Friday, November 29, 2013

Episode 1x15 "Model Family"

Mr. Feeny is showing an episode of Leave it to Beaver to the class, probably because the copyright has expired and ABC can get away with it. The scene starts with the ending scene of the Beaver episode, which is kind of meta when you think about it. Mr. Feeny leads into the plot for this episode by citing a 1950s census which indicated that the model American family had a mother, a father, and two children. A quick Google search determined that was a fib. The average number of children in a household was less than 1.5 for every year of the 50s.


This misinformation is used to set up the next assignment for the students.


Cory's use of "nerd-o-rama" mirrors Shawn's exclamation of "surprise-o-rama" in the previous episode, and I stand as bewildered now as then. Maybe it was funny 20 years ago, I don't know.

After the title sequence, we're at the mall with Eric and his buddy Jason. This is Jason's first appearance and it's incredibly exciting for me. He's played by this fellow, Jason Marsden.

Where do I begin! Jason Marsden is one of my favorite voice actors. He's a skilled screen actor as well, due in no small part to that award winning grin, pictured above. He has an extensive (and still growing) IMDB page, so I'll refer you there to really understand how awesome Mr. Marsden is. Some highlights are Max from the Goofy movies, Chase Young from Xiaolin Showdown, Noel from Final Fantasy 13-2, and more recently he was one of the spirits in those two flashback episodes of Legend of Korra a few weeks ago. But his best role, by FAR, was Craig Boone in Fallout: New Vegas. Boone is one of the most well-designed and captivating characters in the history of video games, and Marsden brings him to life flawlessly. Jason Marsden Bonus Badge muthafuckas.  

                                          
Listen to that voice. It's silk. It's a river made of silk. Why doesn't the audience laugh after he says "It's a game"? I thought that was hilarious.

Anyway, a talking pair of legs cons Eric into paying $90 for a modeling portfolio. The whole scene is really funny. Friedle and Marsden are fantastic together on screen and are actually best friends in real life, which makes my heart sing. It's a crippling shame that Jason disappears after Season 2. 

We're in Cory's kitchen now and the gang are learning how to be each other's model family member. Topanga wants Cory to practice Native American spiritualism and Cory calls her "Little Big Hair", which is another one of those smart jokes that make you love this show. Eric comes home and regales the young'ins with the story of his afternoon, but they point out that Eric has been scammed. Cory informs his parents and Amy thinks they should let Eric sort out his own mistakes, to which Alan reluctantly agrees. Their patience appears to pay dividends as Eric tells them that he knows he fucked up and is going to the mall to get his money back.

To our surprise, it turns out that the "modeling agency" actually got a gig for Eric that pays $50. Eric breaks the news to his parents and concurrently quits his job at his father's store. Alan tries to restrain himself, and gives us the fourth facepalm of this episode. 
                                     

Now it's time for the kids to deal with their family crisis in class. It's about three minutes long, but every moment is genius so I'll just post it and then we can talk about it. 


                                    

Shawn remarks that he does a good geek impression, but what's more fun is that he's doing a great Minkus  impression. The breaks in his sentences, the constant nodding... It's a perfect imitation of how Lee Norris plays Minkus and I love it. Minkus does a pretty funny job too, I just wish I could make out what his name tag says. It doesn't look like "Stuart" or "Minkus" or "Shawn", so I wonder what it could be... Topanga doesn't really sound like Cory. I'm not sure what she's trying to do here except be aggressive, but Cory's not even an aggressive person so I don't get it. The biggest flaw in this scene lies with the audience for not erupting into hysterics at "A person's body is his temple." I distinctly remember watching this for the first time with my sister, and we both died. Look at Cory's face while he says it. It's completely perfect. And we even get our little life lesson about families at the end. This is definitely one of the top five scenes of the first season.

So that's done, time to resolve Eric's story. He and Jason are at the mall for Eric's photo shoot, along with Eric's new groupies. Their chemistry is fantastic yet again.


We learn that Eric's gig is actually to wear a lobster costume and sit in a dunk booth above what is supposed to be melted butter. Jason dunks him. Who wouldn't, honestly. That lobster costume is pretty fantastic.


Eric begs his father to give him his job back. Alan gives him a lesson about being a responsible adult, and ultimately Eric settles for a weekend nightshift position. 

This was a wonderful episode. Good laughs the whole way through, and a fun story. And Jason Marsden. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this review and I think that's reflected in my writing (in stark contrast to the other reviews this week). It's interesting how polarized the first season has been. I either have a ton of comments and clips and pictures, or I think to myself "What the fuck can I possibly say about this monstrosity." Thankfully it was the former this time. I hope you had as much fun as I did. 

1 for plot, 1 for humor, 1 for character development since Cory learned about fatherhood and Eric learned about adulthood, and .75 for the life lesson. I'd really like to give a perfect score, but the life lessons here just weren't as strong as some of the earlier ones. The duo that wrote this episode, Ed Decter+John J. Strauss, also wrote episode 9 which did get a perfect score, as well as episode 7 which was a piece of smelly garbage. Looks like they got the hang of it after their first attempt and their last episode is number 20, so let's look forward to that.

3.75/4 with 3 Badges and a Jason Marsden Bonus Badge. This is a must watch episode.
See you Monday!

All clips and images used under Fair Use.





Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Episode 1x14 "The B Team of Life"

We begin in medias res. Basketball tryouts have transpired, and Cory, Shawn, and some new kid are eager to learn the results while discussing the fact that only literal filth belongs on the second string (or B team). To his great excitement, Minkus makes the B team. Shawn and the new guy who will probably blink out of existence after this scene make the A team. Shawn uses the word "surprise-o-rama" as though it were actually a thing that people say. It is not. Cory, as it turns out, only made second string. Wuh oh.


Mr. Feeny is giving a lecture on evolution and natural selection. Through those concepts Mr. Feeny helps Cory to understand that he can either improve at basketball or be weeded out, a la Darwinism. That's a fuckin awesome lesson. How bout a Charles Darwin Bonus Badge.

Eric is working out to win back the 10th grade girls, who are more interested in seniors than they are in him. Surely if he made these poses in front of those girls he would incite a school-wide orgy. And he's wearing Chuck Taylors. Eric Matthews ought to be swimming in ass.

Mrs. Matthews is sewing a princess dress for Morgan, or hemming it I suppose... I don't know, Morgan is wearing it, Amy is doing something to it with a needle. The point is, they have this exchange: 

Morgan: "I'm gonna be the best princess in the play!"
Amy: "Morgan if you don't hold still you're gonna be the best princess with tetanus."

I guess I just made a pun with the word "point", and I apologize for that. Anyway, it's a funny joke, but it's also a smart joke- at least, it's smart from the reference frame of the target audience. Morgan doesn't ask what tetanus is, and there's no further elaboration. To be able to laugh at that exchange, we as the viewers have to already know what tetanus is, how it's contracted, and why it makes sense in the context of sewing. One particular bit of praise you'll almost always hear on the topic of Boy Meets World is that "it doesn't talk down to its audience", and this tetanus joke is a good example of that.  The show doesn't hold your hand to make sure you know what's going on. It's like Community in that way. 

There's a similar exchange between Alan and Eric shortly after.
                                     
Maybe "Schwinn" was more of a household name back in 1993, but to me at least, that's a smart joke. Both actors also had fantastic timing and tone there. 

Back to the plot, Cory's feeling neglected because everyone gets distracted by something or someone else as soon as he tries to talk about his B team situation. He gets pretty upset and makes a big fuss, and then that one sad tune plays as he storms off.

Cory gets hyped about maybe getting to play in the next game, but it's an away-game and "second string don't go to away-games", so he's sad again. School ends and Cory returns to an empty house, building on that neglect he's been feeling, and so he watches TV. 


                                      
How bout that second part? That's some meta shit right there. Hey shitty 90's sitcoms, Boy Meets World is better than you, and it knows it.

They waste a few more minutes but eventually Cory and Feeny cross paths. Somehow Mr. Feeny knows that Cory's family drove to the away-game to support him. The two banter about the role of families in evolution, and ultimately the wise sage drives his pupil to the b-ball game. 

Exactly none of any of that makes sense. We were just told explicitly that second string players aren't even allowed to go to the away games, but this whole conversation transpires without Cory ever mentioning that critical detail to Mr. Feeny. It's understandable that his family didn't know, but what exactly is Cory's plan here? There's no bench for him to sit on, nowhere for him to go once he arrives at the game. And wouldn't his parents notice that there are no second string players on the court? The next scene starts with the whole Matthews family getting home, so some sort of witchcraft must have taken place in the interim, allowing them all to meet up somehow.


Oh okay, three first string players fouled out of the game, so they had to bring in Cory. Again, the logistics behind that aren't coming together in my mind, but let's move on. Cory reconciles with his parents, but it's pretty boring. 

Oh, that's the end? But nothing happened. "Cory was sad for like a day and then overreacted but then everything was okay. Basketball." That's the abridged version. There was definitely some smart humor, and overall it was pretty funny, so it deserves a Humor Badge. This episode was almost certainly aired out of sequence given the ever-futile attempt at giving Cory a second friend. That kid did actually show up a couple more times, but he's definitely not in any episodes after this.The out-of-sequence claim is supported further by the basketball thing in general. Cory has only ever expressed interest in playing baseball until now, a sentiment which goes unmentioned in this episode. Why didn't they just make it about baseball? Either way we'll never hear about it again.

0 for plot, 1 for humor, 0 for character development, 0 for life lesson.

1/4 with a Humor Badge and a Charles Darwin Bonus Badge.

Happy Thanksgiving and see you Friday.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Episode 1x13 "She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not"

Disclaimer:
We've got one hell of a crapstorm today my friends, and I'm not talking about the half inch of snow that fucked over my morning commute. No, this crapstorm is named Boy Meets World episode 13. I'm trying to think of how I can even approach this. There's maybe five sentences worth of content. Nothing is funny or interesting, the plot is pathetic, and I guess the life lesson is okay. It's especially perplexing since it was written by April Kelly, whom I've previously showered with accolades and praise. Honestly, this is probably the reason she never wrote another episode. If you have the overwhelming desire to be angry-bored for 20 minutes, go watch this episode of Boy Meets World.

Actual Review:
We start out in Feeny's classroom before class actually starts. This would normally take place in the cafeteria, but I suppose they wanted a seamless transition. Minkus hits on Topanga and she friendzones the shit out of him. This is crap, Topanga. Minkus is obviously superior to Cory. Mr. Feeny arrives and announces that they'll have a guest speaker to tell them about high school. The speaker turns out to be Eric and this happens:

There are two things to take away from that clip. First is what I consider to be the first incarnation of Eric's legendary Feeny Call. We can hear it in his tone, and we know that it's his destiny. Second is when Topanga makes googly eyes at Eric. Eric says some dumb shit about high school. Cory and Shawn are wearing clown costumes.

