If you’re old enough and you hear the phrase “TGIF,” you might be reminded of the last days of family TV, specifically the shows featured on ABC every Friday night. From the late 1980’s to the turn of the century, ABC proudly presented family-friendly sitcoms in a line-up they called TGIF. I have fond memories of those days as a kid, sprawling out on the living room floor, eating pizza, all the while watching TV with my family. Every week, we tuned in to shows like Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, Full House, as well as other programs that were considerably less memorable.
In September of 1993, ABC first aired what would one day be the last of the great TGIF sitcoms: Boy Meets World. The show had a successful run up until its final airing some six-and-a-half years later, in May of 2000.
Many of the fans of the show were saddened by Boy Meets World concluding. Deep down, we knew that this was the end of an era. Gone were the days of sugary sweet, benign sitcom humor depicting good ol’ fashioned family fun. I admit that may not be an appealing sounding description to cynical millennials, and even back then these shows probably would have been crap. That is, had they not been backed by a network that had enough money to make these shows enjoyable. TGIF overcame the cynicism of the 90’s and many of the shows featured there went on to overcome the cynicism of today in syndication.
It was the end of TGIF and the fact that Disney owned ABC that gave the powers that be an idea to fill this void. The plan was simple: produce a similar brand of family friendly show, and utilize the Disney brand as the vehicle.
It was at this time that the Disney Channel began producing shows like Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Wizards of Waverly Place. These shows were profitable for Disney and popular with kids, but most parents found them only “watchable” at best.
It is only now that it seems Disney has decided to cash in on the original formula they’ve been trying to replicate for the past 13 years. In November of 2012, Disney announced that it was bringing back the cast of Boy Meets World for an all new series called Girl Meets World, I, personally, have been waiting for the show’s premiere since hearing about the announcement. Finally, on June 27th of this year, the wait was over, and these are my thoughts on the pilot…
The show opens with the daughter of Corey and Topanga Mathews hanging out with her friend. It isn’t long before the two characters establish that they have a relationship similar to Corey and Shawn’s. After this relationship is defined by just a few lines of dialogue, Ben Savage makes his entrance, and it was every bit as exciting to see him reprise his role as I was expecting. After we are reintroduced to Corey, Danielle Fishel made her entrance as well. I only got a quick look at her before the scene ended, and after that I only saw her for a total of about 90 seconds of the rest of the show. I was disappointed, but it’s understandable, I mean this is Girl Meets World, not Boy Meets World.
After the opening scene, all of the main characters appear in the show’s primary backdrop: Feeney’s old classroom, with Cory now the teacher and his daughter one of the students. It’s only in the scenes taking place in the classroom with Ben Savage present that Girl Meets World is at its best. It’s also in the classroom that we are introduced to Farkle. Farkle’s character sort of mirrors Mincus, whom you may remember if you are familiar with the early seasons of Boy Meets World.
Farkle is the wild break out character of the show, sort of like GMW‘s version of Steve Urkel, which I actually mean as a compliment, as it assures me that Disney is following the formula from TGIF more faithfully this time around.
The show is certainly not without its problems, though. The plot seemed rushed and considerably forced. Most of the physical humor that the show set up for big laughs just don’t make sense as to what led to the “zaniness” or why it was even happening in the first place.
Probably most disappointing is that GMW still suffers from the Hannah Montana syndrome of relying too much on young, inexperienced actors to carry the story. Part of the strength of the family sitcom from perhaps the late 60’s on was that the younger members of the cast could grow and learn from the older members. As they grew, so did their parts. This would allow the child actor to shine in special moments and give them
the time to hone their craft without falling on their face whilst on-screen, thereby not disappointing the audience.
I realize Disney Channel is dedicated to children, but given the nostalgia factor, this show could be bigger than just for kids. It could even revive the family sitcom. If GMW follows the TGIF formula properly, it could even inspire Disney Channel to bring back more shows from around this era. Heck, Disney could even line them all up on Friday nights. Kids already have cartoons to be entertained, so wouldn’t it be nice if television provided a source for families to spend time together again? I think that in a few years, it’s a pleasant thought that I could be watching my son watching TV on the floor eating pizza and just Thank God It’s Friday (and not have to watch some kids show in the process).