Heavily rooted in nostalgia, the generation-later sitcom “Girl Meets World” banks on the young audience the show seeks having been weaned on reruns of the original “Boy Meets World,” while sounding a simultaneous “All clear” to their parents. It’s telling, of course, that this Disney Channel sequel not only changes genders but schedules the show Friday, where ABC’s “TGIF” sitcoms once held sway, before the broadcast networks abandoned family viewing as a business model. Tediously self-referential and sweet to the point of cloying, the show has an appealing lead in Rowan Blanchard, which, based on past performance, might be enough.
The conceit is “Boy’s” Cory and Topanga — again played by Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel — married, grew up and had a couple of kids, the older being the wide-eyed Riley (Blanchard), a buttoned-up sort who has become bosom buddies with the rebellious Maya (Sabrina Carpenter). Or as Riley puts it, “I think too much, and you don’t think at all.”
Just to add to the fun — and give Savage considerably more screen time than his TV spouse — Riley’s dad teaches history at her school, where Maya quickly puts the two at odds in the premiere by protesting that he’s giving them too much homework.
Created by “Boy’s” Michael Jacobs and April Kelly, the show feels like a throwback at every turn, and not only because Jacobs (who wrote the pilot) insists on using dad-to-daughter lines like, “I’ve already met the world. It’s your turn.”
The retro elements include a potential breakout character seemingly meant to evoke the specter of “Family Matters'” Steve Urkel: The hopelessly nerdy and lovestruck Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis), who harbors a crush on both Maya and Riley, and insists on referring to himself in the third person. Although Riley’s preoccupied with a dreamy new kid (Peyton Meyer), one suspects if this show runs half as long as “Boy” did, a lot of “tweens” will be walking around in Farkle T-shirts.
The name recognition notwithstanding, there’s precious little to distinguish “Girl Meets World” from a parade of similarly themed Disney Channel live-action series, built around life on the cusp of puberty, featuring stars slightly older than the girl demo apt to watch.
Obviously, the channel knows its audience. But as Farkle might say, Brian doesn’t really need to see this “Girl” again.