"Meets World" Franchise Review
During these difficult days, many have found a large amount of free time and so want entertainment to fill that time. I was feeling this as well and so had been watching all sorts of things on Disney+. We have even provided a watch list part 1 for you here on the blog (part 2 will be coming shortly)! Today I will be providing an in depth review of a specific series that I am recommending.
One day my father and I decided to try out the first episode of Boy Meets World. At the time we actually had no idea how many seasons it ran for. I had been slightly familiar with Girl Meets World as I had watched it a little bit back when it was on the air. Really though I went in clean to this experience.
For those of you who don’t know, Boy Meet World is a series that aired on ABC for seven seasons in the years from 1993-1999. While it was certainly successful enough to remain on the air for seven seasons, it really has gained a large fan base in the years after it went off the air. Girl Meets World is described as a spin-off series that follows the daughter of the lead couple from Boy Meets World and aired for three seasons between the years of 2014 and 2016.
After watching all ten seasons, I felt it would be a good idea to give a holistic review of each series and the “Meets World” franchise as a collective. Since you might be interested in watching one or both of these shows for yourself, I will write a brief non-spoiler review above each of the three full reviews.
Boy Meets World:
Boy Meets World is an incredible series. The characters are realistic and yet not overly gritty. This is an entertaining, yet realistic, in some respects, look at the 1990s American family and offers a lot for newer viewers as well. Ultimately the value of having a good family and good friends to count on is underlined here. I cannot recommend this series enough, it grows and evolves as the characters age and does so in a very sophisticated and enjoyable way.
Boy Meets World shows the evolution of Cory Matthews, his best friend, Shawn Hunter, and Topanga Lawrence -- ultimately Matthews as she winds up marrying Cory. We first meet them as students in middle school and follow them into college. The realism of the series is one of its strengths, creating real life scenarios and dealing with feelings that aren’t often discussed on television. Mr. Feeny, their teacher and, eventually, principal and then college professor, is also one of the highlights of this show. His guiding hand throughout the series is felt both by the characters and the audience. His lessons are so deep, meaningful, and real that you cannot help but take them to heart.
Cory works amazingly as a lead, starting as a rambunctious young boy and evolving into a mature, at least most of the time, adult. He deals with common struggles and following his life is a thoroughly enjoyable and educational experience.
Shawn and Topanga are his network of supportive friends who are always by his side. Topanga, although not as major a character in the early seasons, makes a very clear mark on the series. She is a confident and yet flawed individual who is discovering herself and the meaning of love at the same time. Cory and Topanga’s learning about what a real relationship involves is one of the most interesting aspects of the series as they deal with breakups, flirtations, marriage, and post-marriage responsibilities.
Shawn is a particularly well developed character and his family drama is quite engaging. His relationship with his teacher, Mr. Turner, who turns out to be more than just a teacher, in the middle of the series is an endearing show of human kindness. Shawn’s broken home also highlights for Cory how important it is to treasure his own family.
Cory’s family are also a cornerstone of the show and Cory’s life. His older brother Eric is the most featured of the family members and while certainly the most crazy character of the show, his true love for his family is revealed through the seasons. Eric’s profound advice is also quite a surprise when it does happen. His “Feeny call” is a hilarious and fun show of his relationship with Mr. Feeny. Morgan, Cory’s younger sister, does not play a major role and switches actresses after season two. When she is on screen she is the typical “annoying” younger sister. Near the end we get small glimpses at her growing up, including a first date, but overall she isn’t there much.
Cory’s parents, Alan and Amy, are a strong support system for Cory and teach him the hard lessons of life, particularly when he gets married. In the later half of the show, the episode where Joshua, Cory’s younger brother, was born is possibly one of the most emotional scenes I have seen in my entire life. Being so unsure of if he would live or die had me really scared for the entire Matthews family.
While the show is great, it, of course, isn’t perfect. Topanga’s parents are one of the weak links of the show, her father is played by three different actors throughout the series as well as two different moms. The inconsistency is a bit annoying but they are minor characters mostly so it doesn’t make a huge impact. There are also some quickly forgotten inconsistencies in the first season that have been pointed out online such as Shawn and Topanga each having a disappearing sibling which is not great -- but those are mostly forgettable references that have no major impact on the rest of their lives.
Another strange thing about the show is that somehow Mr. Feeny is their teacher from 6th grade through college. This is played for laughs and is really necessary because, as I expressed earlier, Mr. Feeny is the heart of this show. I won’t go deeply into some of the later introduced characters such as Angela, Rachel, and Jack Hunter. They all very effectively serve their purpose to further the storyline of the main characters of the show. Angela particularly emphasises that not everyone is Cory and not every couple can be similar to Cory and Topanga. Angela’s relationship with Shawn is its own unique thing with an ending independent of Cory and Topanga. As much as Jack is Shawn’s half-brother and there to create drama and nurture that relationship, ultimately he and Rachel are there to support Eric who becomes their apartment-mate. This trio is a lot of fun to watch and really helped to develop Eric into a more complete character. Ultimately, though, this is a show about a young boy facing the challenges of life with his friends and family. It is likely one of the greatest television series of all time and is deserving of its high esteem.
