I have to make a confession here. I actually don’t remember watching this show on T.G.I.F. The only thing I really remember about T.G.I.F. is being sad that I couldn’t stay up past my bedtime for all of the shows.
I think most of my memory of this show comes from Disney Channel reruns. Man, remember when the Disney Channel used to have shows like Boy Meets World and Sister, Sister on it?
For another confession, I watched the entirety of this show just a few months before starting this review thing, so it’s not like I’m looking back on this show with fresh eyes or nostalgia goggles or anything. But enough of that.
Our show starts with an exterior of the school.
Having glanced at the second episode, I’m going to guess that most episodes will start with an exterior shot of the school.
That’s a really nice-looking school, by the way. All the schools I went two were either one- or two-story and definitely not fancy brick creations like that. I live in Seattle now, and they have tons of schools that look like this one, so I know they do actually exist. But do they exist in Pennsylvania, where this show is supposed to take place?
We’re introduced to Cory – or “Mr. Matthews” as we first hear of him – buying a candy bar from the cafeteria’s vending machines. And man, just look at this.
Vending machines in the cafeteria? This school is awesome. I don’t think we had vending machines at all in my elementary and middle schools. In high school, we had some, but they mostly just had chips in them, and they were usually locked so we couldn’t buy from them during school hours. Or after school hours.
At least there’s one vending machine with fruit in it. Which is sort of weird, if you think about it.
Also, it’s nice to see that the design of vending machines hasn’t changed much in the 20 years since this was filmed. Actually, the vending machines near me look less advanced and fancy than these ones from 1993.
Anyway, after getting his candy bar and a comment from Mr. Feeny, Cory – who still hasn’t been properly introduced yet – sits with his friends. There’s this crazy shirt kid who’s totally not drinking Sunny D there or anything.
And there’s Shawn. We don’t know Shawn yet, but he’s Cory’s best friend and will always be there for him except when he’s not. He’s drinking chocolate milk. I like Shawn.
So the three of them wonder who Mr. Feeny’s sitting with, but they don’t care a lot, and then start a contest to find out who stayed up the latest last night. They were watching… something. Something with a monologue, first guest, bad sketch, funny zoo animal, and Steve Lawrence.
I don’t know if this Steve Lawrence is the same Steve Lawrence as from Steve and Eydie, but if he is, it seems odd to me that these three 11-year olds would be impressed. Or maybe they were more impressed that crazy-shirt-kid stayed up late enough to see the musical guest and not actually impressed that it was Steve Lawrence.
The bell rings and they get up to go to class, excited that they’re having lunch in four hours. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I assumed that this was lunch. But seeing as none of them actually had any food, I guess that was totally my fault for assuming.
And now it’s the opening credits. There’s random shots of the show interspersed with Ben Savage being attacked by animated graphics of French fries and roller blades.
The theme music here… Maybe I Just saw the later seasons more often, but this season 1 theme doesn’t sound familiar to me at all. It doesn’t fit the rhythm of the ” When this boy meets world, boy meeeeeeets world” song. It’s just mildly wacky theme music.
On a semi-related note, how many late 80s/early 90s sitcoms had that stereotypical 80s/90s theme song? Like the Full House theme or the Perfect Strangers theme? Did a lot of shows actually have theme songs like that, or was it really just like 4 shows?
Anyway, when we come back, we join Mr. Feeny’s class in the process of acting out the death scene from Romeo and Juliet – that is, Romeo’s death scene, since there’s several deaths in that play.
Crazy-shirt-kid is playing Romeo, and some girl I don’t think we ever see again is Juliet. Crazy-shirt-kid says he wants to make sure Juliet is actually dead before he kills himself in grief and suggests stabbing Juliet several times. The girl playing Juliet says if he’s going to do that, he better be sure he kills her on the first stab.
Meanwhile, Cory is listening to a baseball game on a radio with an ear piece instead of watching the silliness at the front of the room. Shawn asks him what’s happening, and Cory replies without lowering his voice that much or even just passing a note. So of course, Feeny hears him.
Cory pretends it’s his hearing aide, and of course Feeny doesn’t buy it. He gives a play-by-play of the game before turning it off right at an exciting part.
This classroom is awesome. It has computers in it. And a poster on skin.
I mean, what even.
There’s also only like 12 kids in that class. When I was in school, there was always at least 25. I don’t know if class sizes were just smaller in 1993, or in Philadelphia, but I’m guessing it’s just because they didn’t want a giant classroom set.
Feeny asks Cory if he thinks baseball is more important than the emotional tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Cory is 11, and says “Who cares about some guy who killed himself over some dumb girl?” Feeny says the death isn’t the point and goes into some spiel even I can’t understand, and Cory replies “Are you aware I’m only 11 years old?” Feeny gives him detention for his attitude.
And, me… Well, I like this. Cory’s 11, so of course he doesn’t understand the deep effect love has on other people. I was in 9th or 10th grade when I first read the play, and I still don’t get it.
