While I would argue that Hamlet has a better plot than Romeo and Juliet, I’m grading on what we actually see of the production in each of these sitcoms. And based on that alone, FamilyMatters is the clear winner. (If we were judging on episode plot it would be all about Boy Meets World though. Cory squanders the lead in Hamlet because he doesn’t want to wear tights and it’s all a very good insight into gender roles and insecurities whereas FM is about Laura and Steve kissing as the leads in R&J).
But now back to the shows within the shows. We get to see most of the balcony scene uninterrupted in Family Matters. And Steve’s undying love for Laura makes him a pretty good Romeo…that is until he accidentally destroys the entire set which appears to be all interconnected by a pulley system.
Flying in set pieces is all well and good. But connecting each and every joint with string? That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen! However, I have to imagine that this makes strike a lot easier.
It’s major flaws aside, the set really is beautiful. It has a lot of levels, uses the full stage, and showcases a fairly interesting lighting design. In the screenshot for this episode, you can see Laura and Steve lit from behind the curtains of Juliet’s bedroom and from the front by “the moon.”
However, if the set was built with a kill switch, then the staging should have been such that Steve Urkel was NO WHERE NEAR IT. Point to Boy Meets World for staging because they have a whole cast visible and nothing breaks.
The costumes for both productions are really strong. However, I’m going to give the point to BMW because there’s just a little more going on with them. Shawn has a prosthetic belly, Minkus is sporting a monochromatic ensemble as the replacement for Cory in the title role, and there’s more diversity in the fabrics and color palettes.
It’s been a looong time since we did a bracket challenge, Very Special Readers! In fact, I thought of doing one during quarantine but I couldn’t remember how to do them because that’s how much my brain didn’t work! Anyway, I’m happy to say that most (if not all) of my executive functioning has since returned. With that said, allow me to introduce The Show Within a Show Showdown.
Each of the shows in the showdown were selected because each production included a least one of our regular lead characters. The productions are “real” within the context of the show, a.k.a. no dream sequences, daydreams, or hallucinations (this excluded the “Lucy Goes to Scotland” episode of I Love Lucy).
We also must see the cast in full costume for a minimum of one full minute’s worth of airtime (this excluded a super cute Sister, Sister sequence which only had about forty seconds worth of “show within a show time” and just isn’t enough airtime to compare it to the other contenders.) While my reviews will describe the episode in its entirely, points will only be awarded for the show within a show. Thus, there needs to be enough of the play or musical itself to be able to give it a score within the point system.
Here’s the point system:
All episodes will be graded on a 5 point scale and the winning episode will have the higher score in each matchup:
For MUSICALS* -Overall Plot of the musical – 1 point -Music – 1 point -Choreography – 1 point -Costumes – 1 point -Scenic Design – 1 point
For PLAYS -Overall Plot of the play – 2 points -Costumes – 1 point -Scenic Design – 1 point -Staging – 1 point
*Please note, I will use the play rating scale for the final round when a musical faces off against a play.
Any questions? Pop them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you!
Grab your bracket below! And stay tuned for posts every Monday starting January 10th.
Let’s start with the good things about this episode: It’s the Mr. Turner years (arguably the show’s peak). Bad things about this episode: Cory is a real jerk!
The premise of this episode is that the girls must ask the boys to a dance (but it’s “turnaround” because I guess Sadie Hawkins was trademarked?) and anyway is this even a thing that still happens? It’s like very binary and heteronormative and, as Topanga thankfully points out, “destructive gender-biased thinking and we have to get beyond that.” But she’s going Christmas shopping with her dad so she can’t go to the dance anyway.
While fantasizing about being asked to the dance by the most attractive girl in the class, Cory accidentally says yes to a girl, named Ingrid, who is not conventionally attractive. And then he reacts by being a realllll jackass about it. Luckily, his dad catches him trying out shitty monologues for backing out of his date and tells him that he needs to go with the girl he already promised to go out with.
Oh and by the way, Mr. Turner is teaching Pygmalion. I forgot just exactly how on the nose this show could be. Shawn, who is apparently listening in class for once, decides that he needs to give her a makeover just like “in the Pig Play” (so yeah he’s only kind of listening).
Meanwhile, Mr. Turner is a little stressed cause he’s hoping the hot lady teacher (who I think we’ve only seen this one time) will be his chaperone date (since when do chaperones have dates?) and honestly I’m not sure why we’re supposed to care? Who was this plot aimed at? Babysitters? I think if the kid is old enough to watch Boy Meets World, then you can just sit at the kitchen table and paint your nails for thirty minutes.
