An Adult’s Appreciation for Boy Meets World (Season 1!)

Everyone remembers Boy Meets World, right? TGIF?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the first couple seasons of Boy Meets World are much more episodic and juvenile than the later seasons. That’s not an issue; the first season takes place when Cory and Shawn are in 6th grade. In a way, the earlier, sheltered seasons reflect where the boys are in life.

But season one of Boy Meets World contains an episode that had a greater impact on my life than just about any other episode of any other show in the world. So recently, I decided to re-watch the early seasons. Imagine my surprise when I realized that season one of Boy Meets World is fucking incredible.

There are many moments and lessons in season one that don’t stick out as being super memorable, because it’s season one and they’re so young. But watching them now, I’m amazed at how many things they snuck in there. Even more impressive, this season aired in 1993 and is still so relevant today. Here are a few episodes that really stood out in season one:

Season 1, Episode 3: Father Knows Less

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When a day of father-son bonding is ruined because of an emergency at the store Alan manages, he feels guilty. That night, the Phillies pitch a no-hitter. Assuaging his earlier guilt, Alan wakes Cory up and they watch it together.

The next day, Cory falls asleep during class and fails a test. He complains to his parents that Mr. Feeny won’t cut him any slack (funnily enough, “I was up late watching a baseball game” didn’t sway Mr. Feeny).

Alan tries to appeal to Mr. Feeny, and also strikes out (sorry, I really felt like I needed to add a baseball pun). Mr. Feeny lectures Alan on his own responsibility as an educator. Honestly, up until that point, the episode is fairly predictable. Even as a kid, that was how I expected everything to go.

But then, Mr. Feeny catches Cory trying to sneak on his side of the fence to get a ball back, and invites him to drink some juice in the yard. Mr. Feeny tells Cory a bit about his childhood (“It’s hard to picture you as a boy. Did your parents call you Mr. Feeny?”).

He talks about “the war in Europe” and the night that President Truman addressed the nation to announce the end of the war. Mr. Feeny asked his father if he could stay up and watch it, and his dad said no because it was a school night. But Mr. Feeny knew that his father didn’t want him around his friends.

And then comes the fateful line:

Mr. Feeny: “What do you suppose I learned in school that day”
Cory: “I know this has gotta be a biggie like the Magna Carta or something, I have no idea what you learned that day.”
Mr. Feeny: “Neither do I.”

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M Reflects

And thus, everyone learns a lesson in this episode. Alan learns that the world doesn’t stop, that his son’s world doesn’t stop, just to make room for father-son bonding. And Mr.  Feeny is reminded that it’s important for a parent and child to spend time together, and that “the whole [learning] process is so grand and all-encompassing that it can’t be threatened by an occasional late night no-hitter.”

Then Cory tells his mom that he’s confused because both his father and Mr. Feeny told him they were wrong. Amy informs Cory that sometimes two adults can think different ways about something about both can be right.

Season 1, Episode 12: Once in Love With Amy

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This episode opens with Alan trying to show Amy some love. Pours her coffee, has a rose for her, tries to get some physical affection. But she’s in a hurry and getting the kids out the door. It’s Wednesday, so Alan has a manager’s meeting at work and Amy has her bowling league. Cory and Eric are charged with watching Morgan that evening.

But when Shawn comes over to hang out, he tells them that the bowling league (his mom played too) finished weeks ago. The boys peak into Amy’s bowling bag and see a red dress and heels, and discover that she’s going to a fancy restaurant instead.

Cory and Eric decide to sleuth it out and leave Shawn in charge of Morgan. They return home with bad news: their mom was dancing with a mystery man at the fancy restaurant. Terrified, the boys tell their dad what they saw and PLOT TWIST Amy was dancing with Alan. Later, Amy tells the boys: “I have a wonderful life and I love being a mother but that’s just not all of who I am. I also have a career and I happen to be madly in love with your father.”

15-year-old Eric, who talks about trying to impress a girl for most of the episode, thinks this is cool, but 11-year-old Cory (yeah, their age difference changes over time, we’ll ignore that) isn’t impressed; all he sees and hears is that his parents lied to him so that they could get away from their children.

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M Reflects

I really appreciate this difference. As the older sibling, Dee was much more likely to think of my parents as human beings than I was. Sometime around age 9, the idea of my parents going out together without me felt very personal. I felt left out!

But Amy doesn’t write off her son’s feelings. She asks Cory (off the record) if he’s ever cut school. He tells her once in fifth grade he cut class and went to the mall. She asks a few questions and then points out that he had more fun on that trip than the other gazillion times he had been to the mall because he wasn’t supposed to be there and it was kind of dangerous. Eric chimes in to say that the sneaking around his parents did was romantic: “very cool Mom, I approve.”