Girl Meets World:
After Boy Meets World ended, I was quite excited to see how those characters' lives unfolded and to meet their children. Unfortunately Girl Meets World does not live up to the previous series in a number of ways. It lacks the family commitment of the former, portrays its messages in a more forced manner, and creates more cartoonish characters in general.
I would really love to sugar coat my feelings about Girl Meets World. Following up a series like Boy Meets World was never going to be easy, but Girl Meets World creates both an equally over-complicated and overly-simplistic world.
I will start with my Boy Meets World related issues and then turn to the issues specific to this series. The series is immediately confusing to basically anyone who has even heard about the ending of Boy Meets World as both Shawn and Eric are gone without a trace. Not even a passing mention is made about either of them until they show up much later in the series.. While that is certainly an issue for Boy Meets World fans, that is not the only case of amnesia the characters seem to have.
The Christmas episode in season one, as a Boy Meets World fan, was a very exciting proposition as Shawn, Allan, Amy, and Joshua all return. While it did have some touching moments such as Cory and Shawn reuniting, it seems frankly absurd that throughout this entire Christmas reunion with his parents and youngest sibling that neither Cory nor anyone else even gives a passing mention to Eric or Morgan, his brother and sister. It is as if they don’t exist! I can’t imagine seeing my parents on my own in the future and nowhere in the course of an entire evening mention my brother. The lack of reality in these moments are the real issue. Given that we as an audience know that Cory has three siblings, for two of them to not even get a mention at the family reunion is insane.
Mr. Feeny’s appearances are also quite aggravating, a man who was really the heart of Boy Meets World is horrifically sidelined in his few minor appearances offering almost none of his great advice or moral lessons. In a very exciting episode for Boy Meets World fans the central cast plus Shawn travel back to Pennsylvania to dig up a time capsule in Mr. Feeny’s yard. There are many issues with this episode, firstly, why does no one think to call Mr. Feeny and ask him to allow them to come and dig up the time capsule? Secondly, how are they literally standing across the fence from Cory’s parent’s house and no one comes out to say hello or they don’t go inside? This is another one of those occasions where the lack of reality is disturbing and goes against the originally family centric message of the show.
Mr. Feeny’s reunion with Eric in the final episode is also a major letdown. It seems the creators wanted to subvert audience expectations by not having Eric do the “Feeny call” and instead implying he and Feeny are having some sort of fight, which would be all fine and good if this was being introduced as a plot thread going forward. However, this is in the finale and so it makes no sense to introduce this issue without explaining it at all or giving resolution.
Similarly, it makes no sense that this reunion type moment, along with Shawn and Mr. Turner’s moment which I will discuss later, happens when they do as all of the characters are standing in the same room presumably for several minutes before we are brought in.
Speaking of Eric, his senatorial run was quite fun and an enjoyable few episodes. However, given the cartoonish nature of all of the characters in this show Eric seems less distinctive than in the original. One of the major underlying issues of the show is that all the episodes seem very self contained. There is an episode in the second season which ends with Eric reuniting with Tommy, a boy that he loved as an orphan who he had to essentially give up in order to ensure that Tommy had the family structure he needed, and the question remains as to if Eric will win the race for Senate or not. That was one of the most touching episodes of this entire series. However, in the next episode there is no mention at all of Eric or his campaign. Tommy is also never referenced again. This random forgetfulness is really quite infuriating especially since it happens so many times throughout this series. A few episodes later Eric shows up again as a Senator just presuming everyone in the audience knows he's won.
Angela’s return was also quite thought provoking. While not as egregiously forgetful as some of the other Boy Meets World returns, this series seems to imply she has not spoken to Shawn, Topanga, or Cory since she left in the third to last episode of Boy Meets World. Are we now believing that telephones and letters did not exist in this universe? Not only that but she has been married for four years and obviously did not invite anyone from the group to her wedding! Angela and Topanga were shown as good friends in Boy Meets World, you would think at least she would get an invitation!
There were several other Boy Meets World character appearances including Harley Keiner, Stewart Minkus, Jack Hunter, Morgan Matthews, and Morgan Matthews. That is not a typo, there were two Morgan Matthews! Remember that they changed actresses during the original show? Well they bring them both back and just act as if there have always been two sisters which in turn creates a lot of questions about Morgan in Boy Meets World. While I understand the sentiment of bringing them both back, given that the original Morgan doesn’t even have blond hair any more it would have been better for the continuity to stick with the second Morgan, who was in the show for the most seasons, and just allow the other to guest star as a different character. I also feel this indecisiveness with Morgan was a great failing of the show as since this series is centered around Riley, you would think that Cory’s only sister might help out over the phone once in a while when Cory’s experiences deviate from his daughter. Sure Topanga is able to fill this role, but you would think she would have some presence even in the form of anecdotes from Cory.
