Cameos 'Girl Meets World' needs (or not)
November, 29, 2012
By Joe DeMartino | ESPN.com
Craig Sjodin/Getty ImagesIn 'Girl Meets World,' which of these cast members from the original should be brought back?I am stupidly happy that "Boy Meets World" is getting a sequel, and not just because, as a Disney employee, I technically have a vested financial interest in seeing it succeed.
Judging by the frankly embarrassingly positive reaction "Girl Meets World" has received, at least on Twitter -- yes, I know, it’s totally shocking that the collective Internet hive mind loves a TV show from the 90’s -- it looks like most everyone else is with me. This is one of the few sequel/remake/adaptation ideas in all media that doesn’t seem totally contrived. It’s a logical progression: Boy has Met the World, and having become familiar with it, is now ready to pass his knowledge on to a new generation -- in this case, Girl (to be named Riley, apparently). This is basically the standard mythological Hero’s Journey, only Cory receives supernatural aid from Mr. Feeny, instead of, say, Zeus.
Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) returning is the linchpin of the new series -- "Girl Meets World" sans either of them would be something like the Yankees without Ruth and Gehrig. The future showrunners will have a pretty extensive backlog of secondary characters to draw from, which makes their job both easier (Free source of plotlines! Little to no exposition needed!) and harder (“YOU RUINED THE CHARACTER OF SHAWN HUNTER AND BY ASSOCIATION MY CHILDHOOD I HATE YOU SO MUCH!”). I really hope this show is on for something approaching the 158 episodes (good lord) of the original series, so here’s what pretty much needs to happen in terms of cameos for that to occur.
ESSENTIAL (Phil-Jackson-coming-back-to-the-Lakers level)
William Daniels is 85 at the time of this writing, but he’s still acting, which makes me believe in hope and hard work and higher education. I’d understand if they can’t steal him (briefly) away from his gig on "Grey’s Anatomy," but when I say "understand," what I really mean is “scream and cry about it on the Internet." Feeny is the Alpha and the Omega of "Boy Meets World." Seriously, look at "Boy Meets World’s" final scene and tell me that "Girl Meets World" should be Feeny-free.
I’d understand if you need a minute. I need a minute, to be honest.
There are several fan theories going around to explain Eric Matthews’ drastic change in personality in the series’ early goings. Eric morphed (with essentially no explanation) from a suave lothario to something of a shrieking, untethered lunatic, a bizarre clown of a human being who was likely subject to constant hallucinations in his careening parody of a life. Two of these theories seem more plausible than the others:
1) Since the show is through Cory’s eyes, his perception of his older brother changed as he grew up -- he used to look up to him, but as they both shared a school, Cory began to see his brother for who he really was. Thus, the later Eric is the real Eric, while the ladies’ man was just a kind of metaphysical projection.
2) Eric had a car accident in one episode and received a head injury. Coincidentally, his personality changed right after that.
All I know is that post-Jekyll-and-Hyde Eric developed the Feeny Call, which makes Eric’s return about as important as Feeny’s. It’s a Stockton and Malone type situation. Also: Will Friedle’s IMDB photo is exceptional.
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezWould Phil Jackson bring Rider Strong off the 'Girl Meets World' bench from time to time?
“Rider Strong” has to be a stage name, right? WRONG. “Rider King Strong” is his quite serious birth name, which makes me feel a bit bad for him. Imagine the pressure! It’s like naming your child “Paladin Timetraveler Hercules." That kid isn’t going to have a happy life if he ends up as a notary public. Anyway, Shawn was probably the series’ secret main character, so he needs to be a pretty regular presence on the new show. Sure, it might be a bit contrived, but this is a series that had the same man teach the same group of kids from grade school through college and then had them all move to the same city.
NICE, BUT NON-ESSENTIAL (Andy-Pettitte-coming-back-to-the-Yankees level)
The extended Matthews family
This includes Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, plus Cory and Eric’s younger sister and brother. I’m thinking Christmas episodes here and there would be the best bet. The last time I saw William Russ, the man who played Cory’s dad, he was trying to swindle Alma Garrett out of her money on "Deadwood." His time on the show ended with Seth Bullock giving him serious, serious brain damage courtesy of about a dozen brutal punches to the face. I’d really like to see him not get almost-murdered on television, so count me in for Grandpa and Grandma Matthews once or twice a season, just so I can get that image out of my head.
The extended friend group (Jack, Angela, and Rachel)
AP Photo/Jim Mone'Girl Meets World' needs Minkus like the Yankees need Andy Pettitte: A little. We suppose.
Jack was Shawn’s half-brother. Angela dated Shawn. Rachel dated Eric and Jack. These characters were basically the show’s attempt to freshen things up as the main cast got older. They brought more to the table than they took off, but let’s not go overboard here. Let young Riley Matthews have her own expanding circle of friends. Reserve this group for the inevitable “Mom and Dad’s High School reunion” episode.
Do you ever wonder why some characters take off, while others tend to languish? I kind of feel for Minkus. He was a nerd in the vein of Steve Urkel, part of the same social group as Topanga, clearly intended as lovable comic relief. While Topanga was the breakout star of the show, Minkus kind of quietly receded into the background, disappearing entirely after Season 1. He got a cameo in the high school graduation episode -- Cory and Shawn ask where he went, and he points off-screen, past the point where the camera never shows. Cory and Shawn are visibly disturbed. It’s like he’s pointing to his own grave.
Come to think of it, he mentions Mr. Turner has been there as well, in that dark non-space of expired contracts and unexplained disappearances. The last time we see the popular teacher and noted mullet-wearer on the show, he’s in a coma from a motorcycle accident. Both of these characters should get another chance. It’s only fair.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES (Brett-Favre-theoretically-returning-to-the-Packers level)
There’s one episode during the college years where Ben Savage’s brother Fred plays a popular teacher named Stuart whom all the kids love. Stuart ends up being such a humongous creeper that he hits on Topanga, leading Cory to punch him through a glass door, leading to the school almost expelling Cory before Stuart is outed as a predator. The Boy Meets World Wiki -- yes, there is such a thing; don’t be surprised, there’s a wiki for everything -- says that, at the end of Stuart’s only episode, “Cory, Shawn, Topanga and Angela realize that they're no longer children.” This is a criminal understatement. At the end of that episode, none of us were children any longer.
I really don’t think there should be a Stuart cameo in "Girl Meets World."