Boy Meets World, Season 1 Episode 1, “Pilot”
When I was a freshman in college, I would oftentimes come back from class and immediately switch on the TV, just looking for some general comfort TV. The kind of show you don’t have to pay attention to, but wouldn’t mind brainlessly watching for a few minutes at a time. I found Boy Meets World. It was always on between classes, and I remembered really liking it as a kid.
Now, I know how nostalgia can play dirty tricks on your mind, but I figured I may as well watch a few episodes. And more importantly, one thing that has never changed since you got to stay home sick from school, is that daytime TV really, really sucks. If you sleep through “The Price Is Right”, say hi to 5 fucking hours of “Dora the Goddamn Explorer” (sic). So, nostalgia or no nostalgia, I decided that Dora and Diego could go fuck themselves, and I dove in. What I found was a sometimes (okay, often, but not quite Full House levels) cheesy, but mostly enjoyable and occasionally poignant show. I don’t pretend to hold Boy Meets World as a gold standard for what TV can be, but as a simple and enjoyable TV show that will leave a smile on your face, it is 100% worth revisiting. Especially if you’re home sick .
The initial episode introduces us to some of the characters we’ll be hanging out with for the rest of the series: Cory Matthews and family (Eric Matthews, Mom and Dad Matthews, Morgan Matthews), Shawn Hunter, and Mr. Feeny. Topanga doesn’t actually even appear yet, and if memory serves, she barely factors into the first season at all.
The actual plot of the pilot is pretty simple. When Cory is caught listening to the Phillies instead of learning about Romeo and Juliet, he questions why he should care about the theme of love anyway and is given detention. Then, when he gets home, his brother breaks the news that they won’t be going to the Phillies game on Friday night anymore, because he scored a date with a girl he really likes, and he’s going to take her instead. Incensed over getting in trouble for not caring about the love and romance in Romeo and Juliet, and then being betrayed by his brother due to that same pesky notion of love and romance, he complains to his parents. But when Cory can’t even get any support from them, he decides to move out…to the treehouse…where, naturally, his mom still brings him his dinner for the night.
It’s there that Cory witnesses Mr. Feeny (who, yes, if you’ve never seen Boy Meets World before, is his neighbor) set up a dinner for two, only to get a call and dejectedly have to put away one of the table settings. Thinking he has a trump card on Mr. Feeny, Cory goes into the next day at detention with the argument that he shouldn’t have to learn about “this love stuff” because it only leads to no good. At that point, he tries to level with Mr. Feeny that if anyone would understand how love only leads to no good, he should, since he was just let down by a possible love interest. Mr. Feeny, in a move that will pretty much define the series, takes Cory to task with a lecture on love, explaining that because his parents pursued that “love stuff”, the unlimited potential of that love was able to grow into such a wonderful family, including Cory himself. He leaves Cory with the thought that “there is no greater aspiration than to have love in our lives” and those who don’t realize that are destined to “sit in detention for the rest of their lives.” The speech hits a nerve with Cory, who realizes how important love and family is, and decides to move back in, making amends with his family.
Now, listen, Boy Meets World isn’t exactly subtle; it was a fixture on ABC’s TGIF after all. Grand, sweeping speeches are made, Mr Feeny always knows what the fuck is up, and all major problems get solved within a 30 minute timeframe. However, looking past the point that I’m a sucker for grand, sweeping speeches, what makes Boy Meets World work is the characters. It’s tough to tell from just the pilot, but through all the schmaltz and the cheese of this show, the characters are not only entertaining, but also manage to feel genuine and honest.
There’s a moment where Eric comes back from his date, which didn’t go well for him as he stumbled over himself and didn’t have much to say, and tells Cory he’s done dating her, and never wants to talk to her again. Cory, initially happy that he has his brother back to go to baseball games with, pauses for a moment, and says “You don’t really mean that.”
And of course he doesn’t. It’s a genuine moment that comes from pursuing someone you really like, and the disappointment when things don’t go as planned. Cory convinces Eric to give it another chance, and whether or not it will work out, the broader point is to not give up just because you lost confidence in yourself. Rejection is one thing, but to give up without trying is another, so pick yourself up and give it another shot. It isn’t an entirely original point, but it is worth hearing every now and then. And that is what Boy Meets World excels at. So yes, the moral of the pilot is essentially, love is worth it, and in the hands of less entertaining and convincing characters, this kind of sentiment can seem trite, but at the end of the day, Boy Meets World almost always leaves you satisfied that, hey, sometimes that’s all that needs to be said.
Quotes and Random Thoughts
- I spent a lot of time discussing the heart of the show, but it also helps that the show is legitimately funny and entertaining.
- “The tragedy here, Mr. Matthews, is not about a dumb girl, or the boy who kills himself because of her. It’s about the all consuming power of love and the inevitability of its influence on each of our lives.” “Are you aware that I’m only 11 years old?”
- “Mom, I’m a kid, I don’t understand the emotional content of Full House!”
- Oh man, the progression of Eric Matthews from “normal older brother” in the pilot to “IQ of 12” over the course of this series is a fun one to watch.
- “I can handle Feeny. Feeny loves me!” “Feeny hates you.” “Well it’s one of the two.”
- “Mom, you were always cordial to me when I lived here.”
- “Why did you get detention?” “You know, you’re missing the bigger issue Dad. You bought a house next to my teacher. I wanna move. I wanna move now. Get the guy with the gold jacket. I’ll be in the car.”