DVD Review: Boy Meets World - The Complete Third Season
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: September 5, 2005
Boy Meets World Season 3
In the late '90s, ABC's Friday nights were dominated by their two-hour "TGIF" lineup, consisting of family-friendly sitcoms. From 1993 to 2000, one of the cornerstones of this lineup was Boy Meets World.
The "boy" of Boy Meets World was Cory Matthews, played by Ben Savage. Ben is the younger brother of Fred Savage, star of the Wonder Years, and in some ways Boy Meets World was the younger brother of Wonder Years. Both dealt with a young kid who had an older brother (and a younger sister, in the case of Boy Meets World), realistic parents, a best buddy, and a sweet love interest. However, where Wonder Years went for nostalgiac humor, Boy Meets World went for current comedy. While the Boy Meets World gang had realistic emotions, they never tried for the type of real-world accuracy that Wonder Years did.
In Season 1 of Boy Meets World, we met the Matthews family -- parents Alan and Amy, older brother Eric, middle kid Cory, and daughter Morgan. Next-door neighbor (and teacher) George Feeney (William Daniels) had a huge impact on the family, and Cory spent a lot of time with friends Shawn Hunter and Topanga Lawrence.
By Season 3, this rich palette expanded dramatically. Shawn, in the absence of his father, had moved in with teacher Jonathan Turner (Anthony Tyler Quinn), and Mr. Turner's best friend Eli Williams (Alex Désert) joined the school as well. Cory's relationship with Topanga had been retconned from a doubtful suspicion towards the hippie girl to a lifelong love leading to this season's romantic focus. And of course in addition to the regulars there were several recurring characters, such as the hilarious thugs Frankie the Enforcer (Ethan Suplee) and Joey the Rat (Blake Soper). In fact, by this point the cast had grown so big that one of the Matthews family members was invisible for half the season. Little sister Morgan didn't appear until the 14th episode, recurring after what she proclaimed "the longest time-out [she's] ever had." She also returned as an older and more smart-ass version of herself, with a recast from the adorable Lily Nicksay to the more sarcastic Lindsay Ridgeway (perhaps her prolonged isolation turned her bitter?).
There are a lot of upsides to this season. This is a stellar cast, and there's great chemistry between just about everyone. William Daniels, in particular, starts spending more time with Will Friedle, a pairing that works well and pays off big-time in later seasons. With two seasons of success behind them, the producers felt free to attempt off-the-wall episodes, such as bringing in the Monkees to perform or sending Cory back to the 1950s, complete with cast members from Happy Days. At the same time, they also developed more serious issues, most notably with Shawn's troubled time dealing with the absence of his father.
On the other hand, there are some downsides to this season, as well. The cast is so large at this point that the season is a little dizzying. Standouts such as Betsy Randle and William Russ, so good as Cory's parents in the first two seasons, are given short shrift. And while some of the fanciful episodes are fun, the one where Cory and Topanga end up in Disney World smacks of blatant product placement.
Still, Boy Meets World holds up well as a family-friendly comedy. The characters are interesting (I particularly love the thugs), the performances are fun, and there's enough scope in the episodes to provide springboards for discussion without seeming preachy. If not the best season of Boy Meets World, it's still a solid one, and worth a view. (And, incidentally, for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, there are guest appearances by three future Buffy cast members -- Julie Benz, Danny Strong, and (in a very small role) Charisma Carpenter.)
The biggest disappointment in this season's DVDs isn't the episodes themselves, but the lack of bonus features. While Seasons 1 and 2 contained several enjoyable and illuminating sets of commentary from various combinations of Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, Will Friedle, and producer Michael Jacobs, there were no such commentaries in this set.
The sole bonus feature is a multiple-choice quiz called, "The World According to Boy," which asks the viewer to complete a quote from one of the episodes. It's not particularly challenging or well designed (right answers force you to watch the clips that contain the quote that you already knew), and is a poor substitute for commentary.
The closest thing to commentary is a note from Michael Jacobs, included in the interior flap of the packaging. If anything, that note seems to confirm this season as a transitional one, noting that "[w]e had a great time putting this season together, but at the end of it we realized that the innocence and youthfulness of our stories was going to change." He also hints to more commentary in Season 4 ("When we next meet in season four ... I'll let you in on a completely unexpected moment, which was so touching that it helped us realize what the rest of the series needed to be.").
In terms of packaging, the discs are in a compact tri-fold, stored in a cardboard slip case. I like the packaging, myself. One fold contains a convenient table of contents for the three discs (although no descriptions of the episodes, beyond the titles, writers and directors). The only odd thing about the packaging is that two of the discs overlap; however, they still fit in securely, and the more compact design is easier to manipulate than some of the multi-fold designs out there.
Bonus Features: C-
|Boy Meets World
The Complete Third Season
My Best Friend's Girl
The Double Lie
What I Meant to Say
He Said, She Said
This Little Piggy
Truth and Consequences
The Last Temptation of Cory
Train of Fools
The Grass is Always Greener
New Friends and Old
A Kiss is More Than a Kiss
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
The Pink Flamingo Kid
I Was a Teenage Spy
I Never Sang for My Legal Guardian
The Happiest Show on Earth