Fans of the former TGIF sitcom Boy Meets World have been anxiously awaiting the debut of Disney Channel's tween-com Girl Meets World ever since the pilot was first ordered. Recently, the cable network finally released a short clip showing a now grown Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) interacting with their adorable daughter Riley (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World's Rowan Blanchard). Excitement over seeing Savage and Fishel once again arm-in-arm as Cory and Topanga spread across social media, as fans of the '90s show began quickly sharing the clip.
Girl Meets World marks a departure for the Disney Channel as they attempt to market a show just as much to the parents of their normal six-to-12-year-old target audience. Someone who was 12 in 1993 when the original began — as Fishel was — is now 33, an age when it's entirely plausible to have children in the appropriate demographic.
By putting the focus on the children of one of TV's favorite teen couples, the network and producer Michael Jacobs have hit upon a way for the fans of the former show to look in on old favorites without having to worry too much about what's transpired. This isn't a Dawson's Creek-style flash-forward with a beloved character (Michelle Williams' Jen) on her deathbed. This is a Disney-style look in.
There's something reassuring about seeing a pair of characters that we cared about in the middle of their happy ending. We watched Cory and Topanga meet as kids and come together as teens, and we followed them right up until their wedding. Now they're still married with two kids and a nice home. It's like going to visit that one high school couple that is still perfectly content with their lives. Whether it happens all the time or not, it's nice to know that it happens sometimes.
More importantly, by blending nostalgia with the formula that Disney Channel has employed with its other live action hits like Jessie and Good Luck, Charlie, the show provides a unique opportunity for parents to actively watch with their children. Not in an obligatory sense, but in a true "I have to see this" way. Family-oriented sitcoms were once a staple of network television, but now those shows have largely moved to cable… taking many of the same writers/producers with them.
The marketing of Girl Meets World has produced something that 10-year-olds and their moms both want to see… how often does a TV show do that these days? As parents fill their kids in on who the older characters are, the kids can fill their parents in on what Riley is talking about with her friends. If that leads to a discussion of things transpiring in real life, well, that's a beautiful thing. Many movies and TV shows have paid lip service to providing such an opening for parents… GMW seems legitimately positioned to actually deliver on that promise.
Jacobs has lined up a series of cameos from the original series to keep the parents entertained including Cory's brother and parents (Will Friedle, Betsy Randle and William Russ), William Daniels' persnickety Mr. Feeny, and Rider Strong's brooding Shawn Hunter. Even Lee Norris, whose character Minkus was written off the show after the first season, makes an appearance as the father of Riley's friend Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis). It's hard to say why it's so good to see Mr. Feeny again — the show tweeted a photo of Daniels on set — but it just is.
Keeping with the family feel, it's come out during the promotion of the new show that most of the original cast — particularly Savage, Fishel, Strong, and Friedle — have remained friends since Boy Meets World ended in 2000. Even though most of the acting will be done by the new kids, Strong and Savage are each also taking a turn sitting in the director's chair on GMW.
The show can't live off of the nostalgia of parents alone. Blanchard's Riley and her BFF Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) have to connect with the normal Disney Channel audience, and really there's no way to predict whether or not that will happen. No matter whether the new show is a ratings success or not, fans of Boy Meets World will enjoy catching up with their old friends… and maybe share a few nice moments with their kids at the same time. As was the case the first time, having Cory and Topanga around makes television a nicer place.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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British actor Phil Daniels has returned to the recording studio for the first time since his iconic appearance on Blur's hit song Parklife for an album about London's Soho district. The Quadrophenia star famously loaned his vocals to the band's 1994 track, but hasn't appeared on any further songs until now.
Daniels is featured on songwriter Tim Arnold's album The Soho Hobo, about the colourful area of London famous for its nightlife and sex industry venues.
Arnold tells the London Evening Standard, "What people don't realise is that Phil is a phenomenal musician. It was a song that I had written with him in mind and it was only through good luck that he wanted to do the song. He hasn't done anything since Parklife, so I feel very lucky.
"It was a really incredible experience. We went into a tiny studio in Soho and he just knew and understood the subtext of the song."
Spandau Ballet star Gary Kemp also appears on the record, as does Arnold's partner, British actress Jessie Wallace.