Disney to Remake Boy Meets World

Drew Scheeler, Film and Television Reporter

A casual glance at the television schedule makes any sane person wonder if there are any original ideas left in Hollywood. The television landscape is dominated by spinoffs, reboots and shows that blatantly plagiarize preexisting series. Take the format of “Pawn Stars.” The original series airs for at least twenty hours per week on the History Channel. When you factor in knockoffs and related series like “American Pickers,” “Comic Book Men,” “Hardcore Pawn,” “Storage Hunters,” “Pawn Queens,” “Storage Wars,” “Auction Hunters,” “Auction Kings,” “American Restoration,” “Counting Cars,” “Oddities,” “Ball Boys,” and “Cajun Pawn Stars,” only basic cable is left. Executives and television viewers love series that viewers can jump right into because they require no explanation.


Getting viewers interested in fictional shows is much more difficult than reality series. With reality series, the format is the star – no matter how many times you repeat the same scenarios, as long as the same beats are hit, audiences will keep tuning in until they get bored or die. You can even cycle out cast members until the all-star season. This is how the practically unchanged “American Idol” has been wildly successful for the last decade. But sitcoms and most other forms of scripted series requires viewers to invest in the characters and how they interact with each other. Look at “Friends” and notice how it was not named “Six Really Annoying Characters In Search Of People To Care About Them.” It takes a lot of faith on the part of the network executives to assume that the writing team can deliver the kind of characters that viewers will want to care about.


Rebooting old series is difficult because of the preexisting memories that will bias returning viewers toward even the most well-meant changes. NBC’s recent airing of “Mockingbird Lane” takes “The Munsters” and updates the characters to the 21st century. The pilot was not bad. But it wasn’t brilliant enough to shatter a lot of those old memories established by a 1960s sitcom. Trying to recapture the audience of a previous series is a lot easier than trying to replicate the magic from the first go-around.


This past week TVLine announced that the Disney Channel is preparing a spinoff series to the ABC comedy “Boy Meets World.” If you have never seen “Boy Meets World,” then you are missing out on one of the all-time greats of the sitcom format. Cory Matthews is the title boy and the series shows him meeting the world as he survives high school and then college with friends like Shawn and Topanga at his side. There’s even a teacher that stalks Cory to every school he’ll ever attend! Characters like Mr. Feeny and Cory’s dunce-of-a-brother Eric are played to perfection by William Daniels and Will Freidle. Best of all, everything about “Boy Meets World,” from the episodes to the characters and the plots, hold up incredibly well for a series that is just about to turn twenty. There is a reason why reruns on the Disney Channel, ABC Family and now MTV2 still put up great numbers and inspire trends on Twitter.


According to TVLine’s scoop, this new series – creatively titled, wait for it, “Girl Meets World” – will focus on Cory and Topanga’s daughter Riley and include characters like her older brother Elliot. Replacing Mr. Feeny as the man with all of the answers will be Cory himself, now a history teacher. When you think about it, it’s pretty surprising that Disney hasn’t tried to do something like this sooner. People love nostalgia, and for our generation this might be the first taste of a long sequence of pandering to our memories of the 1990s that will eventually encompass the reintroduction of Wonder Balls and tricked out purple cars that look like Putt-Putt.


Although the development of a “Boy Meets World” spinoff sounds great in theory, there are still many things left to be seen. The Disney Channel has turned into a media powerhouse by featuring the same gimmicky tropes that “Boy Meets World” so effortlessly avoided. Riley can’t become a pop star like Hannah Montana. The idea that any tween in America can become a superstar if his or her cards lineup right is a downright ludicrous idea that has hurt the American economy more than any fiscal policy that could ever be enacted by any politician. The Disney Channel is at its best when its series are filled with real depictions of adolescence, even if plots venture to the zany side. “Even Stevens” presented a fantastical depiction of adolescence with characters buying suits of armor and getting trapped on reality shows. But the familiar relationship between Louis, Ren and their parent kept everyone tethered to reality. Even “Lizzie McGuire” was able to remain grounded while its plots got less and less plausible after that Aaron Carter cameo.


If all of the stars align for this new series, then “Girl Meets World” might just be the show that sets Disney back on the path toward producing timeless family comedies instead of the glittery junk-food it has been pushing. It is not entirely Disney’s fault – Nickelodeon has more vapid series. But all television executives should know that when you take a can of cola, fill it with tween talent and shake it up, it will explode in your face. Let’s wait to pass judgment until the first season is in the can. When you think about it, no idea is really an original idea and even “Pawn Stars” is just an adaptation of PBS’s longer-running and more highfalutin “Antiques Roadshow.” I’m sure there will be a place for this new “Girl Meets World” series, even if we’ll have to suffer through that Riley/Mr. Feeny duet.