Boy Meets World (1993-2000): 1×01 “The Pilot”

BOY MEETS WORLD (1992-2000)

This is the first of “Claudia only” posts.

I first saw Boy Meets World in local syndication, at some point in the late 1990s.  At this time, the show was still producing its first run on ABC, so I caught some of these newer episodes as well.  Since the series ending, it has been syndicated on The Disney Channel, ABCFamily, and MTV2.   Between local and national syndication, I managed to watch every single episode several times.  Because of how I watched this show, I have never seen the episodes in a perfectly consecutive order.  I am also thinking that since Girl Meets World is coming… well, as of publication date there is no premiere date set.  It’s going to premiere in 2014 sometime, according to the most recent news.  But it’s a perfect time to give Boy Meets World a detailed look.  This re-watch gives me the opportunity to properly watch each episode of this wonderful and oh-so 90s show in its intended order!

Episode: Pilot (1×01)
Director: John Tracy
Teleplay: Michael Jacobs, April Kelly
Cast: Ben Savage, William Daniels, William Russ, Betsy Randle, Will Friedle, Lee Norris (credit only), Rider Strong, Lily Nicksay
Guest Stars: Chauncey Leopardi, Cynthia Mace, Krystin Moore
Original Air Date: September 24, 1993

Cold Open

Both are brave for eating from the vending machines.

Both are brave for eating from the vending machines.

Establishing shot of school.

The show’s first line: Cory: ‘Good morning, Mr. Feeny.’  Bookends somewhat with series finale, but where nowhere near discussing that yet.

Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) chides Cory (Ben Savage) for eating junk food from the cafeteria’s vending machine, prompting a sassy at-least-I’m-not-eating-astronaut-food comeback from Cory.  They banter a bit, with Mr. Feeny getting the last word (noted in The Wisdom of Mr. Feeny), then Cory and his milk sit down with random bowlcut kid (thankfully this show does not have a ton of actual bowlcut haircuts) and Shawn (Rider Strong).  Bowlcut is sitting at Cory’s right hand, and Shawn is on Cory’s left.  Is the whole “place of honor” thing switched around for southpaws?

Bowlcut is the sheep... or the goat?

Bowlcut is the sheep… or the goat?

Shawn’s character is apparently not quite anti-homework yet, because he has his textbook open.  I know, weird, right?  Their conversation is set to shuffle (could CD players do that back then?  Mine sure couldn’t), the topics being, why Cory wouldn’t suck up to Mr. Feeny this year  (“At least this way, I’m taking him with me”), a new teacher sitting next to Mr. Feeny at lunch, and how late into the late night talk show the boys managed to stay up.  Well shoot, I was asleep by the end of the late night news every night, so I would’ve come in last in this contest.  The school bell rings.  “Four hours until lunch,” says Cory as the students leave for class.

Opening Credits

The Season One opening credits have the the cast’s names and faces over a busy-patterned background.  I seem to recall Sister, Sister and The Smart Guy having a similar style of opening credits in their early seasons.  It *was* much cooler, then.

Cory's loves in Season One: Bicycles, baseball, and french fries from an undetermined restaurant.

Cory’s loves in Season One: Bicycles, baseball, and french fries from an undetermined restaurant.

Act One

Yet another establishing shot of the school.  Mr. Feeny appears to be teaching either English (oh dear…6th graders…) or Drama (oh dear…6th graders…), because Mr. Feeny is trying to elicit a strong Romeo performance from Bowlcut.  Bowlcut perplexedly tells Mr. Feeny that he’s having trouble committing to the performance (Romeo & Juliet, Act 5 Scene 3, death scene) because he knows that (SPOILER ALERT) Juliet isn’t actually dead.

Meanwhile, Cory’s listening to the Phillies game via earbuds and a radio walkman.  Now that is a 90s device.  Can’t quite say that I miss them… non-iTunes mp3 players, for the win!  After Mr. Feeny confiscates the “hearing aid,” he chides Cory for not paying attention to R&J.  Frankly, I’d be on Cory’s side–R&J are idiots–, except that MLB’s just so boring on TV, radio must be 10x worse.  Mr. Feeny contends that R&J is a great example of the impact of passionate love.  I do not argue with his contention.  Unfortunately, R&J were still idiots.  Mr. Feeny gives Cory detention for Friday afternoon.  I don’t know where Topanga was during this school week.  I’m thinking her parents took the family to a yurt or something.  And maybe Minkus is absent because he knew Topanga wouldn’t be there to jeopardize his class rank.  (Neither Danielle Fishel nor Lee Norris appear in the pilot episode.)