Somehow Topanga gets to the Matthews house. Everyone assumes she is in love with Cory, including Morgan who says something stupid. Gadzooks, how could this conundrum possibly be resolved? Cory shoves Topanga out the door instead of using his basic communication skills, where she goes all Sam Fisher for a chance to see Eric. Her dream comes true as Eric listens to Mr. Feeny explain why his presentation about high school was less than worthless. 


"Shame on you Eric Matthews, you didn't tell Cory's class about drugs and alcohol and peer pressure, something that you're completely qualified to do!", says Mr. Feeny. I'm paraphrasing.

At lunch the next day, Topanga makes up a dumb ass excuse to come to Cory's house again and leaves her notebook behind. The boys peek at her notebook and learn that she actually likes Eric, not Cory. Zoinks! Maybe if we, the viewer, had been led, along with Cory and Shawn, to believe that she liked Cory then this might actually be a fun twist, but knowing the truth all along made it a complete waste of time. Topanga shows up at a different door than last time, which is mighty convenient. She and Eric have an awkward conversation. 
This conversation goes on for a long time. Much longer than it needs to if they're simply trying to progress the story. And Eric is using his soothing PSA voice. So one of two things is going on. Either they're telling their 15 year old male viewers not to date 11 year olds, which I doubt, or they're telling young female viewers not to fall for teenage boys based solely on their good looks. Orrrrrrrr, mayyyyyyyybe it's more of a comment on the futility of trying to prevent young girls from doing that, since Topanga completely refuses to relent.  
                                      
Then again, it might be a comment on the futility of trying to prevent EITHER gender from being superficial. April Kelly has earned the benefit of the doubt, so we'll go with that one. Even so, it's not presented well at all and no one except for me would ever even think of that. That was Topanga's sister who came to pick her up, by the way. Her name is Nebula and the rest of the series takes place in an alternate universe where she never existed.

In Feeny's class the next day, Eric shows up randomly and gives another, much more after-school-special speech to the students. I'll go ahead and post the whole thing here. I have a lot to say about it, so check it out for the full effect. It's not bad, I promise.

As we've seen before, April Kelly sort of baits us into thinking that we're going to get a trite platitude of a life lesson, and ultimately comes through with something meaningful, a next-level lesson, if you will. Anyone else would be expecting a "don't do drugs" sermon here, but we know better. Fool me once (twice), April Kelly... So what's today's next level lesson? The key is when Cory says "We're not into that stuff. What we like is baseball and comic books", and Eric's response, "Yeah that's what you like now." It's an interesting point, ya know, you'd be hard pressed to find an 11 year old who wants to get baked. But as Eric explains, there's no way to predict how you're going to feel in the future, especially during the mental clusterfuck that is adolescence. Better still is when Eric uses Minkus's crush on Topanga (lucky guess?) against him. That's a very real situation and it's fleshed out more thoroughly later on in the series.

 A few shows have definitely had a better presentation of this next-level drug lesson, South Park in particular, but it's not fair to compare a basic cable sitcom from 1993 to South Park. Let's give Boy Meets World some credit: they didn't try to use scare tactics, Eric and Feeny don't talk down to the students or to the viewer, and there wasn't some scapegoat to point at and say "look how dangerous drugs are". That last one is particularly tough to avoid; even high quality shows like Fresh Prince of Bel Air have fallen into that. Sadly, Boy Meets World does try to pull that scapegoat shit in a later season, but for now, our girl April Kelly doesn't want anything to do with it.

In keeping with the theme of superficiality, we get to see the first time Shawn ditches Cory for a girl right before the credits. I guess that's pretty significant character development for Shawn.


For the record, the five sentences of content are: "Cory and Shawn think Topanga likes Cory. Topanga actually likes Eric. Shenanigans happen. Don't be superficial. Don't do drugs."

Escape clause: I'm not trying to take a stand one way or the other on smoking and drinking and stuff. Just tellin ya what the show says.

0 for plot, .25 for humor, 1 for character development because of Shawn's hormones, .5 for life lesson because they made me work for it.

1.75/4 

That's a pituitary gland. See you Wednesday.

Clips and images used under Fair Use.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Episode 1x12 "Once in Love with Amy"

It's a busy morning at the Matthews house. Eric gets dumped, Cory needs a permission slip for a field trip, Amy has to get to work and constantly avoids her husbands attempts at early morning romance, and "Judy, Queen of Zits" calls to bail on babysitting that night. Eric is going to babysit in her stead.

Points of note are that Amy has bowling league that night, Alan has a managers' meeting, and Eric digs up an artifact of wisdom: "You know the big difference between guys and girls? Girls want commitment. Guys want girls." Deep stuff. Also Morgan's bowl of oatmeal shatters the modern scientific paradigm by disproving Newton's Law of Cooling.




Mr. Feeny gives the class a good math problem, despite being their social studies teacher. "One person washes a car in 6 minutes, the other in 8 minutes, how long does it take them to wash it together?" Cory's answer of 7 minutes and Minkus's answer of 4.5 minutes are both wrong. Topanga channels a spirit and obtains the correct (and still unknown) answer. Honestly, this scene captures pretty much everything about the first season. We've got sardonic Feeny and naive Cory bantering, Shawn comprises the peanut gallery, Topanga is being weird, and Minkus is being a smarty pants. And it's funny. If I wanted to convince someone to watch the first season of Boy Meets World, I would show them this scene.

