The nineties were the golden age of the situation comedy. This was the decade that saw the likes of Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, and Boy Meets World. Yes, Boy Meets World. No, it wasn’t critically acclaimed. No, it didn’t have the best ratings. But for members of Generation Y, Boy Meets World was childhood. It’s an instant shot of nostalgia that proves impossible to resist. It’s time for this hugely underrated classic to take its place with the greats.

The younger brother of the Wonder Years’ Fred Savage, Ben Savage starred as the titular boy, Cory Matthews. The perfect balance of precocity and naiveté, Cory formed the backbone of the show. His partner in crime was bad-boy Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong— yes, his real name), who lived in a trailer park, and so naturally had an endless supply of biker jackets and angst. Will Friedle played big brother Eric, and love interest Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) rounded out the gang. Overseeing these crazy kids was the ever-wise teacher Mr. Feeney, played by William Daniels.

Even I’ll admit that so far, Boy Meets World sounds like your everyday, utterly disposable, family-friendly cheese-fest: 7th Heaven with a laugh track. And to a degree, it is. BMW is entertainment, not art. The show has become notorious for its continuity issues. Shawn and Topanga both had older sisters who appeared in one episode each and were never mentioned again. Corey, Shawn, and Topanga are sixth graders in the first season and college juniors by the end of the show’s run, seven seasons later. Cory and Eric’s little sister Morgan disappears from the show, only to reappear a season later played by a new actress.

What sets Boy Meets World apart from its fellow sloppily made family sitcoms like Full House and Family Matters is that BMW wasn’t above laughing at itself. When the new Morgan appears onscreen, her first line is “Wow, that was the longest time-out ever!” The entire cast spoofs itself in an episode in which Eric becomes an actor on a sitcom called Kid Gets Acquainted with the Universe. Boy Meets World was often terrible, but it was always in on the joke.

But even through all the antics, Boy Meets World featured true moments of tenderness, mostly between Eric and Mr. Feeney, who happened to live next door. In typical BMW style, both had absolutely ludicrous character arcs: Eric starts off as the handsome and suave older brother, only to lose IQ points with every season until he becomes basically a bumbling lunatic, while Mr. Feeney goes from middle school teacher, to high school principle, to college professor as the characters age. Feeney is the Mr. Miyagi to Eric’s moronic Daniel-san, guiding him through his torturous academic career and offering sage advice for any situation.

Needless to say, Boy Meets World set me up for a fall. As a kid, it was more than a show to me: it was a sort of handbook to life. The lines between television and reality blurred before my six-year-old eyes, until I believed that middle school would be relatively pleasant, high school relatively quick, and life in general relatively painless. It was a while before I learned that real-life problems aren’t solved in 22 minutes.

In the end, Cory marries Topanga and all the kids move to New York—boy has finally met the world. But it’s not the real world, it’s still sitcom world. Cory’s married to his sandbox girlfriend, and from middle school to college, the gang hasn’t broken up. Strange to think that we ever believed that life could be like that, but watching Boy Meets World as elementary schoolers, we did. But even now that we know better, it’s impossible to resent Boy Meets World for lying to us. At least we know that somewhere, best friends are forever, Mom and Dad always have the answers, and Mr. Feeney’s a picket fence away.

  • the exception

    i dont know if it is fair to say BMW lied to us – at least not completely. each relationship is different, you can end up happily married to the same person you’ve dated since middle/high school, and best friends can be for life.
    i realize this is not the case for the majority, but it can and DOES happen.

  • JC

    Too bad you don’t remember the 80’s, because they really were the golden age of situatio comedy. The likes of the Waltons, ALF, The Wonder Years, and even the start of TGIF in 1988 began what you Y’s remember. If it wasn’t for the 80’s, you wouldn’t be talking about comedies of the 90’s- the start of the raunchy comedies.

  • Anonymous

    This article was very well written! I loved the comparison between Feeney and Mr. Miyagi, it was just perfect! I agree with everything you said. Watching this show as a child, I didn’t really understand it much until I now that I am more grown up. I consider this show my handbook to life. It really does guide me through some situations.

  • Kristy

    “At least we know that somewhere, best friends are forever, Mom and Dad always have the answers, and Mr. Feeney’s a picket fence away.”

  • irene

    great artical!!! i don’t really think the show is a fake, middle school was easier then the rest uv my life, i wish i could go back believe it or not.

  • Melissa

    To be fair, there were characters/friends who did not stick around the entire show. And then there are characters like Angela, Jack and Rachel who were added much later on and were able to gain fans as well.

    Many people have a select few people who they remain friends will all their lives – it’s not totally unbelievable that 3 friends could stay friends for 7 years.

    OK article, but it’s hard to decipher if you are a fan or not.

    The show itself is the last great teen-oriented sitcom which didn’t involve teenage girls with magic powers or singing abilities.

    And although there were ALOT of continuity errors, Cory and Shawn remain the same characters throughout the entire show – Cory always on the edge, trying to learn everything and wanting everything to constantly work perfectly and Shawn the troubed teen who just wanted someone to stay in his life.

    The Cory/Shawn Bromance is epic – without it, I doubt that the JD/Turk Bromance on Scrubs would have been as good – they opened doors!!

  • Anonymous

    Does Boy Meets World actually count as a “Generation Y” show? Assuming it’s target audience was mostly teenagers, I would think it a late Gen-X tv show? Cusper perhaps? Unless if it appealed to kids, then I guess yeah it’s a show for Gen Y as kids, a glimpse into what they thought would be their golden teen years.
    When I think of “Generation Y” tv shows, Veronica Mars, Glee, Gossip Girl, That 70’s Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, stuff like that.

  • Georgia

    Brilliant! I am totally in love with this show, and have been for ages! I still refere to the quotes. Life’s tough… Get a helmet!