There aren't many shows on Family that have made me cry. OK, I'm not made of stone so naturally I welled up at the end of "Good Luck Charlie" but I can't recall any other series or episode that got me all choked up. Until now.
Popping in the "Girl Meets World" premiere screener (the pilot aired as a sneak peek after the premiere of "Zapped" a few weeks back), I figured it was just going to be another episode. Nothing terrible, nothing great, just a half hour that was more enjoyable than the show with the talking dog and his computer.
Back in the day, I watched the odd episode of "Boy Meets World" but was never a hard-core fan. I do enjoy anything steeped in nostalgia, so when I heard Michael Jacobs and April Kelly were spinning off the family sitcom, I was in. While a lot can be said about TV and movie storylines being recycled and the lack of unique, original ideas nowadays, this generation needs a coming-of-age tale like this.
"Girl" centres on 12-year-old Riley (Rowan Blanchard), whose parents happen to be Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel). The parallels with "Boy" are undeniable and intentional, from Riley's friendship with her popular-yet-troubled best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) to her crush on Lucas (Peyton Meyer), but it's Cory's relationship with both his daughter and her BFF that makes the show a standout.
The foundation of "Boy Meets World" was always about the older and wiser folks passing on pearls of wisdom to the young. Cory, now a teacher, isn't exactly Mr. Feeny (William Daniels, who made a cameo in the sneak peek) but that may be because he's a parent to one of the kids. Or it could be because Savage still looks so young that it's weird to see him passing down advice.
In "Girl Meets Father," they're still dealing with the father/daughter relationship, as Riley wants to go to her first school dance while Cory is more interested in keeping their annual tradition of riding the Coney Island Cyclone. It's all about growing up and letting go. It's a breath of fresh air to watch a man doling out life lessons to his impressionable daughter while Mom takes a back seat, but it's also nice to see that Topanga isn't just window dressing and gets to play Mom for a few scenes. Yes, it's established in the episode that Cory has almost always been the one advising his daughter, but I think we can all agree that the more screentime Topanga gets, the better.
It was also nice that Farkle (recurring star Corey Fogelmanis) wasn't shoved down our throats this time around, unlike the pilot. I don't know, maybe it's just me but I like my dorky, big-mouthed characters in small doses ("OITNB'"s Soso, "The Walking Dead'"s Andrea, Kimmie Gibbler and Screech spring annoyingly to mind) so it's nice that his antics warrant little screen time. Though I can't wait for his dad, Stuart Minkis (Lee Norris), to show up and mix it up with Cory and Topanga once more.
While the first half of the episode is fairly sitcom-y, it's the conclusion where things get downright emotional. Maya's scene with the Matthews fam is a sad but sweet one, and not only did it give us some insight into why Maya acts out, but it also allows the audience to not completely write her off -- just like the original series' Shawn (Rider Strong, who will make an appearance later in the season).
Cory and Topanga are making it clear that they're welcoming Maya with open arms, much like Cory's dad did with Sean on "Boy." A little too close to the original series? Maybe. But while I definitely see the similarities, it doesn't play off as heavy-handed or try-hard. If anything, it's a nice change of pace for Disney to spotlight characters who aren't one-dimensional and are only on-screen to spout out one-liners. Hmm, a Disney show with some genuine heart. Who 'da thunk it?
"Girl Meets World" airs Fridays at 7 p.m. ET on Family.