                                       
Later that night, Cory and Shawn are trying to solve the math problem. Somehow Minkus shows up at the door and does my favorite bit of the entire first season. (I know these long clips make me look lazy, and I'm sorry, but it's worth it.)
                                        
Where the fuck was the Emmy nod for that? God, I'm still laughing. I need to make a gif, hold on.


Absolutely wonderful. Humor and Character Development Badges. I was gushing over Minkus with a colleague the other day, and she mentioned that Lee Norris was on One Tree Hill. I can't IMAGINE that I would enjoy that show, but he is in all nine seasons... I want to talk to him, but this is from an interview he did in 2009: "I just don't think I'm exciting enough to have a Twitter personally."


There's no point in finishing this review. It doesn't matter what happens next. 

But I might as well. Back on track, Mrs. Matthews, as it turns out, has lied to her family and is not going to bowling league. (Seriously, does anyone care anymore? Fucking Minkus.)

The Matthews brothers resolve to stalk their mother instead of just asking her, leaving Shawn to watch Morgan. Thankfully, Boy Meets World decides not to insult our intelligence, and wraps the whole thing up pretty quickly. I don't know what the point was, but there were enough funny bits throughout those few minutes that it was still enjoyable. As Amy explains the sneaky-danger-excitement-date to her sons, Eric thinks it was a cool thing to do while Cory is upset that she lied. Amy explains that the real world isn't so black and white, and that Cory needs to learn to think with a more open mind. 

Somehow that gives Cory the insight necessary to solve Mr. Feeny's math problem. His explanation of his answer is solid and Shawn looks like he's actually learning something, which is cool, even though he's wearing those fucking stupid clothes again. He's kind of making the same face as the picture of Lincoln behind him. And then there's Feeny's line at the end of the clip.

                                   
Heartwarming, to say the least. Also the math on the chalkboard is Minkus's further attempts at solving the problem. In that process, he has inadvertently figured out time travel, which as we all know is represented visually by $5 special effects. 

                                      
                                     
Look at 'im, bouncing up and down to clean the chalkboard. I love that guy.

The story about Mr. and Mrs. Matthews sneaking off to their date was poorly fleshed out, and that whole formula is extremely tired. The only thing to come out of it was Cory's lesson to "think differently", but the attempt to tie it into the math problem was awful. There are a million better ways for Cory to learn that he needs to think differently. Honestly, the secret to the episode is to follow Minkus. All of the scenes where the character Minkus was present (anything in the classroom, and his Emmy performance at Cory's house) were spot on. Everything else was uninspired. Honestly, the root problem was trying to make Amy the "wise parent" instead of Alan. We all know Alan's been rocking this season, but we barely saw him in this episode. The writers wanted to give Amy a shot at the spotlight, and it did not work. Can't blame them for trying.

P.S if you know a way to contact Lee Norris, please show him this review. If he never knows how I feel, my restless soul will be left to haunt the internet forever.

1 for humor, 1 for character development, .5 for plot since the math problem plotline was good, and .5 for life lesson since it was a good lesson presented poorly.

3/4, with two badges and an Emmy for Lee Norris.

See you Monday.

Clips and images used under Fair Use.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Episode 1x11 "The Father-Son Game"

The non-paternal Matthews characters make a bunch of bad jokes in the kitchen until Swagmaster Alan Matthews comes downstairs lookin' pretty fly.

It's time for the annual Father-Son baseball game between Alan's grocery store and some bookstore where a bunch of hippies work. I'm surprised that either store has enough dads to put together its own baseball team, but that's fine. Alan is ecstatic, Cory and Eric don't want to go. Uh oh.

In Feeny's class the next day, Topanga doesn't want to say the Pledge of Allegiance for legitimate reasons. Cory supports saying the Pledge, but for all the wrong reasons, and the two briefly debate. I appreciate the effort here, it's an important discussion to have even today. But it feels haphazardly thrown in to take up time. The issue is never even mentioned again until the last couple minutes of the episode, and it's not impressive. Shawn is funny though.
                                      

It's unusual that Minkus doesn't get any lines in the classroom. We're at lunch now and for the first time so far, Rider Strong (who plays Shawn) completely dominates a scene with humor. He's had some funny lines, and maybe dominated a few emotional scenes, but nothing quite like this.  
                                      
"I'm just never happy unless I'm doing stuff like this..." Hysterical. Ultimately, Minkus is able to outsmart our heroes, and Shawn's facial expressions continue to be on point. I'm going to award a "Rider Strong is funny" Bonus Badge.

                                      
I'm also impressed that Shawn knows who Stephen Hawking is. The next four or five minutes is all boring fluff and I'm not gonna talk about it. Eventually, Cory and Eric are trying to weasel their way out of the Father-Son baseball game (which is scheduled for the next day, Saturday). It's clear that they don't want to go, so Alan relays the game's cancellation to his sons; however, it is apparent to the viewers that he is lying. 


So what happens next? Do Cory and Eric learn the truth and ultimately spend a great time at the game with their dad, learning a valuable lesson while that clarinet music plays? You would think so, but once again Boy Meets World avoids that shit like Wall Street avoids responsibility (so edgy). 

Right after the scene where that gif came from, we jump straight to school on Monday, where Topanga tells Cory she missed him at the game which was not in fact cancelled. The Father-Son game apparently allowed daughters as well, which is cool. Breakin' down that glass ceiling. Cory feels guilty and the clarinet plays. At home Cory explains the situation to Eric and they both feel like the giant asshats that they are. This inspires them to put together a barbecue for their dad, with the help of Willie Garson.

