For those wondering whether Shawn Hunter stayed cool after his hairline receded, if Mr. Turner and Eli were really just good friends, and if Mr. Feeny was ever arrested on stalking charges—you may be getting answers soon: the Disney Channel announced earlier this week that it will soon launch a spin-off of the classic '90s sitcom Boy Meets World. Titled Girl Meets World, the show will follow the pre-teen daughter of John Adams High School’s famous couple, Cory and Topanga.
Cue the die-hard fans screaming “blasphemy!” and giving impassioned speeches about the bastardization of childhood television. Half-baked sequels breed horrible, one-season shows, they’ll say. No franchise should follow in the steps of Degrassi.
Well, duh. But whether Girl Meets World is good or bad doesn’t really matter here. The show will fail because it’s 2012 and the once-powerhouse comedy block TGIF is dead.
ABC’s Thank Goodness It’s Funny Friday prime-time night lineup launched in 1988, but it really had its roots in Leave it to Beaver in the ‘50s and Diff’rent Strokes in the early ‘80s. In the ‘90s, TGIF boomed with family-friendly sitcoms, most notably Perfect Strangers, Full House, Family Matters, and Step by Step. When it debuted in 1993, Boy Meets World was a welcome addition: inspired by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, it started out as the coming-of-age story of sixth grader Cory Matthews and followed his evolution all the way to married man.
For the better part of seven years, TGIF tapped into a hot demographic: tweens who had nothing better to do than watch television on a Friday night. Hitting 10 million viewers and top 40 ratings in its prime, Boy Meets World was a successful teen-centered, family-oriented series. Even today, it lives on in syndication.
But success doesn’t last forever. Despite classic moments like Cory’s and Topanga’s seven minutes in heaven, Shawn’s battle with a cult, Missy Robinson’s basement temptation, Eric’s analysis of artwork, and literally everything Mr. Feeny did, the show still did limp to its finale—no one cared about deadbeat dad Chet Hunter and Cory and Eric’s descent into insanity was just too much. (OK, it was just overacting).
With the end of the '90s came the addition of the less-than-stellar Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Two Guys and A Girl, and the Olsen twins’ magnum opus Two of a Kind—plus the beginning of mainstream audience’s shift from scripted shows to reality television, like CBS’s Survivor. TGIF and Boy Meets World didn’t stand a chance.
And today, there’s no way that Girl Meets World can survive on the Disney Channel—the birthplace of Hannah Montana, Even Stevens, and Lizzie McGuire. The channel’s niche “teen-friendly” sitcoms don’t dare tackle controversial issues. In fact, three groundbreaking episodes of Boy Meets World are actually banned from airing on the channel. Let’s take a look at some of the issues: in the racy “Prom-ises, Prom-ises,” Cory and Topanga consider premarital sex on prom night. “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love …” introduces the boys to alcohol. (Remember when Shawn shows up to school drunk and later reveals that his fridge is full of beer?) In “The Truth About Honesty,” a seemingly innocent game night ends with Shawn and Angela in bed and Cory getting mooned by Topanga.
That isn’t to say Girl Meets World would fare better on network TV. With ABC, NBC, and CBS constantly pushing the limits on what’s acceptable on television, there just isn’t room for a teen-centered coming-of-age sitcom. Right now, Modern Family may be the most family-friendly network show—and it’s far from Boy Meets World. ABC’s current Comedy Friday block is geared toward a different crowd: Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, Reba McEntire’s Malibu Country, the reality show Shark Tank, and 20/20. Hilarity will not ensue.
The “original series” is just a lame idea to capitalize on Boy Meets World nostalgia. There’s an incredibly slim chance 20-somethings will tune in to the Disney Channel. And the name Minkus means nothing to today’s teeny boppers. If this were an episode of Boy Meets World, Mr. Feeny would say something wise about rising above cynicism and embracing man’s right to creativity. Forget that. Instead, it’s likely that Girl Meets World will go the way of Topanga’s sister Nebula. Don’t remember her? She was only in one episode.