by pat howard

DVD Wish List | “Boy Meets World”

In DVD Wish List on April 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Previous installments of DVD Wish List have chronicled shows that have yet to see a DVD release. Boy Meets World is in a different category, having had not just one, but three of its seven seasons released on DVD.

A success story borne entirely of its existence in ABC’s family-friendly ’90s sitcom block TGIF, Boy Meets World was the glacial coming-of-age story of Cory Matthews (Fred Savage’s little brother Ben). He had an older brother (Will Friedle as Eric), a younger sister (sometimes), and two loving parents (William Russ and Betsy Randle). Best friend Shawn (Rider Strong) came from a less stable background; eventual girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fishel) was a constant foil. Teacher and mentor Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) was also, conveniently, the Matthews family’s next-door neighbor.

Cherry-picking popular sitcom situations and characters from other successful shows, Boy Meets World was able to coast by during its mediocre middle school years and eventually the kids made it to (and through) high school before moving on to college in the final seasons. Floundering as a less-ridiculous Home Improvement in its early years, the show found its footing with more serious storylines and a talented supporting cast.

So how did it end up on the DVD Wish List? After releasing the first three seasons in 2004 and 2005, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment put future releases on hold due to low sales (this has happened to other shows as well in recent years). Is it a coincidence, though, that these less-watchable years proved unpopular with DVD audiences? Did I mention that, during these seasons, Boy survived mostly on the merits of being sandwiched between Family Matters and Step by Step?

With the exception of titles in the Law & Order franchise, there seems to be a reluctance to releasing TV show seasons out of order. But consider the profitability of monetizing, if not the most-watched (TGIF never was much of a Top 30 contender), then at least the most marketable seasons. Consider, if you will, a compilation of Boy‘s five (count ’em) title sequences in seven seasons. Then decide which of the five shows depicted you’d be most inclined to sit through 22 minutes of.

With Matthew Lawrence, Trina McGee-Davis, and Maitland Ward rounding out the cast by the time the college years rolled around, Boy turned into the kind of cookies only ’90s television could make. Though it dealt with serious topics like alcoholism and cancer, the show managed to never take itself too seriously, peppering scripts with tongue-in-cheek asides about its (and the actors’) past and refusing to be ashamed with its contriving Mr. Feeny into a faculty position at every school the kids attended.

Few ’90s sitcoms escaped the lesson/”very special episode” plague, and we cannot count Boy among them. But unlike, for example, Full House, this cast had a way of selling it. And as long as you were buying it, certain episodes could come across as downright earnest. Obviously consumers weren’t buying the early-season DVDs, and for that, I don’t blame them (though an early-years highlight was the tribute Cory and Shawn organized for a fallen lunchlady).

After moderate success in broadcast syndication, a toothless, sanitized version of Boy ran on the Disney Channel in the early part of this decade. Repeats eventually migrated to ABC Family, which stopped airing the show as of fall 2007.

DVD status: Incomplete

Prognosis: Hopeful. In 2008, Lionsgate announced it had acquired rights to several series in the ABC/Disney catalog, including Boy Meets World. Lionsgate now has the rights to distribute all seven seasons, which could mean a complete series release, or individual seasons. In the meantime, good luck finding the first three discontinued seasons on Amazon.

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  1. Trina McGee-Davis came into the cast when they were still in high school, not college. Matthew Lawrence also came into the cast at the same time she did, he just played an older character.

    Their high school year started in the 2nd season actually; they’re only in 6th grade in the first season. It probably is hard to believe, because they look so young. Ben Savage was so short and his voice was still relatively high. It wasn’t until the 3rd season when his voice changed.

  2. Thanks for setting me straight! There was quite a time jump in the show after that first year. And I guess I was going by when they were promoted from recurring roles to credited cast members.

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