I feel like they did a good job showing all the different perspectives here. Eric understands, Cory doesn’t, and Cory is forced to realize that his parents are more than just parents. But I also think this was (and is) important for the adults who watched this show too. The message is clear: it’s okay for parents to prioritize their spousal relationship. Going on a date with your spouse doesn’t make you a bad parent.

Un-related highlight: trying to see if I could figure out the math problem that thwarted Minkus but not Topanga.

Season 1, Episode 17: The Fugitive

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This has always been one of Boy Meets Worlds most memorable episodes for me. This is the one I was referring to earlier, that left a lasting impact on my life.

Shawn has a cherry bomb, lights it, realizes he needs to put it somewhere and shoves it into a mailbox. That mailbox happens to be the one belonging to the store that Cory’s dad manages.

Shawn panics, realizing this time he’s done something really bad. So naturally, he runs to Cory’s house. Cory tries to tell him it will be okay but Shawn can’t be consoled. “I stepped over the line this time, Cory.” Later, Shawn describes it as the line that separates the little bad from the big bad. He’s terrified of his dad’s reaction, and of the repercussions. Shawn hides out at Cory’s and Cory tries to play dumb when confronted by his parents and Mr. Feeny.

At the height of the build-up, Cory’s dad comes to talk to him in his room. He reflects back to when he was a kid and there was someone in his neighborhood like Shawn, who started small but eventually crossed the line into worse things.

And when Cory asks why Alan is telling him this, Alan says sternly: “Because you need to know that if you EVER do ANYTHING wrong, you can always come home.” Wait, whatttt? “I don’t care how bad it is, it can never be as bad as not coming home.”

When Cory comes clean to his parents (and Shawn runs away from the house), he’s surprised to find out that they knew all along, and even more surprised that they already told Shawn’s parents (“didn’t you think how scared Shawn’s parents would be not knowing where their son was?”). He asks why they didn’t just bust the two of them. “We knew he was safe here with his best friend who we hoped would help him make the right decision and go home.”

And that’s when we get one more zinger. When Alan told Cory earlier that he knew a kid like Shawn once, he was actually referring to himself. He was the kid who got into trouble and he had a friend like Cory who helped him. And so Alan is in a unique position to realize that Shawn is at a crossroads. He can go one of two ways. Back on Cory’s side of the line or “gone forever, into cherry bomb land.”

Alan tells Cory that Shawn is going to get in touch with him. Cory asks what he should do when that happens and Alan says “Kid like you? You’ll know.”

And their final exchange comes when they meet up at the school in the middle night, when Cory is supposed to bring Shawn supplies so that Shawn can run away, and instead brings an empty backpack and Shawn’s parents.

“You have to go home, Shawn. You can’t run away.”
“Yes, I can. Just get away from the door.”
“Shawn! I’m not moving.”
“Cory. What do you want from me?”
“I want you to come back on my side of the line.”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“Just go home.”
“My parents are going to ground me for like a year.”
“Well then, I’ll see ya in a year.”

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M Reflects

I grew up in a house with one caring, loving, respectful parent and one selfish, hateful, angry parent. The former is amazing. The latter should never have had children. For my entire childhood and a chunk of my adulthood, we pretended like my father wasn’t a terrible person. People often treated my dad like a saint. As a kid, it did weird things to me to pretend like he was a good person when I knew he wasn’t.

As a teenager, it got a lot harder. The worst patch happened when I was 17. One day I just couldn’t take it anymore. Instead of going home after school, I went to my friend’s house. I didn’t tell my parents where I was going, and I didn’t have cell service there. I was unreachable. My friend’s parents were out of town and I realized that I could just stay. I could stay at my friend’s house. I never had to go home. It wasn’t the first time that thought had crossed my mind, but it was the first time I contemplated acting on it.

As I sat in my car, staring at my phone, I wondered what it would be like. I thought about how free I would feel. I imagined going to school with my friend, the weight of my dad’s behavior lifted off my shoulders. And then Alan Matthews’ words echoed through my head. I considered how my mom would feel. And although there were certainly issues that I wanted to address, out of respect for my mom, I needed to go home. I needed to face them with her. Because she’s my mom, and 17 years of respect deserved reciprocation.

(Good news, my dad is out of the picture now – and it’s worth noting that, while it was a process, I don’t think we would have successfully booted him from the family if I hadn’t gone home that day)

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I think this episode of Boy Meets World should be required watching for everyone at age 11. This message is so important, but how often do parents ever think to convey it to their kids? It’s something that most parents don’t think they need to say, but something most kids won’t realize if they don’t hear it.

And y’all…this is just season one. There are six more seasons of this show!

What episode of Boy Meets World is most memorable for you? Are there other shows that you feel like have maintained their relevancy? Sound off in the comments!

-M

 

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