Establishing shot of Matthews home.  Cory’s older brother, Eric (Will Friedle), is concluding a telephone call as Cory enters their shared bedroom.  Each of them are ecstatic about different things.  Eric’s rejoicing that Heather Ralston is going to go out with him, and Cory’s thrilled that the Phillies won, which means that Friday’s game would have playoff implications.  Eric informs Cory that they can no longer go to the game because of the date with Heather, so Cory runs downstairs to seek some parental mediation.

Cory starts to explain that Eric is flaking out on him to his mother, Amy (Betsy Randle).  However, she and Cory’s father, Alan (William Russ), would rather discuss why Cory got Friday detention.  Mr. Feeny, who lives on the other side of their backyard fence, told Amy that Cory preferred to listen to the Phillies game than try to analyze the “emotional content” of R&J.  Cory protests, “I’m a kid!  I don’t understand the emotional content of Full House!”  Little sister Morgan (Lily Nicksay) chimes in, “I do!” as she feeds her baby doll.

Yesterday, the Full House episode where Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky got back from their honeymoon was on Nick, and everybody got all emo because the couple would be moving like 3 blocks away to Becky’s apartment, but Michelle cried some glycerin tears and so did Uncle Jesse, and pink bunny wallpaper and stuffed pigs were exchanged, and then Jesse and Becky faked that some vermin were in Becky’s apartment, so they had to spend the night in the Tanner’s attic, and then they just stayed there in a Murphy bed for the rest of the series.  Becky’s apartment was nice and roomy.  I don’t understand how a weepy hug-and-learn could convince them to move away from it, so I must again side with Cory.

Amy is siding with Eric, however, since she congratulates him on succeeding in getting the date with Heather Ralston.  Feeling sorry for himself, Cory says he has no friends left in this house.

Back at the school cafeteria, Cory announces to Bowlcut and Shawn that he’s an orphan as of the previous night.  He asks his friends if they want to go to the game Friday night.  They remind him about his Friday detention.  Cory has determined that either Mr. Feeny loves him or hates him at any given moment, so he walks across the cafeteria to feel him out.  Mr. Feeny crankily says that he deals with children’s problems all day, and wants a break to eat his lunch.  Then, he calls New Teacher over, having saved a place.  Cory introduces himself to New Teacher.  “He hates me,” says Cory.  New Teacher is certain that Mr. Feeny doesn’t hate him.  Mr. Feeny gives a forced smile.  Poor Mr. Feeny.  He could use a vacation.  And a separate teachers-only lunch room.

In the Matthews’ back yard, Amy delivers dinner to Cory in his new treehouse residence.  Morgan offers her doll to protect Cory that night.  Once alone, Cory spies into Mr. Feeny’s window, where he watches a pantomime unfold where Mr. Feeny excitedly sets out a fancy dinner for two, then takes a telephone call which causes his face to fall, then sits to eat his dinner for two alone.  Cory ponders this scene as he gnaws on his chicken leg.  His mama didn’t scrimp on the chicken portion, either. Good woman, that.

Now, who could turn down a nice dinner like that?

This is a far greater tragedy than anything Shakespeare concocted.

Act Two

I bet Amy plays Duckhunt when the kids are in school.

I bet Amy plays Duckhunt when the kids are in school.

Amy catches Cory skulking into his bedroom to retrieve some clean underwear. This provides the opportunity for a heart-to-heart talk, where Amy reminds Cory that he’d originally abandoned his father in favor of hanging out with his friends, but priorities change as we grow older.  I feel like similar themes come up in later episodes.

Oh, I'm trying to ignore that this "dance" ever happened too, Mr. Feeny.

Oh, I’m trying to ignore that this “dance” ever happened too, Mr. Feeny.

