Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nostalgia in Reverse: Boy Meets World's Strange Sequel on Girl Meets World

I watched Boy Meets World, the complete series, a countless number of times. I’ll go with 33 times. Coheed and Cambria named a song “33”. I watched parts of the original TGIF run in the late 90s and the year 2000. TheWB Philadelphia affiliate aired re-runs during the 90s. Disney and ABC Family alternately re-ran the series and seemingly will continue do so for an infinite amount of time. I re-imagined season six in this blog. I wrote a couple hundred words about the terrible “Brotherly Shove” episode. I also wondered about the scale of John Adams High, whether or not anyone not in Cory’s and Shawn’s and Topanga’s age group were banished from Chubby’s and the school. I’d be laughed off the internet if I didn’t try to figure out the geography of the show in a post, which is what I did, because Michael Jacobs has the geographic sense of a toddler. I’ve overthought Boy Meets World. Some people brainstorm ways to bring electricity and water to third world countries. I tried to prove fictional Cory Matthews lived in Mayfair. I’m a bad person.

Girl Meets World already shot to hell my overarching theory about the show. Cory imagines Mr. Feeny encouraging him at the end of the Girl Meets World “Pilot.” I theorized to friends that Feeny died in between the final episode of BMW and the first episode of GMW. His appearance in the “Pilot” would work two-fold. Cory imagined seeing his beloved late teacher unaware that his essence, his ghost if-you-will, watched and observed and slightly influenced Cory’s life for the better. The viewer wouldn’t know either about Feeny’s hereafter spectral influence. Cory, Shawn, and Topanga would never know. Perhaps a situation, an object, a lesson would remind them of Mr. Feeny, but they wouldn’t know Feeny still looked after them. Cory’s lessons, a book one of the girls read, a made up game Auggie invented, all would point to the faint influence of Mr. Feeny.

Mr. Feeney appeared twice in the second season, alive and well. In one episode, Cory called him to make sure he didn’t die, which I took as a direct assault on my theory from Michael Jacobs. (No, I never published the theory, and Jacobs wouldn’t know I or my blog exists). In the second episode, Cory, Shawn, and Topanga dug up a time capsule they never buried in Boy Meets World. They buried the time capsule in Feeny’s yard. He showed up, flashlight in hand, and gave them adult detention. The artificial audience turned into a cafeteria of Catholic grade school students when he handed out adult detention.

I watch exclusively for the Boy Meets Word storylines. So far, the continuation of Boy Meets World storylines has been a mix of pandering and nonsense. Angela returned to ask Shawn about whether or not she should become a mother. Her appearance came in the midst of a strange arc involving Riley’s best friend and her mother in which the best friend, Maya, wants Shawn to be her guardian. At times I feel uncomfortable watching the Shawn/Maya dynamic. Angela represents Shawn’s be-all-end-all, she’s the one that got away and didn’t come back, and everyone who cares for Shawn in Girl Meets World thinks he’ll fall for Angela all over again if he saw her. The contrived and nonsensical reason she returns failed to re-capture Shawn and Angela. The writing almost gets there when Angela brings up their shared abandonment issues, but the writers reduced to her a plot device. “Angela’s Ashes” went as deep as a primetime family sitcom will go in relationships. Angela mentioned her father passed away, but it’s a nothing thing because everyone else eavesdrops outside Topanga’s coffee shop in hopes Shawn won’t return to her.

Eric Matthews returned as Plays With Squirrels, which was a nonsensical and fan pandering choice. No one knows Plays With Squirrels exists. Eric imagined the scenario during “The War.” Eric shares his “Lose your friends. Lose all friends. Lose yourself.” That’s it. The people of Stupidtown elected him mayor. Eric helped Riley and Maya heal what hurt their friendship in his first episode. The second episode told a story about young idealism typical of shows targeted to young teens and tweens who don’t know the bad man that wants to heavily reduce education funding will be elected and re-elected and re-elected again. Child idealist Eric Matthews believes in their future, wins an important debate overseen by his brother and attended only by children that can’t voice. A character in The Wire tells the mayor hopeful, “Kids can’t vote,” in one of the more hopeless scenes. Tommy from season six returns in a moment that touched my sooty soul to thank Eric for the sacrifice he made for Tommy over a decade ago. Eric’s even worse than the season seven portrayal.