Based on horrible, horrible representations of women in magazines, Shawn decides that the newly made over Ingrid (who—spoiler not spoiler alert— it turns out is very conventionally attractive) is STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH. He decides to reinvent her personality as well. (Excuse me, I need to take a vomit break). Now she must say she’s from Sweden (where her extended family lives).
Oh my God this is truly, truly painful. I hope Gen Z saves us from this millennial shame. I’m really not proud of how the older millennials and younger Gen Xers (or to be fair the older Gen Xers and Boomers writing these shows) portrayed teen years in the 90’s.
But thankfully KARMA makes itself available, God bless, and Ingrid ditches Cory because she is now too cool for him. Ugh wait karma in this show is A LIE because the most attractive girl from earlier asks Cory out as soon as Ingrid ditches him. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE?
Ohhh wait it’s a trick. And honestly I’m kind of relieved? That’s weird. I feel bad that I’m relived because this is also AWFUL. But the girl (played by Marnette Peterson who you might recognize fromThat 70’s Showor Camp Nowhere) ditches Cory as soon as they get to the dance. She had ask Cory to the dance as a decoy because she’s dating someone she isn’t allowed to date. It’s still bad, but I just didn’t want Cory to win after he was such a jerk, so I’m going to table the whole backstory of the minor characters here and just move it along with the rest of the recap.
In other unhealthy relationship behaviors, it turns out the hot teacher was always going to ask out Mr. Turner (she told all of the other teachers not to ask him out) and she was just stringing him along because it amused her.
Sadly, Ingrid couldn’t hack it with the popular crowd. She decided to actually jump into the pool at the gym when everyone else was just talking about it. Actually, that does sound cool. But what do I know? Anyway, she comes crawling back to Cory for comfort. GOD THIS IS SO SAD. I WANT HER TO HAVE REAL FRIENDS.
But Cory apologizes (low bar). Ingrid says she didn’t feel bad at first for ditching him because she realized he was just using her (fair) but now that they both acknowledge that the other is a human being, she also wants to apologize.
Oh wait it turns out someone DOES think it’s cool that Ingrid jumped in the pool. (See, I knew it was cool.) So. Yeah. She ditches Cory again. I wish I could tell all these children it’s totally fine to just skip the dance and not subject yourself to people who treat you like shit. This blatant social climbing is a lot. It does get better than your teen years, thankfully.
Very Special Holiday Lesson: This is clearly the worst holiday episode ever. I’m glad I coincidentally scheduled it first, so it only gets better from here people!! At least the holiday photo screen freeze at the end is kind of cute:
Also, since Cory got ghosted at the Christmas dance, I feel that this is the perfect opportunity to tell you that I have revived a series I did back in 2014 called “Boy Meets Sweet Valley High.” I used to make them with a printer and a scanner like a real 90’s kid, but now I’ve gone high tech. Please follow me on insta @boymeetssvh
Happy Halloween, Very Special Readers! I’m so excited to tell you all about one of my favorite TV movies: Tower of Terror. Originally aired on The Wonderful World of Disney in 1997, the film stars Steve Guttenberg, Kirsten Dunst, Melora Hardin, Nia Peeples, and Lindsay Ridgeway (a.k.a the second Morgan on Boy Meets World.)
This film also has the distinction of being the first of its kind in the “based-on-a-ride” series that Disney would explore with the wildly successful Pirate of the Caribbean, the much maligned Haunted Mansion, and more recently, Jungle Cruise. Filmed partially on-location at the theme park ride, the plot of the film draws its inspiration from the opening reel that riders see at the attraction before making their own journey into the fateful elevator! You can check out a making of for the theme park reel below:
Okay, now back to the movie. Miraculously, this film is available for you to watch on YouTube in its entirety. It scared the crap out of me as an elementary school kid, but I’m happy to say that I’m a lot braver in my thirties.
But I will say that the heroes of this film are like a little more dark than child-me realized. They’re grifters. Steve Guttenberg’s character, Buzzy, is a photographer who sells stages pictures of supernatural phenomenon to tabloids and his niece, Anna (Kirsten Dunst) helps him. She questions whether he ever wants to engage in legit journalism and he counters by telling her that the truth doesn’t matter. And, speaking from post-Trump America, feels bleak and prescient.
There’s also some underdeveloped romance plot where we’re not sure if Steve misses his ex-girlfriend (Nia Peeples) or just misses working at a legit paper. Was she his boss? Unclear.
Things turn spooky when a mysterious visitor shows up at Buzzy’s house — an old lady says she she lived in the Hollywood Tower Hotel when a child star disappeared in an elevator back in 1939 and KNOWS THE TRUE STORY.
