Television Nostalgia - Reunion Week


By Molly Freeman

Photo courtesy of Aaron Spraggins.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or somehow haven’t heard, the Disney Channel announced late in 2012 that the network planned to produce a spinoff of the popular late ’90s sitcom, Boy Meets World, called Girl Meets World. Since then, ’90s kids everywhere have been excited for original creator Michael Jacobs to launch this new series.

If you’re thinking Boy Meets World is just another silly teen show, well, you’re wrong. An entire generation grew up alongside Cory Matthews, Shaun Hunter, and Topanga Lawrence. An entire generation was raised by the parental advice from Amy and Alan Matthews, Chet Hunter (sometimes), and Jonathan Tuner. An entire generation learned everything they needed to know about the world from Mr. Feeney (as well as the Feeney call from Eric Matthews.)

This generation—my generation—watched these ordinary, relatable kids, navigate middle school, high school, and finally college. Meanwhile, they learned how to love, what it means to love someone, and how to be in caring relationships with one another. We spent seven years with Cory and his friends, so maybe of few of us in this generation got a little attached to the Boy Meets World gang.

But now the torch will be passed to a new generation with the inception of this new spinoff series, Girl Meets World. The show will focus on Cory and Topanga’s daughter, Riley. Aside from the possible ramifications of having a girl as the main character, rather than a boy (like that it won’t appeal to both genders of young people, which is something Mike White explains well, but that’s a whole other story,) it’s even harder to tell whether this show will appeal either to the generation of the same age as Riley or the generation that grew up with the original show. Or possibly—hopefully—both generations.

Although Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel will be back to reprise their roles as Cory and Topanga, the rest of the Girl Meets World cast is new. Obviously, compared to other Disney Channel shows, Girl Meets World might be able to stand out and appeal to an older audience.

This exact appeal of the show demonstrates the power that nostalgia wields in television today, especially in attracting the 18 – 35 audience, a coveted demographic to advertisers. In his video “Is Nostalgia the Reason for Adventure Time’s Amazing Awesomeness,” Mike Rugnetta argues that the reason the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time is popular among adults and children alike is nostalgia for childhood.

Adventure Time is like remembering your childhood: fighting to be taken seriously, constant encounters with new and unfamiliar challenges,” says Rugnetta in the video. “For many adults, the core appeal of Adventure Time is its nostalgia. Not like Instagram filters or cassette tapes post-irony nostalgia, but more like classical nostalgia: a pain or an ache for a time past that you can’t recreate.”

Unlike Adventure Time, however, Girl Meets World might not evoke the same kind of all-ages nostalgia. The very idea of a Boy Meets World spinoff notably panders to a very specific generation’s childhood rather than childhood in general. Of course, since the reboot hasn’t even aired yet, this doesn’t mean that Girl Meets World stands no chance of relating to any generation simply by amicably depicting the trials and tribulations of growing up.

What is particularly worrisome about Girl Meets World, and what might cause a lack of popularity among the generation that grew up with Cory Matthews, is that television shows just aren’t made the same way. The most popular of Disney Channel shows in recent years are those that launched teen stars such as Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez, etc.

Can the network support a show like Girl Meets World? Will the creators need to choose between staying in the same vein as Boy Meets World or create a show that is more on par with everything else on the Disney Channel? Or will they find a happy medium? There is a lot to be determined about this new spinoff that cannot be answered until the show finally premieres later this year.

The bitterest pill that fans of Boy Meets World will have to swallow, though, is that Girl Meets World is not going to be exactly what we want. Despite having the same creator and the same cast in their roles, Girl Meets World will never be exactly the same as its predecessor. Which means that we may never find out the answer to some of the questions that Rachel Goldman of Buzzfeed poses in her post “What We Really Want To See On Girl Meets World.”

Boy Meets World, as we knew it, is in a time past that we can’t recreate. The best we can hope for is a relatable and realistic young girl who suffers through the pains of growing up with as much fumbling awkwardness of anyone who carries the torch after Cory Matthews.