November 4, 2012

New "Girl Meets World" Details and an In-Depth Analysis of the "Boy Meets World" Sequel

Last week we posted  the breaking news that Disney Channel was developing a Boy Meets World spin-off sequel entitled Girl Meets World  focusing on the pre-teen daughter of Cory and Topanga.  Since we posted that announcement, the following additional details have been released:
  • The show will focus on Cory and Topanga's daughter named Riley.  In the official casting breakdown, she's described as "13 years old, indelible personality, an adorable girl on the cusp of whatever comes next in life, and wanting to rush into it head first. She is fiercely loyal to her friends, and spends most of her time juggling the obstacles that life throws her way... there is no obstacle in this girl's world that can dampen her bright spirit and eternal optimism.""  (Sounds like a good enough protagonist for the show. I can kind of see a blend between the good-natured Cory and the over-achieving Topanga in this child.)
  • Riley's best friend is named Maya, who is darker and edgier than Riley, but still a great friend.  (So they're re-creating the Cory/Shawn friendship.)
  • Riley's older 14 year old brother is Elliot, a know-it-all who bosses Riley around.  (Clearly they're not re-creating the Cory/Eric relationship.)
  • And the big surprise...Cory will be Riley's 7th grade history teacher!  Yes, Cory has become the new Feeny.  I guess Feeny's influence rubbed off on him and he decided to become a teacher himself.  And I'm sure this will create all sorts of comedy with Riley having her father as her teacher.  (By the way, William Daniels, the actor who played Mr. Feeny (who's now 85 years old), is still acting with a recurring role on Grey's Anatomy, so he might just appear on the show too!)
  • Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are in still in talks to reprise their iconic roles as Cory and Topanga, but have not officially signed on yet.
  • Filming is set to begin in February.
Lily Niksay now and on BMW
In addition to all that news, Lily Niksay, the actress who played Cory's little sister Morgan in the first two seasons (but was then replaced by Lindsay Ridgeway for seasons 3-7) reportedly wants to be a part of the new show, even though she hasn't been asked. Since Lily Niksay was replaced on Boy Meet World, I can't really imagine they'd go back to her playing Morgan on the new show.  If [Aunt] Morgan were to appear (in what I imagine would be a guest or recurring role), it would make the most sense for her to be played by Lindsay Ridgeway, who played Morgan when the series ended.

I'll give you a minute to let all of that sink in.

OK. Now, when I first read the news about this new show, I was so excited by the possibility of Cory and Topanga returning to my TV that I could hardly contain myself.  But now, it's been almost a week and I've had time to digest the news.  So let's fully analyze this situation.

First off, let me start by stating that I am still very excited about this potential new show and seeing what happens next to my favorite BMW characters.  I am not one of those people who say they should just leave the show alone and that a spin-off would ruin the series.  No matter what happens with this new show, the old episodes will not change.  They're still on my DVD shelf, and they will always remain the same.  I always welcome any sequel or spin-off of a movie/show that like, since if I like something, then I want to see as much of it as possible.  So I think getting a BMW spin-off is a great idea, and no matter what I look forward to it and will watch it.

Now, I do have some apprehensions about the show, and that is mainly due to the fact that it is planning to air on Disney Channel.  While I am not by any means a regular Disney Channel viewer, I have seen my fair share of Disney Channel shows and am all too aware of their profit-driven formula: Create a sitcom starring a pre-teen girl, preferably one who sings a lot on the show, and push them to be huge teen stars who appear in their Disney Channel movies and release music albums on their Disney label.  This is what they've done with Hillary Duff,  Raven-Symone, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Levato, etc. And while I am excited for this Boy Meets World sequel series, I fear that Disney Channel is just looking for an excuse to create another Disney Channel show starring a pre-teen girl (who will probably sing for some reason) and just use the BMW connection to try to attract viewers.  And while I do realize that Disney Channel is a children's network and that their core audience is children, I hope that the show doesn't focus soley on Riley and turn Cory and Topanga into the silly parent characters that often exist on these shows.  I want the show to be more like Full House or The Cosby Show, a family comedy that really didn't focus on the children or the parents, but more on the family as a whole.

