In the 1990s, a generation of TV viewers got to know a curly-haired squirt named Cory Matthews and his tight-knit circle, which included bad-boy best friend Shawn Hunter and Cory's quirky true love, Topanga Lawrence. For seven years, the coming-of-age comedy "Boy Meets World " was a fixture in ABC's popular Friday-night "TGIF" programming block.
Flash-forward two decades: On June 27, the Disney Channel unveiled its much talked about, tweeted about and squealed about successor to "Boy Meets World" -- the series "Girl Meets World."
Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel, the original Cory and Topanga, reprise their roles -- only this time as the parents of the new series' central character -- 11-year-old Riley Matthews, who is played by Rowan Blanchard. Riley is joined in her preteen antics by best friend Maya Hart, played by Sabrina Carpenter.
The new show is "a passing of the baton," Savage says by phone from the Disney Channel offices. "It's so much more fun and interesting to now be the adult looking on at all the clowning around."
In an era when networks are awash in prequels, spinoffs and reboots, "Girl Meets World" has a dual strategy: bringing fans up to date on Corey and Toganga, while rolling out the new adventures of their preteen kids.
Will 20-something fans of the old show tune in to watch with their kids? And will the pre-premiere buzz translate into decent ratings for "Girl Meets World"?
That's still to be determined, Fishel says.
The young actress playing Riley -- 12-year-old Blanchard, who was plucked from an open casting call -- hopes viewers will keep an open mind about the series. "I think people are expecting Season 6 or Season 7 of 'Boy Meets World,' " she says, "and I want them to remember back to Season 1, where it was about kids growing into who they'll be."
"Boy Meets World" creator Michael Jacobs, who launched that series in 1993, is at the helm of the new show. Two months ago, when this reporter visited the Los Angeles studio where "Girl Meets World" was shooting, there was a disagreement over a scene. Savage wanted some tweaks, but Jacobs was resisting. Acutely aware that the clock was ticking while a live audience was waiting to be seated for the taping, Jacobs grumbled, "Everyone thinks they can direct."
The differences were soon resolved, however. And while cameras were repositioned, Fishel posed for some selfies with Carpenter and Blanchard, ultimately posting one on Instagram and racking up 18,500 "likes."
The Disney Channel, a part of the Disney-ABC Television Group, was instrumental in the creation of the new series. Adam Bonnett, executive vice president of original programming for Disney Channels Worldwide, says, "We felt the time was right to again explore new, funny, yet heartfelt stories for a contemporary audience of kids and tweens. Our teams began buzzing from the moment Michael Jacobs, who is the master at such storytelling, began talking to us about re-imagining ... 'Boy Meets World' for a new audience."
At its peak, the original series attracted 17 million viewers. Disney Channel now averages about 3 million viewers for its 8 p.m. time slot. The new series will move to its regular 8:30-9 p.m. time slot July 11.
What Jacobs pitched to Disney, he says, was "not a sequel so much as a continuation." While the original was set in Philadelphia, "Girl Meets World" looks in on Cory and Topanga in New York City, where they decided to move during the final episode of the original series.
At 33, Corey is the father of two kids -- Riley and her younger brother, Auggie -- and is employed as a schoolteacher, a profession that allows him to channel his inner Mr. Feeny.
Jacobs, who has brought back several "Boy Meets World" writers for the new show, says, "If either Ben or Danielle had turned down ('Girl Meets World'), I believe we would not have gone forward. The great thing about 'Boy Meets World' is Cory and Topanga are one; I (thought) having one without the other there (would be) no series." Fortunately, both actors came on board.
After wrapping up "Boy Meets World," Savage attended Stanford University and played guest roles on various TV shows, including "Chuck" and "Without a Trace." He also appeared in "National Lampoon" films, and later hosted the pop-culture satire "The Dish," on the Style Network.
"I think there was a little hesitation on my part taking on the role of Cory again," Savage says. "It had been a long time. I didn't know if I would remember how to be him. But once we started going ..., it was like the writers were relearning Cory, as well, and also adapting to the new Cory and Topanga."
Jacobs briefly considered putting a boy at the center of the new series, with Riley's sibling being an older brother, an idea Fishel opposed. But "then I thought to myself, 'been there, done that," Jacobs says.
Fishel says, "I feel way more connected to 'Girl Meets World' than I ever did to 'Boy Meets World.' I was not around for the conception of 'Boy Meets World,' I was added later. And it wasn't my show; it was a show about a young boy. This is a show about a young girl, of which I was one. I'm just very protective of what we're putting out there for young girls."
Everyone agrees that the world has changed a lot for kids between the 1990s and today. The 21st century is faster-paced and, at times, more scary.
"The world that Riley Matthews meets, I think, is a tougher world than the one Cory Matthews met," Jacobs says. "Access to knowledge is so different and so vast, as compared to Cory. It's that access to everything that makes Riley more confused and makes this a tougher world to get to know."