“You’re very good at a lot of things.”
“Don’t push me on this. I’m trying to make you feel better.”
Boy Meets World is a show that I ummed and ahhed about categorising as a GUST. Originally broadcast by ABC and (later) the Disney Channel, it was aimed at pre-teens and teenagers, but, as with many ‘children’s’ shows, the humour arrives at several levels, depending on your age.
The show – which can best be described as a sitcom – centres around Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), a fairly average 11-year-old boy as he grows up, goes to high school and then college. Along with his best friend, Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), he navigates the somewhat treacherous waters of adolescence and growing up.
Cory and Shawn may be best friends, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Cory lives with his father, Alan (William Russ), mother, Amy (Betsy Randle), big brother, Eric (Will Friedle) and baby sister, Morgan (Lily Nicksay; Lindsay Ridgeway). Shawn lives in a trailer park with warring parents – a father who frequently disappears and a mother who eventually walks out when she gets fed up with it. As a result, Shawn is very close with the Matthews family, to the extent that a young Cory accuses Shawn of trying to steal his father (“Oh, grow up – I’m not trying to steal your father. Bye Dad!”).
Eric steals the show episode after episode, being both insanely stupid and very insightful at the same time.
Morgan grows from an adorable four-year-old (“Mommy, if my dolly is cold, can I put her in the toaster oven?” “No, honey, that would be a mistake.” “Mommy, I made a mistake.”) to a confident, although very sarcastic, teenager.
Cory grows increasingly neurotic as the time goes by, as his relationship with classmate Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fisher) deepens and gets more serious.
Topanga herself undergoes a drastic change, from a very open-minded hippie who suggested that their teacher was sick because of Zeus, to a mature, sensible adult, who loves Cory through thick and thin.
Speaking of teachers, there is one more very important member of the family – Mr George Feeney (William Daniels), their elementary school teacher, who became their high school teacher, and then became a college lecturer. As well as being Cory’s teacher, he is also their next door neighbour, and Cory often finds himself chatting with Mr Feeney over the fence, looking for life lessons.
A sitcom it may be, but Boy Meets World is much deeper than that. Most episodes have some kind of life lesson for the viewers, as well as for Cory, but delivered in a way that doesn’t seem preachy or condescending – a rare find.
At the same time, it has fun. From a ‘horror movie’ episode, in which all the clichés of horror movies are explored to hilarious lengths, to a trip to Hollywood, where Eric gets a role in a movie, but all the actors are surprisingly like the group (and played by the same actors), the show takes advantage of pretty much every cult reference you could think of, while being painfully self-aware.
Indeed, the fourth wall is broken several times, most notably in one of the last episodes, in which Cory takes the opportunity to pass some advice onto a younger cast member:
“Even though it’ll seem like the world is going out of its way to teach you these hard lessons, you’re gonna realise that it’s the same world that’s given you your family and your friends. And you’re gonna come to believe that the world’s gonna protect you too. Boy Meets World … now I get it.”
Honestly, it’s tempting to review this show episode by episode, but something tells me that when the Editor asked for series ideas, she wasn’t talking about 158 mini-reviews.
Each episode is a fairly gentle ride, with about a laugh a minute, but occasionally hits you with something that makes you think. It’s really a show that grew up with its viewers and, by the time Cory and Shawn graduated, we were graduating right along with them.
Roxanne Williams (can’t think of a good tagline…)