By Ben Holcomb

You probably heard recently that the creator of Boy Meets World, Michael Jacobs, announced a spin-off of the classic nineties dramedy was in the works. The internet has been a buzz about the whole thing for the past couple of days, with rumors flying and uber-fans pontificating about what that kind of show would look like. We’ve been given a mere snippet of information regarding the show, in the form of a quote from its developers: “Disney Channel is in early stages of development on a new original series centered on the daughter of golden couple Cory and Topanga, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.”

Upon first glance, it’s brilliant. There’s nothing kitschy or gimmicky about this reprise of the show. It’s not an odd veering off the road of the successful route they had going in the nineties – in short, it’s not Joey or The Farm. We’re picking up the story where we left off, a few years down the road, with our same favorite characters1. It’s basically the American sitcom version of Roots, minus the whole slavery thing and somber tone.

Disney Channel is in early stages of development on a new original series centered on the daughter of golden couple Cory and Topanga, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

To better examine whether this is the greatest, or worst, news ever, we have to remember where we last saw our favorite Philadelphia family. In the final episode of the original series, Topanga heads off to New York for an internship at a law firm that she believes will help her reach her dreams. Corey, after some wavering, decides to go after her. Shawn and Eric come along too, because they had to. Third grade friendships don’t die easily in the sitcom world. There have been call backs to telling flash-forwards within the show, but I don’t think they hold relevance. After all, this show wasn’t That’s So Raven, so nothing that sees into the future should be regarded as anything more than a silly possibility.

It’s far more likely that Jacobs is just starting over, a clean slate, not calling back anything from the past other than our favorite characters and where they are now. The finale aired in 2000, 12 years ago. Chronologically, we’d have to assume Corey and Topanga were around 22 when the show wrapped in 2000. After all, they’d started college around ’97, which puts them in the range of 21-23. We’ll average it. Going twelve years into the future, that would put the Matthews’ at the ripe age of 34, with what the show runners describe is “a pre-teen daughter”. 10-12. That means, with the bare minimum we know, Topanga must have gotten pregnant within two or three years of New York.

Extrapolating that fact, one might presume things with the Law Firm didn’t work out, she got too busy, decided a family was more important than any career ladder, etc. and settled down into a simple life with Corey, maybe in a small suburb on the outskirts of the city. Which would mean, of course, that Girls Meets World is just Boy Meets World: Redux. I, for one, find it promising.

But could the Boy Meets World outlook on life survive in the modern world?

The nineties were simpler times. Sure, there was a war in the Gulf, and our President had a wandering eye for interns, but by and large our economy was robust, the American ideal was thriving, and there was no short supply of apple pies on the elderly’s window sills. That was the world Michael Jacobs’ original series inhabited, one busting with Americana and Rockwellian fervor. There were problems and hardships in that life, but they were universals; the need for companionship, fears of fitting in, finding your purpose in life, the importance of family. These were all issues that Boy Meets World touched on with a certain care and respect that ultimately led to it being one of the most beloved shows on television at the time.

But that world was about as similar to this one as Dorothy’s Kansas was to Oz. The Matthews didn’t know what terrorism was; they hadn’t been through 9/112. The economic recession that hit in 2008 rocked this country to its core, and has all but demanded our nation look itself in the mirror and reexamine its ideals. Furthermore, issues like homosexuality and equal rights for same sex couples have grown exponentially since the final episode of Boy Meets World. This isn’t to say it wasn’t a thing or an issue back then, but California had only just recently passed civil union laws in 1999 – and now many believe we’re in the middle of our generations biggest civil rights issue. This is the world we live in today. A world where our country has been at war with an idea for a decade, a world where countries like Iran and N. Korea are perpetually threatening a nuclear holocaust, a world where many think the end is coming sooner rather than later.

This is the world Girl Meets World is set in. Can it survive?

Boy Meets World was a show about what it meant to grow up in America. We were all Corey Matthews, and we all had our Topangas, Seans, and even Erics. It’s universality is what made it so appealing. We understood Corey’s struggles in school, his treks on the fringe of popularity, his decade long battle of getting the girl. His parents were middle-class, blue collared people just trying to carve out a better existence for their family than the ones they had growing up. They were funny, enjoyed life, but were willing to do whatever it took to make sure their kids succeeded. Sometimes, with kids like Eric, their job was tougher3. Most importantly, the show was funny, and entertaining. For a lot of people, they based at least some of their morals or values on the lessons from that show. It was wholesome, decent at heart, and uplifting in more ways than one.

But that was then.

Now our televisions are full of shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Jersey Shore. We have music that seems to get more profane with each passing year, from Ke$ha4 to Rihanna and even worse with guys like Lil’ Wayne. Think about what it meant to be a pre-teen girl in the nineties, and what that means now. It’s not even comparable. 12 year old girls today have their own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, walk around with iPhones, and generally wear less clothes in one week than their great great ancestors wore to breakfast 5. Sexting is somehow a thing. Bullying is worse than it ever has been thanks to the internet, and entire campaigns have been started to help curb the emotional violence girls inflict on each other at school. This world has become hardened, and cynical, and unforgiving. It’s part of the reason we all look back on the original show with so much nostalgia.

Boy Meets World has become a portal for us to look back in wishful admiration on the way it used to be. Life was simpler than, if not better. I don’t know if Girl Meets World will be able to traverse the moral quagmires and issues of today’s world, but what I do know is Corey and Topanga will have it tougher as parents than Alan and Amy ever did. If anyone can figure it out, it’s Michael Jacobs, the king of heartwarming family sitcoms. The themes and lessons at the end of each episode may have to be darker, given the state of our world today, but one thing that’s for sure is the show will be entertaining. It’ll be fascinating to see how they pull it off.

Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are older now, wiser from the realization that the world is tough outside of Boy Meets World. They had a few gigs here and there, but like many stars of popular syndicated shows, it’s been hard for them to shed the personas of their famous roles. They haven’t signed on officially yet to reprise their roles, but it’s tough to see how this show gets off the ground without them. It’s been a long while since they were both on camera together, and things have changed. Girl Meets World might be in over its head in today’s world, but maybe that’s exactly what we need right now; a show that isn’t afraid to stand by itself and take a stand.

Perhaps they can re-imagine that magic for us all one more time.

*I’m interested to know if you think the new Boy Meets World series can succeed in 2012. What do you think will have to change, and what do you think will stay the same? Discussion welcomed below.*

  1. And an assortment of new ones as well, mainly the daughter.
  2. Interesting side note – if Corey and Topanga moved to NYC in 2000, chances are they were there when the towers were hit…and she might have been pregnant. They’ll never touch on it in the new show but one can only imagine what that was like for them…
  3. Interesting side note – two weeks ago I was checking out at a Shell station in the Malibu canyons and Mr. Matthews walked in, all disheveled and homeless looking. I was so awkwardly excited it was embarrassing. Don’t worry, I kept my cool, but it took everything in my power not to ask him if Corey could come over to play after school.
  4.   A part of my soul just died having to type the $ instead of the S.
  5. An unfair comparison, I’ll admit, since they wore draperies, but you get the idea.