But what I really like is that Feeny gives Cory detention for that Friday. What I mean is, teachers always gives student detention on TV shows, and the detention is always for that day. In all the schools I went to, they’d give you detention for a later day so you could arrange transportation. I mean, if you’re only way of getting home was the bus and you got detention for that very day, you’d have no way of getting home.
…The scene changes to Cory’s bedroom, which he shares with his older brother, Eric.
Eric made a date with someone named Heather, and he decided to take her to the Philly’s game. He was going to bring Cory, but now he’s not. Cory is, of course, upset. He tells his parents, and his mother is more excited that Eric got a date with Heather, while his dad says that since Eric bought the tickets, he can bring whoever he wants to the game.
Cory also gets some tut-tutting from his parents about his detention on Friday, and we learn that the Matthews live next door to Mr. Feeny. Cory complains, saying they should move.
Once more, Cory explains that he’s too young to understand the emotional content of Romeo Juliet, and that he can’t even understand the emotional content of Full House. Morgan, the youngest Matthew, says she understands Full House, which really says a lot about that show, doesn’t it?
Back at school, Cory, Shawn, and crazy-shirt-kid who’s no longer wearing a crazy shirt, are eating… food, I suppose. I notice Shawn has chocolate milk again. I wonder if that’ll be a reoccurring thing…
I really ought to move this review along, I’m not even halfway through the episode yet.
Cory is protesting his treatment and decides to live in his tree house from now on.
Cory can see into Feeny’s dining room, where he’s prepared a lovely dinner for two. Feeny gets a phone call, looks disappointed, and puts away half of the table setting, and begins eating by himself.
I should mention that the person Feeny was sitting with at the start was a woman, some new teacher at the school. Feeny sat with her in the previous lunch scene as well. Cory assumes that Feeny had a date with her.
Now back to Cory’s bedroom, Cory is getting some fresh underwear. His mom gives him a talk that Eric is doing to Cory just what Cory did to their dad – abandoning him for something he finds more interesting. For Eric, it’s girls. For Cory, it was his friends, and baseball.
Now at detention, Feeny is paying Cory no attention, and Cory stands up, dances, and leaves the room, all without Feeny even looking up.
Cory comes back instantly, though.
Cory mentions that he saw Feeny’s canceled date the previous night, and says that he and Feeny are in the same boat – Feeny got stood up, and Cory is being betrayed by his whole family on account of love, and therefore this proves that Romeo and Juliet’s love was total bunk.
Feeny says that Cory’s only 11 so he can’t possibly no more about love than Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and various other authors and playwrights with work that is very hard for middle schoolers to read.
Feeny says that Cory is the product of love, and love is the greatest aspiration, and whatnot, and many people know it, and “those who do not know it will sit in detention for the rest of their lives.”
Cory heads back home, and Morgan asks if Cory wants some tea. Cory says no, and he’s secretly moving back in. Morgan yells that Cory’s back, and Dory’s dad doesn’t make a big deal of Cory coming back.
Later, Cory has changed his shirt into… this:
Eric shows up and says his date was a disaster, and he never wants to go on another date with Heather again. Cory encourages Eric to call Heather back for another date, because sad Eric is pathetic and he wants his cool Eric back.
Downstairs, Morgan is in her pajamas and still having tea. Cory sits down to have tea with her, and tells her that no matter how old they get, he wants her to always invite him to have tea with her.
I don’t know if this was intentional, but Morgan, the tea set, table, and Cory are all color coordinated here.
During the credits, Cory and friends look on as Feeny invites that woman to dinner at his house, and Feeny tells her that just the other night, he prepared a dinner for his sister, who had to cancel at the last minute. He asks Cory if he’s confused, to which Cory responds, “Yes, I am, sir.” Feeny says “Good.”
And that’s the end of that episode. So, how does it stack up?
…Pretty good, I’d say. 20 years after this episode premiered, and 5 months after I last watched it, I still found plenty of the jokes funny, and not even in an ironic, “ain’t the 90s quaint” way. This show is genuinely humorous.
We didn’t find out much about the characters, but we did find out enough about Feeny and the three Matthews kids – Eric isn’t that cool at school and he likes girls; Cory likes baseball and not doing work; Morgan likes dolls and imaginary tea.
Also importantly, we have learned that this show isn’t a “You know, I learned something today” kind of show. Yes, Cory learned something, but he’s not really sure how he learned it or what exactly he learned, and he only learned it begrudgingly in the end anyway. And there wasn’t a sappy, heart-to-heart moment where we all learned the lesson.
I think there’s a good reason why people still remember Mr. Feeny so fondly today. Yes, he seemed like a tough teacher, but it was just because he wanted his students to actually learn things. He wasn’t doing it out of spite or anything, but because, I guess, ignorance pains him. And that’s pretty awesome.