There and Back Again: Part 2
And we’re right back to the well. Will today lead to another breakdown concerning the direction of my life and how I use my free time and energy?
The Show: Salute Your Shorts
The Basics: The continuing adventures of a group of kids at a summer camp. Each kid represents a classic teenage archetype: jock, rich, rebel, artist, smart, fat, and sensitive/audience POV character who was later swapped out for cool, snarky kid, and of course the counselor, Kevin Lee, known to one and all by his nickname, Ugg. The show also had one of the most memorable theme songs of all time.
How’d It Hold Up: Surprisingly well. Some of the themes of the episodes were a little on the nose, especially when seen through the eyes of a cynical 20-something, but the show rarely talked down to it’s audience, and hit most the familiar sitcom convention in new ways, largely due to the fact that everything happened at a camp.
I would like to talk about a few things that struck me upon re-watching the show. The actors are kind of old to be attending a summer camp. It’d make sense if they were counselors, but as far as I can tell they are subject to the same shit as everyone else. At some point shouldn’t they be doing stuff for school in the summer, like sports or band? Or working? Maybe, once again, as counselors?
Second, Camp Anawanna, is largely lawless. Ugg exists as a brute enforcer, and there’s always the disembodied voice of Dr. Khan, imparting faceless wisdom and updates to his inscrutable schedule, but for the most part, the kids are on their own. The camp seems to function as a post-apocalyptic society. I don’t mean the fun part with the fires, and the looting, and toppling of statues, but what comes after the strife, when humanity reaches equilibrium. There are basic rules people observe and a pecking order, but it appears that anyone is free to disengage from the society they’ve made whenever one wants.
Finally, the show leaving the particulars of what actually occurs during the omni-present threat of the ‘Awful Waffle’ (a tribal punishment meted out for only the worst offenses) up to the viewer was a masterstroke in manufacturing fear and maintaining tension. The closest we come is when Sponge has his shirt lifted up and people bring in tennis rackets and maple syrup while chanting “awful waffle” over and over again.
The Show: Boy Meets World
Back in the Day: Kids, get ready to peek behind the curtain; this was my favorite show when I was growing up. From whenever it came on TGIF to probably sixth or seventh grade, I never missed this show. I identified with Cory Matthews largely because, like me, he never really had a “thing.” We both played sports, but were never all-stars. Did school plays but we were always a Spear Carrier, or ‘Student #3.’ I probably did better in school, but we could both always do better. We had the same problems with girls.
I understand that this is not a cosmic coincidence, and that many, many, many young boys probably felt the same, owing to it’s enduring place in the hears of most kids who came of age in the 90’s.
Cory had problems that all kids had, but he had cool parents, the sage Mr. Feeny in his corner, and the love of a good woman. You could feel where he’s coming from, and the dude had problems, but it always got better through a combination of hard work, honesty, and luck. And hey, there was always a very clear lesson.
How’d It Hold Up? That clear lesson shit is what’s still fucking me up to this day. You know what never, ever, has a clear and concise lesson? Real Life.
Up yours, Matthews.
I will still watch episodes of this whenever it shows up on Disney Channel or ABC Family, and I have to admit, I’m surprised this isn’t better syndicated. I have yet to meet a person who didn’t watch this show and enjoy it.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a classic sitcom in terms of form or production, but it came along at the right time for a lot of people.
The most curious thing about this show was the number of times it was reinvented. Cory and Shawn always remained friends with Cory wanting Shawn’s worldly experience and confidence, while Shawn hungered for Cory’s supportive and protective family, but that was really the only constant.
Feeny largely morphed from over-worked and under-appreciated foil to the antics of the boys to basically the Yoda and Obi-Wan to Cory and Shawn, following them at every level of education and life.
Eric, Cory’s older brother, went from confident dude and burgeoning popular kid, dim, but with a good heart to oaf. For a short period of time, brash and stupid Eric and straight-laced Feeny acted as one of the show’s mainstay comedy pairings with the borderline retarded Eric creating havoc in the life of buttoned down fuddy duddy George Feeny.
Morgan, Cory’s younger sister, spouted off one-liners like a parrot, disappeared, came back, and was possibly re-casted.
Topanga and Cory went from two kids discovering life and the opposite sex, sometimes clumsily, but always sweetly, to two people who were destined to be together from the moment they were born and everyone around them knew it. Topanga herself changed from crunchy hippie to hot chick, and then to level headed voice of reason during the end of the show when Cory just fucking lost it.
And Cory lost it hard. Holy shit, the jumps in logic this guys makes in later episodes, things excusable for a kid who has no experience, border on having him institutionalized. The most puzzling thing is? He did this voice. The voice was to signal to all that he was now crazy. The voice is largely done in the style of an older-Jewish-man-from-the-first-half-of-the-20th-century stereotype. I know how this sounds, but believe me, once you hear it, that’s the only way to describe it.
Despite the schizophrenic nature of the show, it managed to stay grounded, thanks to Cory and Shawn’s friendship, Cory and Topanga’s relationship, and the stern, but kind, wisdom of Mr. Feeny.
Like I said, it’s not ground-breaking or truly clever, but it is still, to this day, strangely comforting.
I was going to do a third one, but I couldn’t track down any episodes of Pete and Pete.
Also, I just wrote 1,000 words on Boys Meets World.
Posted on October 27, 2010, in History Lessons, Lists, Matt Loman, Pop Culture, Television and tagged boys meets world, growing up, salute your shorts, TV, Wow I really honestly truly like Boy Meets World. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.