Review: ‘Girl Meets World’ marks a switch in the Disney program
In that other country called the 1990s, on a network called ABC, Friday nights were dedicated to family viewing — “TGIF” was the name of the programming block, and though it has been fitfully revived and abandoned in the 21st century, you will not likely see its like again, family viewing itself having become a thing of the past in the each-to-his-own-niche world of modern multi-platform screen-watching. Which is to say, life.
Disney Channel, whose tween-to-teen narrowcasting exemplifies this state of affairs, acquired ABC in 1996 and with it “Boy Meets World, “ a top TGIF performer for seven seasons from 1993 to 2000 and in continual reruns since. Friday, appropriately, it issues a sequel, “Girl Meets World”; for many viewers who came of age alongside the first series’ characters, “long-awaited” is not too strong a description.
And though it is not exactly in the spirit of the original, it should satisfy any “Boy” fans eager to see it. Younger viewers will just accept the fact that another sitcom has been made in their idealized self-image, and accept it as their due.
In the original, Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel played Cory and Topanga, whom the seasons took from sixth-grade unsuspecting soul mates to on-camera married couple. Now they have children: worried but not worrisome seventh-grader Riley (Rowan Blanchard), the titular girl, and 5-year-old Auggie (August Maturo), who is there to be cute.
That Savage and Fishel are part of the draw and the deal means that they spend more time on screen, and have more substantive things to say and positive things to contribute, than do the parents in most youth-channel sitcoms, where anyone over the age of 30 is around mostly for bumbling comic relief. It is significant perhaps that creators Michael Jacobs and April Kelly, who also invented “Boy Meets World,” have never been part of the Nickelodeon or Disney systems, but come from old-school network television and an age of comedies about and for the whole family.
Still, the new series — whose aspect is fundamentally sweet and whose jokes range from the obvious and efficient to the sometimes strange and surprising — feels torn by conflicting impulses.
The central middle-school foursome — Riley, street-smart best-friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter, who is 15 to Blanchard’s 12, and seems it); conventional crush-object Lucas (Peyton Meyer); and moony human cartoon Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis) — have an odd structural resemblance to the central characters of “My So-Called Life.” One senses, especially in the pilot, a desire to dig a little deeper, get a little more real, than a Disney Channel sitcom will allow.
I am pretty sure how things will turn out in the battle for this unobjectionable series’ soul, and also sure that we are not going to be following Riley and Maya into adulthood. That is not how things roll in Neverland.
‘Girl Meets World’
When: 9:45 p.m. Friday
Rating: TV-G (suitable for all ages)
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