Did Boy Meets World Really Deserve A Reboot?
We're getting served more Matthews Clan treacle, when other bygone teen shows could've been much sweeter.
In 1993, I was a teenage homebody with strict parents and a profound case of misanthropy, which translated into perpetual Friday-night couch surfing. And even though I had nowhere to be and nothing to do, there was no way in hell I could be forced to watch Boy Meets World. (Lies. I occasionally hate-watched it.) I'd just come off of a fierce crush on The Wonder Years-era Fred Savage and now the networks were peddling some sappy TGIF nonsense featuring his vastly inferior little brother? I was having none of it.
The name "Topanga" filled me with rage, as did that pouty-lipped, big-haired, know-it-all character. Cory's constant "whaddya gonna do?" shoulder-shrugging and camera-mugging further contributed to my irrational hatred. Then, there was the stuffy teacher who was, like, always present throughout every aspect of those kids' lives. Restraining orders exist for reasons such as this. And, as teen heartthrobs, I found Will Friedle and Rider Strong sorely lacking. Even thinking about that whiny, nasal theme song makes me want to punch each and every thing.
Apparently, though, I was in the minority, and now the show's spin-off, Girl Meets World, is a real-life thing to which we're being subjected (tomorrow on the Disney Channel). Not that the early-'90s TV landscape was saturated with riveting, gold-standard teen sitcoms, but I can think of a handful of BMW contemporaries that are more worthy of follow-up treatments. My retro reboot pitches aren't perfect, but I can pretty much guarantee they're at least as well thought-out as the ham-handed "parents just don't understand" vs. "back in my day…" gags that'll make up GMW. (Disclaimer: These pitches are rooted in little more than my own nostalgic sentimentality, teenage crushes, and cable-deprived, network-dependent ignorance.)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
I never pretended this show was "good." In fact, my cohorts and I readily admitted that it was not. All the same, you watched it, making mental notes on the clothing, the slang, the randomly peppered dance moves. You then compared those notes the next day in school. It was just sacrosanct. And all of that meme-worthy appeal could be replicated. Of course, there'd be no hope of getting Will Smith on board for a 21st-century revival, but Karyn Parsons, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Tatyana Ali probably have wide-open schedules.
Sample Plotline: The Banks kids become the failures they seemed destined to be during the show's original run. Hillary tried for Rachel Zoe-esque "stylist to the stars" status and flopped, Ashley became a one-hit wonder who -- despite a "leaked" sex tape -- never achieved her pop-star dreams, and Carlton failed to coach Little Nicky into a golf phenom. They all end up living back at home in their mom's mansion (RIP, Uncle Phil!), with Vivian still ceaselessly breezing from one end of the house to the other, opening mail and refreshing her coffee, as though no time had passed. In order to make ends meet, the siblings start a TMZ-style gossip agency. They use the last vestiges of their fading star status to help them dig up dirt on L.A.'s elite -- including Nicky, who transformed from a mini-Carlton into a major rapper; and their media-mogul cousin, Will, who avoids them at all costs and is mentioned but never seen.
Worthier Because: This many African-Americans on a modern-day network sitcom would constitute a fairytale feat worthy of witnessing. Plus, though this would be the story of a bunch of washed-up has-beens, the show would still feature trend-setting style and music the way its predecessor did.
Parker Lewis Can't Lose
Oh, how I loved this Ferris Bueller knock-off. The quick-witted snark appealed to my pubescent brain. I hung magazine fold-outs of Corin Nemec on my walls and wore multiple Swatches (though I had no one with whom to synchronize them). I still get giddy every time I see Abraham "Kubiak" Benrubi pushing his cart around our local Trader Joe's.
Sample Plotline: Parker and Jerry partnered on some kind of prototypical social media company and Parker is now an insanely wealthy bachelor careening toward middle age. He's looking for a way to stave off feeling old, and begins to bankroll the diabolical schemes and shenanigans of his niece and nephew, unbeknownst to his sister, Shelly. Parker and Mikey have had an unexplained "he knows what he did" falling out, and the newly straight-laced Mikey is now the head of local law enforcement, hell-bent on foiling their plans. Kubiak delivers drop-in laughs as, I don't know, something random, like the owner of the juice bar where everybody hangs out. Or maybe the town judge? Because they found out he was actually intelligent all along, he just had a tumor that was resting on his spinal column, resulting in his previous caveman behavior. These kinds of things happen on sitcoms.
Worthier Because: I just now Googled Corin Nemec and he's still pretty cute. Billy Jayne's not too shabby either. That's about it. Those are my reasons.
Granted, this Disney Channel show very narrowly qualifies as a BMW contemporary -- it debuted the month after Cory & Crew wrapped. Moreover, I was no longer a teen when it started and only caught scattered episodes of the show while babysitting. Still, young Shia LaBeouf got genuine guffaws out of me, with his natural comic timing and affable goofiness. He carried the entire show on his teen shoulders and made it seem easy.
Sample Plotline: Just go ahead and get self-referential with it; take LaBeouf's recent public meltdowns and incorporate them right into the plot. Goody-goody Ren Stevens grows up to become a renowned psychoanalyst who wants to use her deeply messed-up brother Louis as the subject of an upcoming study. The show would take the form of therapy sessions, wherein Louis -- a fallen former child star -- recounts details of his downfall. Episodes would bounce back and forth between his sessions and flashbacks involving sky-writing stunts and paper-bag-wearing. Things could get even more "conceptual," like an entire episode comprised of batshit Twitter-feed scrolls. There could also be an all-animated episode, with the following week centering around a legal battle springing from animation-related copyright infringement.
Worthier Because: He's made some piss-poor life decisions, but LaBeouf's not a bad actor. And there'd always be the hope that this much self-reflection could actually have a curative effect, enabling him to get his real life back on track.
Since this show originally aired, Ryan Murphy has shot his "adults playing over-the-top teens" wad via Glee. And even that horse's carcass has been beaten beyond recognition. Plus, current shows like Awkward and Faking It have more or less picked up where Popular left off. All the same, I'd watch a show based solely on Mary Cherry. Any additional developments would just be icing.
Sample Plotline: The updated show would play out "Where Are They Now?" style, featuring confessionals with the original cast members, now in their (ahem) early thirties. We'd get to see Nicole Julian ruling her cell block as she serves out her prison sentence for the vehicular manslaughter of Brooke McQueen. Sam, momentarily set adrift after her stepsister's sudden murder, would discover Transcendental Meditation and open a GOOP-approved high-end New Age retreat. Carmen Ferrera would head up a Jezebel-type blog and gloat heavily about how she'd risen above her high-school crowd, and Lily would do a complete 180, becoming a conservative soccer mom. Meanwhile, Mary Cherry would become a Fox News personality who harbors Sarah Palin-esque delusions of grandeur (Lily's now her biggest fan). The dudes were always the least interesting part of this show, so I won't waste my mind grapes on them.
Worthier Because: The campy fun of this show was hard to resist and it deserved a better send-off than it received. Switching things up to give it a semi-serious mockumentary format, á la Waiting For Guffman, would make for at least one season's worth of guilty-pleasure viewing.