Friday, 15 August 2014

Boy Meets World

"Friendship for example, is a real gift. It's given with no expectations and no gratitude is needed, not between real friends." ~ George Feeny

 Here's a secret about me that everyone knows: I am nuts for sitcoms.

While I can get along fine with any genre when it comes to books, movies, plays, or whatever, on television it is the sitcom I enjoy the most.

Why? Maybe because the set up is basically like a play broadcasted to millions of homes at the same time, where we all get to watch the same stage show at the same time. Or maybe because it is the only genre of television that can vary from being hilariously dumb (Married . . . With Children) or uproariously smart (Frasier), and appeal to the old (The Golden Girls) and the young (Boy Meets World) alike. As far as I am aware, there is no other program format on television with as wide of an appeal of potential as the sitcom.

So you may be looking at the title and thinking I've gone mad. "That's a kid show!", "Let me guess, Saved By The Bell reruns are hard to come by?" or "I am over the age of 40. What is this madness I see before me?" are all variations on the same comments I'm sure to hear when this show is brought up. If you're wondering why I've chosen to write about this family sitcom from ABC's forgotten (except by sitcom fans) Friday night TGIF block, then prick up your ears, friends.

It still remains one of my favorite shows.

"Mr. Feeny: Alan, there is a large rusty object not only blocking my driveway, but most of the light into my kitchen.
Eric: Hey, that's my new car.
Mr. Feeny: May I assume it moves?
Eric: Like the wind, especially downhill. You want me to move it?
Mr. Feeny: Well, we certainly can't count on anyone stealing it."

Boy Meets World stars Ben Savage (younger brother of Fred Savage, star of another popular family show) as Cory Matthews, a normal everyday preteen who has problems with his teachers and understanding the world. He has an older brother Eric and younger sister Morgan as well as best friend Shawn and girlfriend Topanga to help him along the way, but otherwise he's about as ignorant of the world as the rest of us.

The set up is no entirely different from what you know of from other sitcoms, even most of the kidcoms Disney pumps out these days have similar set-ups, but it goes a bit further than those.

It grows with its audience.

"Amy: C'mon, Morgan. Let's go in the other room and watch TV.
Morgan: But TV's not funny. Cory's life is funny."

Season one stars a sixth grade boy with typical kid problems of failing tests or understanding his teacher (played impeccably by William Daniels).

By the end of season seven and the end of the show, Cory is married, in College, and ready to move on and enter the real world.

As you can see, a lot happens in between. Cory changes, he grows, his problems become far more real, far more difficult, but he learns from them and grows to be a stronger and better person. Topics such as honesty, faith in God, friendship, sobriety, purity, honor, and respect, grow stronger with the writing as the characters age and never really fall into the after-school special category of cheesiness. Partially because the characters and acting are too strong to let the material down, but also because the show has much respect for its audience.

Creator Michael Jacobs has said several times (including interviews before sequel series Girl Meets World entered production last year) that he wanted this show to be that show kids remember. A show that sticks with them as they get older as his generation did with Happy Days and as the generation before me did with The Wonder Years. Its a show that isn't made anymore, as shows are now tailored to individual demographics for a generation of families that have a TV for each room so adults get depressing, gritty crime dramas, and kids get empty-headed, lazy sitcoms which have the longevity of a goldfish.

I keep coming back to Boy Meets World because of the clever writing and jokes, the well-formed characters, and the well-done journey of a boy growing into a man. I can't say I see kids of this generation having a comparable experience with the junk they are force-fed which have no real weight behind them. I hope the sequel series is as popular as the original was, but that is for another topic.

"Cory [in hospital bed]: Mr. Feeny, under my desk is a key. It opens locker 703 in a Florida station. In there is all my homework from the past 5 years. I'm actually a wonderful student. I listen and I know everything.
Mr. Feeny: What's the capital of Montana?
Cory: You're not going to Florida, are you?"

Despite my love of the show, it is surely not perfect. Some of the lessons in the early seasons are pretty basic and some are muddled, and the later seasons have quite a bit of sexual humor (though considering they are older teens and college students, it's fairly realistic) it is still nowhere near the level of explicit jokes sitcoms are stuffed with nowadays.

I have also heard complaints from parents that the show is not recommended for children because of the subject matter it tends to deal with. Well, that is a parent by parent decision. All I can say that as a kid it lead to some discussions with my parents over some of the weightier issues that I might not otherwise have considered. It also should be said that the show should probably be watched as it was intended, the main character's age equivalent to the child watching which is between twelve and nineteen depending on the season. So of course it will be different depending on the child's age.

Nonetheless, it does deal with subjects seemingly taboo by today's PC culture. One episode leads with the idea of the number one problem with society being the breakdown of the traditional family, another tearing down the culture's obsession with fame and looking down on the common man in the process, and another on the difference between cultism and true faith. It doesn't always hit a bulls-eye 100% of the time, but the fact that it tries and allows for discussion between family members (who should be watching this together) is a lost art.

If you have a soft-spot for traditional sitcoms filmed in front of a studio audience, I can't recommend the show enough. Especially if you plan to watch it as a family. There's a lot of fun to be had and a lot of solid lessons at the same time. Nowadays, there really isn't anything comparable, and that's a real shame.

"Mr. Feeny: Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.
Topanga: Don't you mean do well?
Mr. Feeny: No, I good."

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