Idiot Box: The return of the that 90’s show

November 15, 2012

Back in my Catholic school days, I learned the story of Lazarus, the man whom Jesus raises from the dead in one of his most renowned miracles.

I’m sure back then this was a pretty big deal, but these days, there seem to be an awful lot of people who can pull off resurrections, or at least temporary ones. For evidence, look no further than last week’s news about Girl Meets World, a spin-off of the beloved ‘90s teen sitcom Boy Meets World which Disney reportedly has in the works. The show will supposedly center on Cory and Topanga’s daughter, as she follows the same coming-of-age struggles that her parents did so many years ago.

Naturally, as they are wont to do in the presence of any ‘90s throwback, millennials flipped their collective shit over the prospect of this show. And I hate to play the Mr. Feeney to your Cory and Shawn, but guys, let’s think before we celebrate.

Revivals aren’t unique to television; they’re also common practice among films and Broadway shows. Leaving Broadway aside—I fell asleep during Phantom of the Opera and therefore have no credibility—film and television revivals generally fall into two cases.

In the first, the nostalgia factor doesn’t really apply. Think 2000’s Charlie’s Angels, the new Melrose Place, or any comic book franchise, including this summer’s The Amazing Spider Man. For a lot of these movies and shows, the revival is largely born out of laziness.

Sometimes this is a good move—it turns out that Doctor Who, like its titular character, travels through time pretty well. But in other cases, the conversation goes like this: “Well, we could come up with our own concept about a bunch of spoiled, attractive young people engaging in soap-opera-like behavior, or we could call it 90210, rely on name-recognition to get us off the ground, and count on the target audience being too young to have ever seen the original to call us out.” Boom, instant bad television.

The second is those, like Girl Meets World, for which success hinges on nostalgia. With a movie this is a fine approach, because you only need your audience to see it once. They go, they watch, they relive their childhoods for a few hours, and they go home and tell all of their former sixth-grade classmates to do the same.

TV, though, is a bit trickier. A TV show doesn’t just need an audience to watch the first episode; it needs them to be dedicated, to watch it week by week, to either engage with the characters or just with the show’s mindless entertainment value. When the target audience is the same as the original series, things can get hairy. On the one hand, the new Arrested Development is essentially picking up where the old one left off. Given that its adult or semi-adult viewers of yesteryear have the same sense of humor that they did when the show met its untimely demise, this resurrection will likely not be a problem.

Boy Meets World, however, ran its course in due time. Our generation grew up with the Matthews boys and their gang, watching them navigate and then graduate high school, turn down Yale to be with a guy (Topanga, your name is bad and your decisions are worse), get married, explore higher education, and the like.

But now, with Girl Meets World following the same general story arc, it’s abundantly clear that we are far too old to be consistent fans of a show set in the awkward teenage years. We’ll tune in for the first episode or two, but even if the original actors reprise their roles, the remake will be too different from the original and will quickly run out of nostalgia gas. And if it isn’t different or good enough to compete for the now-teenage audience in the oversaturated high school drama market, then the next generation of Matthews kids likely won’t ever get to graduate on-screen.

But maybe I’m wrong, and Girl Meets World will delight us 20-somethings in every way we hope it will. At the very least, it will be better than 2008’s attempted reincarnation of Knight Rider—I don’t think Jesus Himself could have saved that one.

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments