Focusing on the 12-year-old daughter of Cory and Topanga Matthews, Girl Meets World attempts to introduce the wholesome fun of Boy Meets World to a new generation. Given its Disney Channel roots, it attempts to appeal to a certain demographic, the iCarly/Dog With A Blog/The Suite Life of Zack and Cody crowd, all the while trying to capture the "life lessons" angle of its predecessor. For the most part, it manages to be entertaining with a fairly solid concept, once you get past a few inherent flaws in the execution.
Rowan Blachard plays the role of Riley Matthews. A relative newcomer to acting (not surprising given that she's only 12 years old), Rowan tries to embody the same youthful quirkiness and enthusiasm that Ben Savage gave to his character of Cory 20 years ago. For the most part, it makes her appear awkward and inept; unfortunately I can't tell if that was the end result or not. The real flaw with the approach, however, is that it makes Riley a mini-Cory. Instead of imbuing her with her own personality, they tried to cut a cloth from Cory, taking away from her opportunity to shine.
Riley's best friend is Maya, played by Sabrina Carpenter. With a few additional roles under her belt, Sabrina's character comes off much more natural than Rowan's and at least the pair manage to work well off of each other. Maya is the free-spirit, rebellious, fearless girl who does and says what she wants. Sound familiar? It should because that's the basic description of Cory's childhood best friend, Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong). And at this point, we run into the biggest problem with Girl Meets World; they aren't trying to create new characters. Instead, they are reimagining the characters from Boy. In some cases, this works, such as Maya. But in others, it's downright annoying. Take, for example, Farkle, the class nerd and suck up that proclaims his love for both Riley and Maya and the way they embody two sides of the same coin. Farkel carries himself with a flamboyancy that would make Jack McFarland jealous, leaving viewers to wonder if he wouldn't be more in love with Mr. Matthews instead of his daughter.
|"Just Jack...er... Farkle!"|
But all of this pales in comparison to the show's biggest disappointment: the laugh track. The fact that they included a laugh track is understandable, even if it is slightly insulting. However, it was used far too often, and far too annoyingly. The recorded laughter sounded like it was being played back through an aquarium filled with petroleum jelly, giving it an abrasive echoing timbre. At first I thought it was a problem with my speakers but the rest of the show sounded fine. It almost made the show unwatchable.
By the end of it, Girl Meets World shows promise. It's not your standard Disney Channel fair, putting a group of tweens into insurmountable situations and allowing the hijinks to ensue. Instead, it tries to recreate the tone of 90s sitcoms and does so well enough. Even a few of the throwbacks to Boy Meets World were done cleverly enough, such as naming Riley's school "John Quincey Adams Middle School". If the writers are willing to tone down the caricatures a bit and give the new cast personalities of their own, I could see Girl Meets World being a worthy successor to Boy Meets World.