, Riley following along to impress the new student Lucas.
When the next day comes by Maya proudly exclaims she hasn’t done her work while Riley admits she’s done both of theirs leading Maya to try and stage a coup in class to demonstrate how passionate she is about this cause. The typical weird kid in class Farkle (who loves both Riley and Maya because they are “day and night”) brings in his project complete with lit sparklers which Maya commandeers when she tries to set all the homework on fire, before Cory grabs the papers to stop her and she sets off the school’s sprinkler system.
We are led to a scene between Cory and Maya outside the classroom when he chastises her for not being a good friend, saying that a friend is someone who helps get the other one out and stay out of trouble. He tells her that as long as he’s known her (which we are to assume a long time) she’s always been going too far, to which she replies that there’s no one at home to help her with her homework.
The two girls are silent on the subway before Maya tells Riley that she thinks her dad is going to have them stop being friends and that she agrees with it. Once again Jackée is on the subway and tells the girls that they need each other’s friendship and to not give it away. Maya pushes Riley off of the subway at her stop but Riley pulls the doors back open and tells Maya that it’s her world now, and that she’s the first person that she wants in it. Maya asks if she’s going to save her, and Riley smiles brightly at her, affirming their status as best friends. After explaining to her father what she learned is worth fighting for, her parents smile at her and we are led to the final scene.
In the end, Maya gets her Metrocard, or as Cory calls it the ticket to the world, and the two girls goes off together to have the Matthews waiting for them at the station when they get off. Topanga tells them that they said they would always be there for them, and Cory smiles down and says, “It’s not so easy handing over the world without making sure that everything is going to be ok.” I won’t ruin the last 20 seconds of the show for you, but let’s just say I let out a unintelligible scream and couldn’t stop smiling after it. It really made the pretty much unbearable 22 minutes before it worth it all.
I have to state the point that this is not a show aimed at our generation. To me the styles worn by the 12 year olds were just reminiscent of every other recent Disney show (pretty much wack, I know 12 year olds and none of them dress like this), scenarios play out so ridiculously it’s almost insulting, and certain characters actually make me cringe due to their portrayal, but this just goes to show that it really is not our show. Yes, it’s the Cory and Topanga we know and love, but it’s Riley’s world we are in.
Riley is a perfect blend of her parents. She has Topanga’s smarts but her dad’s empathy and awkwardness. Rowan plays the role very sweetly and while the writing and acting might be extremely uncomfortable in some places she owns her role. Maya is the obvious answer to Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong, who is listed for appearances in future episodes) and while her character is only 12 she has street smarts well beyond that. Sabrina herself is 15, and this gap in age between her age and the age she is portraying is incredibly noticeable. I understand that Maya is supposed to be the tough girl but she just seems to be this older kid who hangs around Riley, never her equal. I’m interested to see how these two became friends to be honest. The lack of an age gap in Ben Savage and Rider Strong made it much more relatable and they were acting their age whereas here Rowan is the only one who is actually 12, Peyton Meyer also being 15.
Another thing that bothered me in Maya’s portrayal has more to do with writing than anything else. When Cory is telling Maya that she goes too far sometimes and Maya tearfully replies that she has no one at home, I didn’t feel like this should have been a huge realization for Cory. He had been friends with Shawn for so long and had seen him go through so much that I don’t believe that he didn’t realize the similarities between Maya and his best friend. If Cory is going to be the replacement for Mr. Feeny/ Mr. Turner I hope to see him have some more fatherly moments between him and Maya. She’s already going to be going through a lot for a Disney show.
And that’s another thing to remember. This isn’t ABC’s “TGIF”, ABC Family, or even Disney Channel of the past. Don’t expect a lot of episodes with the gravitas that was featured in the original “Boy Meets World”. I don’t know of any other show in recent years that dealt with death, abandonment, alcoholism, and had healthy portrayals of young love and relationships like the shows of the past did that are aimed at middle school students. This is also a Disney show now, and we should expect more light hearted fun than anything else. Disney’s current lineup is filled with movie stars, talking dogs, and magic teen princesses, so it hopefully they stick to a realistic portrayal of growing up.
For a huge fan of the original series, watch for the nostalgia and skim through any parts without recognizable faces to save yourself some loud groans. If you have kids now this is a pretty good show with a strong focus on friendship that they could learn from, but it’s up to you to decide if it is something they should watch. I can only urge you all that you watch the last scene of the show just to make sure you watch the last 20 seconds- they really are worth it.
But hey, it’s your world and I can’t tell you what to do!