In “Convergence Television: Aggregating Form and Repurposing Content in the Culture of Conglomeration” John Caldwell argues that television has been making itself into a “pull” medium for quite some time (45). That is, television has been transforming itself into a medium which requires viewers’ active rather than merely passive engagement. Caldwell outlines five changes to the aesthetic of television driven by industrial instability and subsequent reactionary practices.
I am interested in the intersection of two of these industrial practices, “repurposing” and “stunting,” and how they are evident in the recent revival of beloved 90’s sitcom Boy Meets World. Repurposing of content occurs when content is parceled out and rebranded to be distributed through different mediums and for different audiences. Stunting is a collection of “stunts,” such as guest-star and cross-genre stunts, utilized by television producers and writers to artificially inflate the viewership of their shows and thus also their value. Both of these techniques are utilized by recent television revival Girl Meets World as a way to engage multiple demographics and interact with an existing fan culture.
In recent years, as nostalgia for 90’s sitcoms has increased, the commodity value of these shows as brands and entities outside of their existence as isolated content has also increased. To capitalize on existing content and interact with already thriving fanbases, these sitcoms have been revived and repurposed for younger audiences. Girl Meets World is a sequel and spinoff of Boy Meets World, produced by Disney for the Disney Channel in 2014. Although Girl Meets World is not an example of content explicitly being recut and reused, it is an example of the television industry repurposing successful characters and premises in order to engage viewers on different levels. For Girl Meets World as a program is designed to both appeal to the traditional child demographic of the Disney Channel and their parents, the now adult fans of Boy Meets World. To appeal to both age groups the show consciously references its parent show at any opportunity, featuring a rotating group of guest stars from the original show. These stunt, guest star episodes consciously engage with the already valuable content of Boy Meets World, while adding value to the new program of Girl Meets World and enfolding an entirely new demographic of children into the already existing and thriving fan culture.
In productions like Girl Meets World, or the more recent Fuller House, the television industry’s sustained capacity to utilize existing commodities in order to maximize viewership can be seen. As Caldwell posits, media convergence is something built into the television industry and merely maximized in a digital environment.