Who is paying for all of this? Certainly not Eric and Cory. Willie Garson just shows up with all the food they need, so I imagine Alan is eventually going to get hit with the bill, and that's kinda shitty. No one is even helping him cook, especially not Willie Garson. Look at him just chillin his ass off back there, freeloadin piece of...

Just so we're clear here, Cory/Eric called up Willie Garson, said "hey bring us all this food we won't pay for", and then told their dad to cook it for everyone. What. The. Fuck. 

In a stunning display of presence of mind, the Matthews brothers realize that this disgraceful excuse for a gift wasn't good enough to make things right with their father. There are only four minutes left in this episode, so it's almost a guarantee that the wrap-up to this story is going to be unsatisfying. 

Now we're in Feeny's class to re-address the Pledge of Allegiance business. You should see this for yourself.

                                     

Was any part of that coherent? I'll concede that "It's dumb to do something and not know why you do it" is a solid lesson, but what does that have to do with Father-Son baseball? Is he saying he should have played baseball to... show allegiance to... his dad..? I... What? And why doesn't Topanga get to weigh in on Cory's new perspective? After all, this whole thing started as a debate between the two of them. This is not good writing. And there's only two minutes left for Cory and Eric to do something special for their dad.

I know I'm going overboard with the clips in this review, but you really have to see this stuff to understand how I'm feeling.

                                     

They're blaming Alan? Didn't Cory just give a speech to his class about how tradition doesn't matter? But seriously, THEY'RE BLAMING THEIR FATHER?
This episode is a travesty. Every moment without Shawn's involvement was either not funny, or nonsensical. It was written by Bill Lawrence, one of the producers for the show, and is the only episode he ever wrote. I have exactly one guess as to why that is.

                                             

0 for plot, 0 for character development, Absolute Zero for life lesson, and I guess 0.5 for humor because of Shawn, as well as a bonus badge for Shawn.


Hopefully Friday's episode is better. I would really like to be done with the first season. 

All clips and images used under Fair Use.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Episode 1x10 "Santa's Little Helper"

Before the title sequence, Mr. Feeny finishes reading "A Christmas Carol" to the class, even though he's only on the first page of the book.

Historically, Christmas episodes of sitcoms are terrible and end with some cheesy "Season's Greetings" Christmas card thing with a photograph of the cast and an animated signature. I might almost say that I am a Scrooge about Christmas episodes, but I wouldn't actually say that because it's not funny. I genuinely don't remember how this episode goes, so maybe I'll be impressed. 

Cory and Shawn are dicks to Minkus and Topanga at lunch, and contrary to the audience's belief, it isn't funny. Minkus is a nerd, Topanga is weird, we get it. Then again, they are sixth graders and this is how sixth graders make fun of people, so I guess if they're going for realism...

Cory and Shawn talk about Christmas gifts (Cory's getting a super rad basketball) and Minkus comes by to collect Shawn's contribution to the Mr.-Feeny's-gift fund. Shawn dodges and pivots (Basketball verbs) the inquiry, and eventually runs away. 

In an exchange between Alan and Amy we learn that the mall Santa had a heart attack as soon as Morgan told him what she wanted. Morgan now thinks she killed Santa Claus. I had to use google just now to make sure I spelled Claus correctly. There's a running gag in this episode about how wool is a shitty fabric. There might be a big joke about it later, so there's the context for you just in case. 

Cory wants to call Shawn to tell him about all his new presents under his tree. Alan, the wise sage that he is, responds by presenting a character point about Shawn that's actually significant throughout the entire series.

                                       
That's right folks, Shawn is poor, but more importantly he's insecure about it. Anyone who watched Boy Meets World in the past knows how critical this is to the series, and this is actually the first time it's brought up. Equally significant is that Cory's immediate reaction to this knowledge is to give Shawn one of his own gifts; he wants to help his best friend not feel so unfortunate. This is also critical to the series. 

Cory tries to give Shawn his awesome basketball, but it doesn't go over well.

                                       
WASN'T THAT BEAUTIFUL?! Cory wants to be appreciated. Shawn hates charity. These opposing characteristics will engage in glorious combat many more times and it's absolutely fantastic. I love seeing friends struggle with conflict. And this isn't some petty shit that gets resolved with nice music and a hug by the end of the episode. This is a life long battle between best friends, and we've just witnessed the drawing of first blood. Awesome.

Minkus comes to collect Shawn's contribution again, and it goes pretty much the same as before. After Shawn leaves, Cory makes up a story about owing Shawn five dollars and not paying him back.
                                   
Once again we see Cory trying to take some weight off of Shawn's shoulders. It's a nice gesture, but as we already saw, Shawn is rather averse to charity. Shawn will inevitably find out about this, but I don't know how he'll react and I'm genuinely interested to find out. Good work Boy Meets World, you've captivated your audience. Plot Badge.

Shawn goes to thank Minkus after class for putting his name on the card. Minkus regales Shawn with the story of Cory's debt repayment. The two exchange "Merry Christmas", which is pretty adorable.

We see a distraught Cory on his back porch. Shawn shows up and gives a worn out basketball net that he found to Cory as a gift. I'm going to write the rest of this scene for you guys as if I were the writers for any other sitcom in history.