Mr. Turner, Boy Meets World’s true villain in my alternate season six vision, returned for an inspiring half-hour about alternative teaching methods. Turner, whose last episode was the cult one when he crashed his bike, holds the superintendent position of New York Public Schools. He hired Cory. The Principal wants to fire Cory for hiring an English teacher that teaches comic books alongside canonical works of literature. The episode’s theme is heroes and villains. Guess who the heroes were. Yeah. The principal’s the villain for his narrow thinking and loses his job for trying to fire Cory and female Turner. Female Turner teaches Alan Moore’s Dark Knight alongside Harper Lee’s To Kill A  Mockingbird. Anyway, Turner eats dinner at the Matthews. Maya asked about Shawn. Turner said he loved Shawn like a son. Yes, it’s a sweet sentiment, and we’re supposed to forget Turner wasn’t there for Shawn’s graduation or the death of his father or when Shawn learned Verna wasn’t his biological mother. Before he disappeared Turner didn’t want to adopt him. Shawn lived with Chet again only to be kicked out again for Shawn’s own growth. When Shawn sees Turner again, Girl Meets World will leave out their complicated past. The actor probably wanted to leave the show, but own the story. Work it into the story. Boy Meets World didn’t shy from telling ‘heavy’ emotional stories.

Rider Strong’s the strongest actor in the series. Ben Savage is the worst. Shawn plays the sad stuff quietly. He’s not bombastic during the loud comedy bits. He played younger Shawn with a lot of whine and teen agent and it worked for the character. Teenage Shawn came from a broken home, a potential guardian rejected him, colleges didn’t want him, and he didn’t have a place. Shawn at thirty-something years old should deal with inner anguish and sadness with more control. Older folk gain perspective. We figure out how to be young when we’re past that. Teens don’t really listen well to people who’ve gone through it. The story for Shawn is building a future with Maya’s mother and Maya. The better direction could’ve been wise 30 year old Shawn who knows he can’t fill what Maya needs, but he can be there for and let her know that whatever she feels at 14 won’t always stay with her.
Cory’s still an idiot. The 5 year old son has more sense and wisdom than Cory Matthews. Topanga’s a non-character.

Shawn Hunter’s the series’ richest, most subtle character because of Rider Strong’s talent. He added more to the Angela scene than what was on the page—his manner, his body language, expressed more than any of the subpar and hastily written dialogue. Disney shows have atrocious acting, their series seem written by a wild pack of starved hyenas, and maybe I’m a grizzled and cynical man but not every adult actor needs to act like an over-sugared child.

Okay, so the Feeny theory wasn't real. Ponder this, though: nostalgia drives part of the TV and movie industry. What we saw before we're seeing again. Coach, The X Files, Twin Peaks, Heroes, etc. all have spots in the 2015-2016 TV Season (not Twin Peaks). Girl Meets World's part of the longing for the past by people. Girl Meets World isn't a show driven by the spirit of Mr. Feeny. Perhaps the show's  main theme is memory. Memory's amazingly unreliable. I said something that cracked my friend up in 2013. He quoted me Sunday night. I have no memory of saying it. I don't remember things as they happened. I remember what I think I remember, or rather I think I remember what I remember but what I remember is unreliable and trustworthy. We're all unreliable narrators. The writers of Boy Meets World and, now the writers of Girl Meets World, retcon the heck out of the past. The retcons could be part of the main fabric woven through the two series, a commentary about memory, how it becomes blurred and confused, and how as we age we retcon our own pasts. Characters re-appear different from what they were which is not dissimilar to how it is when we run into someone we haven't seen in years. The first thing people will say is, "Wow! You look different!" Sometimes I think, "If I could return to the past, I'd wouldn't do the same things. I'd act differently." Hasn't everyone, if only once, thought about that they'd do something differently if they had the chance? The nostalgia wave lets writers and fans do things differently. The scary thing to think about is that I'd do same thing. No matter what I think I'd do or how I'd act, I'd do it all the same. People essentially want the same thing. TV does the same, except the actors aged a bit.

Girl Meets World wraps all those aspects of nostalgia, the remembrance of things past, but more likely it's the opposite end of memory that made it into the pitch. Without memory, we don't have a past. A lot of people remember and love Boy Meets World. They'd love it all over again even if it's a little different, a little changed--like them. Everyone's a little different and a little changed now compared to then.

The series is more than a nostalgic kick for us entitled millennials. I’m invested in the Boy Meets World stuff, because I’m cursed. I don’t watch unless I know Eli Williams will return. GMW basically copies the Boy Meets World stories. Jacobs and the writers make meta references about it. The stories always start with Riley. Girl Meets World is Boy Meets World for a new group of young kids except its from a female perspective.

We’ve seen it all before, Boy Meets World fans.


Wild Child said...
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Wild Child said...
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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.