Mr. Turner also returns for several episodes and it was good to know he was alive. His return at first seems to not cause any inconsistency and actually functions to give us as an audience a bit of closure on the questions that were left when he disappeared from Boy Meets World. There is a mention that he visits the Matthews very often which is all well and good and yet in the finale Mr. Turner reunites with Shawn, who also seems to at least somewhat frequent the Matthews residence as well. It just seems strange that they are reuniting in such a meaningful way only at the end of the series when you would think this would have happened at some other point in the show or even prior to the show given that Mr. Turner survived his accident and is also living in New York. This scene also contradicts itself as Mr. Turner reveals that he has already discussed the subject of adopting Maya with Shawn and Katie (Maya’s mom) and yet the scene implies that he and Katie are only just meeting at that moment.
A very strange aspect of the finale reunion is that since these are the people who Topanga feels will help her make the best decision, it is odd that she would invite high school bully Harley Keiner who she has had almost no relationship with at all. Also, Joshua, Harley, and Stewart Minkus are all in the room before they start talking to everyone one by one and yet they don’t actually ever have their chance to offer advice.
It also is insane to me that during this scene and throughout the entire series Topanga’s parents don’t even get a mention. Understandably she might have issues with her father due to his cheating on Topanga’s mother in Boy Meets World but you would think she would at least call her own mother when making this life changing decision or just ever to say hello. This reunion/advice scene also provides another major Mr. Feeny letdown as he basically says that Topanga ignored his advice before and so it is pointless for him to give any now.
Now as for critiques that are more specific to Girl Meets World, there is a general cartoonishness to the characters of the series. Cory and Riley in particular are strangely unnatural. Riley is just a little unnaturally happy and nice which is part of her character but really a strange choice that gets a bit grating after a while. Cory seems to have his entire personality in this show presented as a strange mix between a less wise and intelligent Mr. Feeny and a loop of his “underpants” delivery from Boy Meets World. Topanga is also cruelly wasted, especially at the beginning of the series, having almost no role.
Another extension of the cartoonish nature of this world is the Auggie and Ava relationship. While Cory and Topanga were sort of always an item, they were not married at 3 nor ever tried to be. It is just an unnecessary level of fakeness that the series does not need.
Lucas Friar is a fine character as a classmate but is just kind of there a lot. By extension, his best friend (Zay) isn’t that interesting either. Smackle also becomes part of the main cast but only really to fill in for the nerdy aspects of Farkle that are dropped throughout the course of the show. By far and away the most interesting characters of this show are Maya, Shawn, and Farkle. Maya and Shawn's relationship and journey is very touching and I just wish there was more of it. Shawn and Katie’s marriage seemed a little rushed just because they weren’t in enough episodes to really flesh out their love. Maya’s journey on her own was also very good: discovering the importance of good influences, not blaming yourself for things you didn’t do, and learning to pursue your own happiness.
Farkle Minkus got to grow in a way that his father was unable to in the original series. He turns from what is initially a very cartoonish genius into a real person who has complicated feelings and emotions. The episode where he thinks that he has Asperger's syndrome is a telling way that your mind can control your actions. I think it also underlines the importance of his friends as since that syndrome is not traceable as a medical condition, meaning you can’t take a blood test or something to determine without a doubt if you have it or not, I think there is a bit of a message that friends can shape you. I believe Farkle actually may have had this syndrome but his friends have been good influences and allowed him to thrive in a way that Smakle is not afforded until she joins the group.
Ultimately Girl Meets World pales in comparison to the genius of the original. It does not offer a realistic and family loving story to please Boy Meets World fans and yet requires you to know so much about Boy Meets World to understand all of these random characters popping up. The show seems to not want to force the viewer to have watched Boy Meets World to understand this show and so they keep extra character appearances to a minimum. However, since they basically choose not to establish almost any of the old Boy Meets World characters in this show, you are expected to know a lot about them in order for their appearances to carry any weight. Basically in the end Girl Meets World is just a mess of forced messages, illogical situations and moments, and a general disjointedness that leads to a cartoon depiction of the previously realistic world of the Matthews.
“Meets World” franchise review:
Ultimately the majority of the franchise is a great story and while the latter few seasons of the franchise are a bit tangential and disappointing, ultimately this is still a great family story with messages to be conveyed. I would say that you should just watch Boy Meets World, however even I have to admit that once you finish that series you won’t want to forget about the Matthews when you know there is more story out there.
The story of Cory, Shawn, and Topanga is an inspirational, educational, and enjoyable ride. Seeing Cory grow from a small rambunctious boy to a responsible young adult to the father of his own daughter is touching. While his personality does get a bit cartoonish near the end, there are still some very touching moments between Cory and Riley. Shawn learning how to move beyond his shattered family life, learn to love and treasure friends, and sharing his lessons in a stable family of his own is really an amazing storyline of the franchise. Topanga is a very strong yet flawed character with a tendency to want to control everything. She learns to try and hold back throughout the franchise and always admirably tries to hold everyone together. She demands honesty and love which are admirable qualities for anyone. Ultimately this franchise is a lot of great stories with a less than stellar ending. It would likely have been better to just follow Cory, Topana, and Shawn's story in a sequel series, potentially on ABC, as in the end, one is always meeting the world. That doesn’t end when you move from your family, it is just beginning. I would definitely recommend Boy Meets World to anyone with the time to watch and Girl Meets World only if you are very very interested.