Boy Meets World, Girl Meets World, and the Beauty of the Old Made New

It seems like all of the millenials’ favorite shows and movies from the 90s and 2000s are coming back for everything from sequels and spin-offs to reunions of cast and crew.  Fuller House, the Full House spin-off, will be starting filming soon; there have been rumors about a possible three-quel to the 2001 film, The Princess Diaries; and casts from shows like Gilmore GirlsLizzie McGuire, and Saved by the Bell have been joining up for bowling nights and Tonight Show skits.

But I have to say that there is one spin-off that means the most to me: Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World, the continuation of the story of Boy Meets World, ABC’s sitcom that lasted from 1993 to 2000.

Warning: SPOILERS.  LOTS OF THEM.  HERE WE GO.

Boy Meets World is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.  I wasn’t old enough to watch it when it had wrapped, but one summer when I was in fifth or sixth grade, I started watching the reruns on ABC Family and fell in love.  By high school I had seen just about every episode and gotten completely invested in the lives of Cory, his best friend Shawn, and his crush/girlfriend/fiancee/wife, Topanga, chronicled from sixth grade to college.

I can’t quite explain how much I love Boy Meets World because it seems to transcend the usual experience of TV watching, but I’ll do my best.

Boy Meets World is everything you could want in a classic sitcom: humor, romance, inspiration, family, love.  Much like in the Harry Potter series, the audience got to watch the characters grow up– not just physically, but emotionally.  The storylines start off with the plights of growing up: Cory and Shawn develop feelings for girls, Cory is second-string on the middle school basketball team, Shawn pulls pranks and Cory has to cover for him.  But by the final season, the characters are dealing with real trauma like Topanga’s parents’ divorce, Shawn’s dad’s death, and Cory’s little brother’s premature birth.  Not to mention, Cory and Topanga have to deal with being struggling newlyweds.

And through everything, there is one man, a steady rock in their fast-changing world: Mr. Feeny.  He starts off as the charming, older neighbor and teacher, but he becomes so much more than that.  When Cory and his friends find themselves in the biggest fight of their lives and only Eric (Cory’s older brother) believes that they can all stay together, Feeny helps them to work out their differences.  When Topanga has to decide whether to go to Yale or to Pennbrook with Cory, she comes to Mr. Feeny to help her make her decision.  And Mr. Feeny pushes Cory to accept change and to move to New York to support Topanga’s aspirations to become a lawyer.

So if you can’t tell already, Boy Meets World is basically a part of my soul that I can hold in my hands in the form of the complete series on DVD.  So this is how I feel about Girl Meets World and why:

I’m not gonna lie; I was disappointed by the pilot of Girl Meets World.  The episode had a distinct, sugary-sweet, modern-Disney Channel taste to it, and it didn’t sit well with me.  The show’s protagonist, Cory and Topanga’s daughter, Riley, was just like any other current Disney Channel actress– over the top and unnatural.  The one-minute appearance of Mr. Feeny at the end of the episode was not enough to keep me watching.

Until my suite mate from college convinced me otherwise.  She insisted that despite the roughness of the pilot, the show gets better as it goes on.  So I gave it another try.  And she was right.

Girl Meets World features the returns of not only Cory and Topanga, but also Shawn (who is now a travelling writer), Harley (the hardcore bully turned endearing janitor), Eric (now the eccentric mayor of a town in upstate New York), Cory’s parents (who visit the house in New York City for Christmas), and Mr. Feeny (fulfilling the same role as ever).  Every time a character from Boy Meets World comes on the screen, my heart practically explodes with the joy of the old being made new.

And that’s what I love about Girl Meets World, and what I think is so important about the old shows from our childhood coming back again.  When we have spin-offs and sequels and cast reunions, we are reminded that the cast and creators don’t forget the story they created.  Just as we don’t want to forget, neither do they.  They still love the characters like we do.  They still love the inside jokes, the memories, the relationships.  They still love the show.

And I was reminded of this most importantly in the Girl Meets World episodes “Girl Meets Mr. Squirrels” and “Girl Meets Hurricane.”  In the former, Cory calls in his brother, Eric, to fulfill the role as friend-fight mediator, his best attribute in Boy Meets World.  Eric uses his old mantra from the Boy Meets World episode, “Seven the Hard Way”–“Lose one friend, Lose all friends, Lose yourself”– to help Riley and Maya (her best friend and the “New Shawn Hunter”) through their first big fight.  Seeing Eric’s legacy help the next generation was truly heart-warming.

In “Girl Meets Hurricane,” last Friday’s new episode, Shawn is finally confronted with his old love, Angela, years after she left him to go to Europe with her father.  Since then, her father has died and she has been married for four years.  But she doesn’t come to Shawn to show off her new life; rather, she comes to ask him for advice about becoming a mother (her own mother left her, which caused doubts about her own integrity).  Shawn supports her and encourages her to have children and to “put more of her” into the world.  It was the closure that a Boy Meets World fan never got to have.  And the surprise appearance by Shawn’s (dead) father (a form that he often takes in Boy Meets World to help him through his problems) caused a billion emotions for me (which resulted in crying, of course).  Needless to say, the episode was one of the best yet.

What I’m trying to say here is that when a show means so much to you, like Boy Meets World does to me, a well-done spin-off or a joyful cast reunion can mean more than just some memories resurfacing.  It can mean passing a story that has changed us on to people who haven’t heard it before, seeing the characters we love interact once again, watching a new story unfold for us.  Though Mr. Feeny said, “Class dismissed,” there’s always another school year in session.

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