Shawn: "I know what you did, Cory. With the five dollars and all."
Cory: "You do..? Look, I'm sorry, I know you hate chari-"
Shawn: "It's okay Cory. I know you were just looking out for me... Thanks."
Cory: "No problem, Shawn. That's just what best friends do." 
*Hug/Music*

And that would be disgusting and would reinforce my cynical view of Christmas episodes. However, Boy Meets World is a good show so that's not what happens. They poke some fun at each other and play with the basketball a little. Shawn does not even mention the five dollars or the gift for Feeny. Neither does Cory, for that matter. Either of those would have completely dismantled the theme of this episode. Cory probably believes that Shawn thinks Minkus just did him a favor, which is reasonable since that is what Shawn thought initially. 

The point is that this time, Cory isn't looking for thanks or acknowledgement. Indeed, it's not that Shawn hates charity, he hates pity. He hates self righteous people thinking that he needs help. But in this case Cory didn't help Shawn because Shawn needs help, he helped Shawn because they're friends. Even if Shawn were rich, Cory would have done this for him. THAT is the difference.

I love that gif. It should be obvious by now, but this episode has earned a Character Development Badge.

Mr. Feeny dresses up as Santa to make Morgan not feel like a murderer anymore. They take the cast photo at the end but there's no "Season's Greetings" or anything, thank goodness.

0.5 for humor, 1 for plot, 1 for character development. This episode's life lesson was kind of embedded in the character development, so I dunno. Half a point, I guess. 

3/4 With two badges. Definitely worth watching.

See you Wednesday.

Clips and images used under Fair Use.



Friday, November 15, 2013

Episode 1x09 "Class Pre-Union"

Before the title sequence, Cory is spoofing 60 minutes by using his dad's camera to film stuff and make the audience laugh. This includes Morgan leaving for a birthday party, wearing the golden necklace that her mother has decided to let her borrow. This was an absolutely disgraceful decision to make as a parent. Amy Matthews, I am shaking my head at you. Then Cory breaks the camera. These parents clearly do not know their children as well as I do.

Cory and Minkus wear some pretty cool hats as they debate over the issue of taxing the colonies. 

I would love to see the syllabus for Mr. Feeny's class. Last episode we were learning about the Holocaust and now it's the American Revolution. Anyway Cory spouts off the standard adolescent diatribe against history, "It's in the past", "who needs it", etc, and comments that he'd rather look toward his future. 
                                      
Look at Minkus, fucking naming the episodes now. Pretty sure Cory hasn't named any episodes yet. 

Cory and Shawn eat lunch with Bad-Hair, who decided to look more like Shawn, so they let him back on the show. Also Cory calls him by his name, which is Larry.

At home, Cory's working really hard on his future-self project in which he'll be center fielder for the Phillies. Morgan traded her mother's golden necklace to a girl named Stephanie for some plastic piece of crap necklace. Amy calls Stephanie's mother to get her necklace back, but Stephanie's mother cites "black black no trades back". It was "blackjack no trade back" when I was younger, and it screwed me out of more than a few good Pokemon cards. I can totally relate, Amy. 

Cory gives a genuinely impressive presentation in class, but Mr. Feeny is a massive jerk about it.   
                                      
Cory's spirit is crushed and he mopes around at home later. I would too. He put real effort and heart into this project and Mr. Feeny completely shut him down. Alan gives his downtrodden son a wise talking-to but it doesn't help. We're stuck with a sad episode today folks, but at least Eric does this:

Stephanie and her mother come over. They have British accents because all stuck-up people have them. Amy and Morgan have devised a sinister revenge plot wherein Morgan trades plastic garbage for Stephanie's valuables. It goes off without a hitch and it's actually pretty funny. Not as funny as Eric though.
"I don't even know who that was!" Funniest line so far in the series. I'll part with a humor badge here.

Alan apparently sent a bunch of "telegrams" to Jim Abbott asking if he'd come talk to Cory. So Jim Abbott makes a guest appearance. I don't follow baseball, but Jim Abbott is actually a pretty badass dude. He was born without a right hand but went on to be a Major League pitcher, and pitched a no-hitter a few months before this episode aired. That's a bonus badge if I've ever heard one. So Mr. Abbott tells Cory that it's great to have big dreams but that it's also important to have backup plans and stuff. Right on. He gives his lines pretty well too, which I didn't expect. (Remember Michael Phelps on SNL? >_>) Abbott is a motivational speaker these days, so he knows a thing or two about delivery.


Cory brings this new perspective on his dream outside to Mr. Feeny, who gives his approval. A "follow your dreams" lesson from Jim Abbott with Feeny's approval? That's a badge.

The end-of-show gag involves Cory filming his parents while they cuddle on the couch, which is weird because he broke the camera earlier.

This episode was written by the same duo who wrote episode 7, which also had a famous guest star. Maybe they're just the guys for that.

Sprinkled throughout this episode were some bits from Alan about how he wasn't able to get his dream job of engineering bridges due to family obligations and all the other curve balls (look at that timely baseball metaphor) that life threw at him. This cements Alan's position as "best character in the first season". There's just so much more depth to him than anyone else. And like I said in a previous review William Russ is fantastic, so I'm happy to give away a character development badge.


The story here was clever and I haven't seen it done in any other shows, so I'd say it earned a plot badge too.

That's the first perfect score of the series. I didn't mention it earlier, but Minkus and Topanga both had some great lines, and even Morgan did something interesting. This is a really good episode, the kind that springs to mind when you think about why you love this show. Go watch this one, guys.

4/4 with five badges.

Seeeeeeeeeee you Monday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Episode 1x08 "Teacher's Bet"

The title is a play on the phrase "teacher's pet".