Really, this show shouldn't be on Disney Channel at all.  Boy Meets World originally aired on Friday nights on ABC as part of the network's TGIF block, and that's really where Girl Meets World belongs.  While TGIF no longer exists, ABC did recently try to recreate that type of block with their new Friday night family comedies Malibu Country (starring Reba McEntire) and Last Man Standing (starring Tim Allen).  I think GMW would be a better fit there than on Disney Channel, since this would allow the show to keep its family-oriented roots and not be forced to fit the Disney Channel mold.  Hopefully the Disney executives will realize that this is where the show really belongs and will move it there, but as of now it looks like its stuck on Disney Channel.

But even if the show does air on Disney Channel, the one thing that really gives me hope that the show will not disappoint hardcore BMW fans is the involvement of one man: Michael Jacobs.  Never heard of him?  He's the creator and executive producer of Boy Meets World and he's the one who's behind this new show. The fact that he's developing a spin-off of his own creation and not that Disney is just using his characters for some new kids show gives me hope that this new show will keep the same style and tone and as the original.  And if this recent article is any indication, Michael Jacobs seems to be a real perfectionist and hands-on producer who really cares about his show.  Here are some select quotes from Rider Strong and Ben Savage from the article about working with Michael Jacobs and his dedication to Boy Meets World.

Michael Jacobs recording Boy Meets World  DVD commentary with  Will Friedle (Eric) and Rider Strong (Shawn)

Rider Strong, "Shawn Hunter": Michael was both the heart and brains of the show. Every week, sitcoms have two "run-throughs," where the cast performs the show for the writers, producers, and network executives. Afterwards, the Executive Producer will give notes to the actors. On most shows, that means five to 10 minutes of notes. Michael rarely did less than an hour. Sometimes over two.

Ben Savage, "Cory Matthews": Other people would be "la dee da" [when approaching shows]. I've worked on other sitcoms — and I'm not saying other shows don't try as hard — but with Boy Meets World everyone was so passionate about every aspect of the show. It stood alone.

Strong: He'd go page by page through the script, discussing character, theme, you name it. And he would reference everything from specific episodes of Taxi to Noël Coward plays. And he would quote them verbatim. I not only learned about acting, but storytelling in general. I don't think I would be the actor, writer, or director I am without those note sessions.

With Micheal Jacobs behind the show, I feel pretty confident that Girl Meets World can be a success.  The only other important factor that must fall into place is that Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel must reprise their roles as Cory and Topanga.  If the two of them are not on the show and the parts get recast, then I really don't think this show is worth making at all.  These two actors created these roles as children and played them for seven seasons until their characters became adults and got married.  It would be heartbreaking to see some other actors step into these iconic roles that Savage and Fishel have worked so hard at developing over the seven-year run of the show.  Michael Jacobs is reportedly in talks with the actors to reprise their roles (though neither have official signed on), so hopefully the fact that he's running the show will be enough to get them on board.

Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel as Cory and Topanga Season 1 (left) and Season 7 (right)

I honestly don't think it will be a problem, as although each of them have continued acting since BMW ended (Savage starred in the indie films Car Babes and Palo Alto and guest starred in Chuck, Bones, and Disney Channel's Shake It Up, Fishel starred in National Lampoon's Dorm Daze and Dorm Daze 2, as well as hosted The Dish for 3 years on the Style Network), but neither of them seem to be too busy or too famous to appear on the show.  They have also remained very dedicated to their Boy Meets World roots, by participating in the DVD commentaries, article interviews such as the one referenced above, and keeping active Twitter accounts were they frequently discuss Boy Meets World with their fans.  The only reason I can see them not jumping on board is the fear of getting type cast as those roles and never being able to grow as actors. But after 12 years, I think doing Girl Meets World and getting back in the public eye might be just what they need to help boost their careers.  Therefore, I really think there's a good shot that Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel will jump at this opportunity and please their millions of fans and be Cory and Topanga once again.

In conclusion, I think this Boy Meets World spin-off is a great idea and has the potential to be a great show and a lot of fun for those of us who grew up on Boy Meets World.  While I am a little worried about the show being broadcast on Disney Channel, I'm optimistic that with Michael Jacobs behind the scenes and hopefully Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel in front of the camera, that this can turn out to be a great continuation of the Boy Meets World we all know and love.

And with that, I will end this really long post with this Boy Meets World clip, in which Topanga gets worried that Cory won't be a good father after he lets a kid stay up late to watch TV while babysitting:

We'll see Cory's true fathering style soon enough!  We'll post more GMW updates as they come in!

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