In detention, Mr. Feeny ignores Cory as he grades papers.  38 minutes into detention, Cory begs to be let out on good behavior.  Changing tactics, Cory argues that he shouldn’t be in detention because he thinks love stinks, and because Mr. Feeny agrees with him.  He reveals that he and Mr. Feeny essentially shared last night’s dinner, so he knows that Mr. Feeny doesn’t believe the “moral” of R&J.  Exasperated, Mr. Feeny namechecks the Brownings, Dickenson, Burns, who all (according to him) understood “human emotion.”  If he says so…my English courses did not convince me of this.  He asks Cory what they all have in common.  “They all took your class?” offers Cory.  Not a bad guess for a sixth grader, I think.  No, Feeny reminds him that they were all past 11 years old.  Frustrated at the thought that Cory may leave his class at the end of the sixth grade (SPOILER ALERT: HA… it ends up being, like, 14th grade, amirite?) without having learned anything, and after demanding Cory’s undivided attention, tells Cory that what makes the people across his fence strong is that they are a family brought together by a man and woman who saw the unending possibilities which could come from their love.  He states that Romeo understood the importance of love and was willing to give his life in its pursuit.  Well, sure, but Romeo was still a hormonal idiot.

Back at home, Cory tries to sneak into the house, but loud-mouthed Morgan rats him out.  Cory apologizes to his dad for abandoning him, who basically tells him it’s not a huge deal, as he wants him to have friends.

I always hated that little laughing dog.

I always hated that little laughing dog.

Back in Cory’s bedroom, Cory points his NES Zapper ) at Eric.  ‘DIE!  DIE!  DIE!’ yells Cory.  Gee, Cory, tell us how you really feel…  The Phillies won the game, but Eric says he couldn’t pay much attention to it because although Heather Ralston was a great date, Eric spilled food and couldn’t think of things to say to her.  Cory’s perspective is that Eric is “too cool for some girl,” but Eric responds that he’s not cool at all.  He vows to never call Heather again.  After a moment’s thought, Cory hands Eric the extremely 1993 cordless phone, and tells him to take her to a movie.  Cory goes downstairs, and has tea with Morgan.  I would have killed for her play table and chairs set, true story.

Closing Credits

In the lunchroom, Mr. Feeny once again asks New Teacher out to lunch, and she accepts.  Mr. Feeny turns to Cory and asks if he is confused.  Cory says he is.  “As it should be,” says Mr. Feeny.  I am confused, too.  New Teacher… isn’t that hot.  Nevertheless, this is Mr. Feeny’s Unlucky Romance #1.

Final thoughts

The recap for the pilot is a bit longer than intended, partly because it is the pilot.  As characters and locations are more established, I shall include less detail and hopefully more commentary.

I think that this episode holds up pretty well for a 2013 audience.  You’ve got an average suburban boy/middle child, occupied by friends and sports teams and video games and homework.  The fashions just have changed, and the Wii U has replaced the Super Nintendo.  (Oh, and there’s that pesky thing called internet.)  The themes hold up too, with a teacher trying to impart his wisdom to his students, in spite of their lack of interest or understanding, and with a boy making adjustments in his relationships with his family.

In this episode, Amy states that priorities change as people age.  Well, I have also noticed that perspective changes as we grow older.  For example, when I was in grade school, I thought my friend’s dad was the coolest and funniest guy.  When I ran into him at a social function as an adult, I thought my friend’s dad was a somewhat socially awkward and corny guy.  His essential character and personality have pretty much remained the same, I feel.  My interpretation of this man shifted, as I have grown into adulthood.

I believe that the “dumbing down” of Eric’s character may actually be explained as simply a perception shift.  Boy Meets World is largely told through Cory’s perspective.  But his perspective changes toward certain things as he grows up.  For example,  11-year-old Cory does not understand the power of romantic love, but through his high school and college years he will go to great lengths for the sake of the love of his life.  In the pilot episode, Cory says that he thinks Eric is a cool guy, even though Eric’s perspective of himself is that… he isn’t cool at all.  As I continue through these reviews, I plan on observing Eric’s self-perception, Cory’s perspective of Eric, as well as the perspective of the supporting characters regarding Eric’s “coolness” and intelligence.

Wait, that was who?!/I Know Them From ___

Chauncey Leopardi (aka Bowlcut) was in The Sandlot, Father of the Bride (1990), A Girl of the Limberlost (I need to track that one down again…), and Houseguest.  Later, he was in Gilmore Girls and Freaks and Geeks.  Cynthia Mace was in Blast from the Past (I do not need to track that one down again…).

Continuity (or lack thereof) 

In the opening scene, Shawn establishes that they are in 6th grade.  Eric establishes that he is in 10th grade.  This age gap will mysteriously change.

The Wisdom of Mr. Feeny

“There’s no gravity in space, Mr. Matthews.  Therefore, astronauts suck up.  Learn from them.”

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