We're in the cafeteria before school because it's the only school set the creators could afford besides the classroom. Cory and Shawn are discussing Barry Bonds's 43 million dollar 6-year contract with awe on their faces. Taking drugs for a living, ain't that the life. Minkus points out how much bull shit that is, considering that Mr. Feeny only makes about 40 thousand a year. SOCIAL COMMENTARY. How can you not love this guy? I wish Lee Norris, the actor behind the little genius, was on Twitter or something so I could be like "yo, sup". Anyway, Shawn and Cory disagree with Minkus, citing that teaching sixth grade is dumb and easy. -PREMISE ACQUIRED-

Also Shawn apparently got dressed in the dark this morning. At least he's got that hair.

Topanga's back in class, maybe she'll get some lines later. Cory cracks jokes at Mr. Feeny's lesson, at the end of which he assigns everyone a book to read. After class they have a dialogue about which of them has the harder job. Mr. Feeny, as any good teacher would, suggests they swap roles for a week, which will include Cory administering an exam to the class. The wager is on whether more students pass or fail the test than usual. Normally sitcoms have children and their parents swap roles which is tired and boring, but this is a little different and might be fun. 

We're at the Matthews house next, and Eric has brought home girlfriend #3, an Asian with her shirt tucked in named Linda. Morgan makes a joke here, and I want you to see how it goes. 
                                       

That's a pretty funny line from a youngster to her mother, "you're just going to have to be more independent".  I like it when kids are too smart for their age instead of taking the easy "aww" route. I gave a good laugh after the word "independent", and you can hear a few brave renegade audience members laughing then too, but most of the laughter comes after the second half of the line. But the second half wasn't funny! The joke was the first half! There are a thousand things wrong with audience laughs/laughtracks and it's usually not worth talking about, but this really burns me.

Also what the fuck is Eric wearing. I couldn't even leave my apartment if my shirt and pants were the same color, and here he is acting like it's no big deal. And I think that's his jean jacket there under his arm too. Does anyone understand how this could have happened? Linda looks pretty good though. I'm a fan of that ponytail with the lower hair hanging naturally style. 

Cory tells his parents about the bet with Feeny, and we learn that the stakes are Cory's new bike and one fifth of Feeny's weekly paycheck. 

In class, Cory abolishes the dress code and the fascist no-hats rule, and ultimately loses control of the class. Fearing that he might actually lose his bike Cory starts to take things seriously, but it looks like he's pretty fucked.

At home, Cory's reading the book that Feeny assigned in order to prepare for class the next day. Eric and Linda show up, and Linda is sobbing.  "Some jerk at the mall called her a bad name", Eric tells Morgan, with the implication being that it was a racial slur. The first fifteen minutes of this episode seemed like typical switcheroo hijinx, but shit kinda just got real. 

This compels Cory to talk to his class about how prejudice is still very real, including the story of what happened to Linda the day before, and that it's shitty to be shitty to other people. If it were any other show I would expect the class to slowly come to order while nice music plays as Cory talks about this important issue. But that's not what happens. Nobody's paying attention except Feeny. Cory decides that he's a crap teacher and is about to walk out the door when his teacher gives him a look that honestly pierces straight into the core of my being. 

It's a look of sympathy, understanding, some "I know you just tried really damn hard and I'm proud of you", and a little "Don't give up just yet." 
Wow.

Then Cory goes H.A.M. 

                                  

There are a few things I really like about this. The first is that Cory actually says "wop". That's pretty ballsy for 1993. The second is something that most real schools actually fail at, which is showing the students how an issue applies to them. Assigning The Diary of Anne Frank and saying "prejudice is bad mmk" does absolutely nothing for suburban white children. They dismiss it. I dismissed it as a kid. So it's just awesome that Cory throws it in Shawn's face. The third is when Cory says "When someone calls someone else a bad name, it's not good that just that one person jumps up." That caught me off guard. Be honest, were you thinking to yourself "why isn't anyone else getting mad at Cory for saying that?" I know I wasn't. It's a damn good point to make and absolutely earns "Teacher's Bet" a Life Lesson Badge. 

That paragraph might sound awfully reminiscent of the end of my review of episode 3. Episode 3 also started out like a formulaic predict-athon, only to smash my face in with an awesome life lesson at the end. In fact, both this episode and episode 3 were written by the same person, April Kelly, who also co-created the show alongside Michael Jacobs. To my great dismay, this is the last episode she wrote for Boy Meets World, and she hasn't written for any other shows that I've watched. I might check out her episodes of Becker and Happy Days since those are semi-classics. I can only hope she works on Girl Meets World.

Back to the show, it's time to find out who won the bet. We can only assume that this exam was about The Diary of Anne Frank since the episode wouldn't really make sense otherwise. Who do you think won? This is a television show, and we just saw Cory give an impassioned speech about why the subject matter is important. Obviously this motivated the students to read the book allowing Cory to take Feeny's money.

NOPE. 
                                    
Dammit April Kelly, why are you so amazing? I wish I could talk to her about this stuff. 

During the credits we find out that Linda has become a cheerleader and then Mrs. Matthews does a cheer from her high school days. It's awful. I remember how intensely cringe-inducing it is from watching this episode however long ago, and I skipped over it just now. Linda shows up and does her cheer, which I skipped over, but now Eric is acting like Linda's and Amy's are the same. I take pride in having thorough reviews on this blog, so I'm going to have to watch the cheers to know for sure. Maybe I should have a beer first. 

God that was painful. They are the same cheer. I guess I'll put up the clip in case you haven't felt like dying yet today.

