The evolution of the new Disney series “Girl Meets World” wasn’t as straight-forward as it might seem given that it spawned from the ’90s hit show “Boy Meets World.”
“I got a phone call from Disney asking if was I interested in doing a continuation of ‘Boy Meets World,’ ” explains Michael Jacobs, the creator and Executive Producer of both shows.” “I told them I wasn’t interested because what I thought they wanted was a remake of the original show and we’d done that. That was already in stone, so I thought there was no upside to that at all.”
But then Jacobs had a revelation about how to make a new show that built on the original series in a unique way. “I told them’ if you want to do a brand new show in real time, Cory & Topanga [the original leads from ‘Boy Meets World’] would be married 14 years now and they could have a 12-year-old daughter and a son, so why don’t we do a two level show that’s a study of parents that are learning how to be parents as kids grow up in a world that’s much different than it was 20 years ago when we were doing ‘Boy Meets World?'”
Taking a look at the current television landscape, Jacobs was also drawn to this new incarnation because, as he explains, “I don’t see anything for an audience that wants real kids who are age appropriate, speaking how they speak, aspiring to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t see anything on TV quite like and that’s not a criticism, I just don’t see it.”
After deciding that the idea seemed feasible, the question became, ‘would people respond to the concept?’ The answer came quickly via a flurry on social media about which Jacobs says, “When ‘Girl Meets World’ was announced all of the sudden we heard from everyone how much they liked and appreciated ‘Boy Meets World,’ not just the comedy of it, but the lessons from it about coming of age.”
Once the thought of “Girl Meets World” became an actual reality, the next step was finding the right lead to carry the show, which was a bit a challenge, explains Jacobs. “I went into casting and we were seeing 14 and 15-year-old girls that looked like 13-year-olds, but the problem is you can’t do a coming of age comedy when you’ve already come of age.” The situation turned for the better when Rowan Blanchard, who would eventually be cast as lead Riley Matthews, met with Jacobs. “Rowan comes in and trips over her own feet, crashes into a wall and thinks that she’s blown the audition. I had her sit down and read the lines and for the first time the lines made sense to me, because it was a girl who was confused, who hadn’t formed her opinions yet and that’s exactly what we needed for this to work. That’s also why I think she’s remarkable.”
Given the affection the public has displayed for “Boy Meets World,” Jacobs, understandably, feels a certain amount of pressure to deliver a show that satisfies that clearly nostalgic audience. “The worst nightmare I have is that we’ve gotten all of this wonderful press and I’m scared to death that people will say, ‘that wasn’t worth waiting for,’ or ‘oh my gosh, what did he give us?'”
In response to these concerns, Jacobs asks that fans give the new series a chance and invest in more than just the opening installment of the show. “A television show is a machine and the gears grind a bit in the beginning until the wheels start moving and then you get it,” explains Jacobs. He goes on to say that, “You can’t possibly compare an entire television series, 158 episodes, to a pilot, but, divorcing myself completely from having brought both shows to television, if you look at the ‘Boy Meets World’ pilot and the ‘Girl Meets World’ pilot and then you watch the episodes unfold, we’re as good or better and for that reason I believe that if the original audience for ‘Boy Meets World’ sticks around they will be very well rewarded by the growth of these characters.”
Jacobs says that his personal goal for the show reflects his admiration for classic television comedies. “There’s a column that I want to play in and that’s the column that holds ‘The Wonder Years’ and ‘Happy Days.’ The thing I loved about those shows is that at the end of every episode I felt something. So if I’m emulating anything, I just want the audience to go out better than they came in, with a real feeling. That’s the reason it’s worth doing. There are episodes that you’ll come out of this and it isn’t that you’ll have laughed at something, it’s that you’ll think, ‘I recognized a real moment.’ “
A real moment of his own came for Jacobs when he showed the pilot of “Girl Meets World” to his family.
At the end of the original series, main character Cory has an extremely heartfelt exchange with his toddler brother in which he final realizes the meaning of the series title. It’s a little known fact that toddler was played by Jacob’s own son, Danny. “My best moment was when Danny, [who is now 17] saw the pilot and smiled at me,” revealed Jacobs. “You know that moment just before you cry? I saw him so moved by the pilot, so I’m good.”
“Girl Meets World” premieres Friday, June 27th at 9:45e/8:45c pm on Disney Channel.