I like this episode. .5 for Humor, .5 for Plot, .5 for Character Development since Cory is starting to gain some real respect for Mr. Feeny, and 1 for Life Lesson.

2.5/4 with a Life Lesson_Anne Frank badge.


That's Anne Frank. See you Friday.

How many of you are about to go watch the "Anne Frank's Diary" sketch from Robot Chicken? Me too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Episode 1x07 "Grandma Was a Rolling Stone"

Mr. Feeny, the sly fox that he is, has tricked Cory and Shawn into cleaning snails out of his garden but Alan rescues them. They all talk about fishing and Mr. Feeny tells a boring old story, prompting an interesting insight into Alan's character:
This is the sort of thing you only see in hindsight, and there's no way the writers were thinking far enough ahead, but there are a solid amount of episodes further in the series in which Alan struggles with getting older and with his children moving on. And those are fantastic episodes. So this clip gave us a little precursor to some of the trials Alan will be facing as time goes on. It's fun to see things like that, even if they're not deliberate. Alan really is one of the stronger characters in the early episodes and William Russ is a great actor. He's guest starred on The Mentalist, Leverage, and Criminal Minds (among other things), which I love, so it was exciting to see him pop up on those shows. 

The titular Grandma (Alan's mother) arrives at the Matthews house and we're treated to the worst thing you can ever do in a sitcom ever. 
                                      
That's THIRTEEN seconds of clapping while the actors look around at each other without saying anything. That is what I would do if I were trying to parody a bad sitcom. Poe's Law, I guess. I don't even know who this actress is. Let's look it up. Oh okay, her name is Rue McClanahan and she had a lead role on Golden Girls which concluded the year before this episode aired. I guess that's a pretty big deal. Still, this is an obnoxious thing to do. 

So Grandma Matthews gives everyone gifts and promises to buy Morgan more clothes than she'll know what to do with. Morgan's unusually eloquent response is that she'll "wear them and then throw them on the floor." That is far and away the most brilliant thing Morgan has ever said and I don't think she'll be able to top it. I'd like to put the video here but my software is incapable of dealing with clips that short. 

Yes that's right folks, I'm test driving the actual text tool in Paint instead of writing them with the paintbrush. The paintbrush adds a layer of silliness to the reviews, but hopefully I can convey the silliness through tone and diction, allowing pictures such as this to give off a sort of mock-seriousness. If that makes any sense, congratulations. Moving on. 

Corey makes plans with his Grandma that weekend, bailing on the fishing trip with Shawn and his father. 

Mr. Feeny's niece is coming to town so he asks Eric what girls in his age group do for fun. This is the first time I've laughed in this episode (9 minutes in) and both Will Friedle and William Daniels show their aptitude for timing and facial expressions so it's worth showing the clip.  If you watch the bite marks on Eric's pizza, it looks like they had to do some of these shots multiple times and/or in a weird order.
                                       

Eric hits on Feeny's niece. I wouldn't, but it's 1993 and people like big hair for some reason. Grandma Matthews is MIA so Cory's stuck at home while Shawn and his dad are being manly ass men on the fishing trip. Eric pretty much owns the spotlight until Shawn and Alan get back. I'm going to award a Humor_Eric Badge (read: humor-sub-Eric badge) now because he's carrying this episode on his back. I think the writers have a stockpile of high quality Eric jokes that they're only allowed to bust out when everything else in an episode is doodoo. They probably spent the whole budget for this episode on Rue McClanahan's 4 or 5 lines and couldn't afford to do anything interesting.

Eric seals the deal despite his jeans+jean jacket and tucked in shirt, a quite serious faux pas, and claims that she's the most incredible girl he's ever kissed. This is absurd since Heather was a red-haired Aphrodite, but again it's the early 90's so no one knows what they're talking about.

You know, she actually kind of looks like the girl from the music video for Mr. Brightside. Compare her face/hair at the beginning of the gif to this:

They are not the same person, but it turns out that Feeny's niece, played by Keri Russell, has had a pretty decent career. The only role that I know of though is on Scrubs, where she played Elliot's sorority sister Melody, who showed up when Elliot was about to marry Keith. (I love Scrubs.) So J.D. and Eric Matthews are Eskimo brothers, sort of, which is awesome. YOU'RE NOT GONNA GET THIS LEVEL OF INSIGHT ANYWHERE ELSE, FOLKS. 

Alan consoles his son by explaining that Grandma Matthews has always been a huge flake, but when she does follow through, she does so in spectacular fashion. Interestingly enough, this describes 95% of the women I've dated in the last few years. Is Alan telling us that that's acceptable behavior? Or just that sometimes you have to deal with it? It's not very clear. Then Granny Maffyoos shows up because what else was going to happen. She tries apologizing to Cory and makes an empty promise about "next time", but words are wind folks, and it doesn't sound like Cory buys it. Good for you Cory, that's a genuinely important lesson to learn, that flakes are gonna flake. That's pretty much the end, but I want you guys to look at Mr. Feeny's outfit here for a second, does it look familiar? 

He looks like Walter White! Walt was always wearing his beige jacket and beige pants, which I only remember because it looks so stupid. 

Irrefutable proof that Walt's wardrobe is based on Feeny's. 

So yeah. I wish I could give negative points for plot. I liked that part at the beginning with Alan, and Eric is becoming more of a ladies' man, so .5 for character development. 1 for humor_Eric, and .25 for life lesson since Cory might not expect things from flaky people anymore.

1.75/4 with a Humor_Eric Badge. Pretty awesome badge, honestly. 

Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday.

All clips and images used under Fair Use.