If I didn’t get you with DISAPPEARED IN AN ELEVATOR then you should stop reading now because you’re definitely not going to be interested in this post.
Furthermore, this old woman shares that she saw Mrs. Partridge, who was the nanny of Sally Shine (a child actress knock-off of Shirley Temple played by the second Morgan from Boy Meets World), cast a black magic spell that made an entire elevator full of people disappear.
She insists that he take her very old set of keys and break into this very abandoned hotel — and look for a BOOK OF SOULS that will prove Mrs. Partridge was an evil witch.
Luckily, Buzzy’s career is in the crapper so he kind of has to take her up on this offer.
Buzzy goes to the hotel where he bribes the caretaker, a descendent of one of the missing elevator inhabitants, to show him around. The bellhop was the son of the hotel’s builder and, as such, he left it in his will that the property must remain closed until someone solves the mystery.
After something like two solid minutes of exploring the set and getting you all excited to go to the theme park — Buzzy does indeed find the book of souls. As Buzzy leaves the building, Mrs Partridge STICKS HER GHOSTLY HEAD OUT OF A MIRROR AND HE DOES NOT EVEN SEE IT. What kind of ghost detective are you even, Buzzy?
Anyway, he decides to stage a photo because that’s all he knows how to do. So he makes his fifteen year old niece dress up like this ten year old child star and, yes, it is as awkward as it sounds. He also hires a woman from an acting agency (Melora Hardin) to play Mrs. Partridge but the woman who shows up is wayyyy too young and also suspiciously accurate at appearing to be from the 1930s.
Before we have too much time to wonder if this actress is actually a ghost, we’re lured away by the sounds of ethereal music and the sounds of kitchen staff preparing for the big party in 1939. This quickly transitions to the spooky rendition of “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” that you’ll have heard on the Tower of Terror ride if you’ve ever been. Buzzy and Anna then see a child’s ghost singing. And Buzzy is like, yeah, this is good stuff I can go ahead and pitch it to my ex-girlfriend at the newspaper. Spoiler alert: this goes poorly.
Meanwhile, Anna and his source are discussing how the spell trapped everyone in the elevator. Their theory is that Mrs. Partridge only had an identifier for one person in the elevator (a lock of Sally’s hair) and because she didn’t have anything for the other passengers, they were all trapped in limbo in the hotel — rather than Sally just straight up being murdered which was the original intention of this spell and OMG THIS IS DARK FOR A KID’S TV MOVIE.
Anyway, they decide that if they can bring everyone back by finding their identifier items within the hotel. Buzzy is all excited that brining people back from another dimension will reinvigorate his career and Melora Hardin’s character gets all offended that he doesn’t really care about the ghosts — of which she clearly is one.
While Buzzy and one of the ghosts discuss ethics in the garden, the other adult ghosts are threatening Anna’s life inside the hotel. She tells them she only wants to help, but they tell her to get lost. Then the little girl ghost appears and asks Anna to please fix the elevator as if she were some kind of antique Otis repairman instead of a fifteen year old girl from 1997.
But somehow this does, in fact, become the plan. As they find the last of the identifiers (the actress ghost’s locket…that contains a photo of…herself…), the ghosts reveal themselves to Buzzy and Anna and ask that they leave them alone because they don’t want people to find out about them lest they be treated like zoo animals. To which, I only ask, how is this in the Hollywood Hills and no one has ever broken in and already taken all this vintage expensive shit? But no, it’s all just sitting there and the ghosts are like please don’t mention that we’re here to anyone, thank you.
So anyway Buzzy and Anna convince the caretaker, who knows nothing about antique elevators, to try to fix this broken down thing so the passengers can finally get to the twelfth floor to attend this party that ended six decades earlier.
Meanwhile, Buzzy’s ex ran a background check on his source after their conversation at the paper. It turns out that his source is actually Sally Shine’s big sister. She’s been in a mental institution since 1940 and she has a beheaded doll of her little sister plus a lot of creepily desecrated photos. Once again. Super creepy for a kid’s movie. BUT it is a story. However, Buzzy has already promised the ghosts that he will help them fix the elevator.
Anna loses all respect for Buzzy. Honestly, it was amazing she ever had any to begin with.
The caretaker doesn’t want to go into the hotel without Buzzy, but Anna, the true hero of this film, pressures him into it.
This is, however, a Disney movie. So Buzzy grows a heart at the last possible moment. And also realizes that he gave Sally’s sister exactly what she wanted — the book of souls. You see, all she really wanted was to make the elevator crash cause she was soooo jealousssss of Sally. And she’s so hellbent on completing the task that she’s trying again decades later. SO DARK FOR A KID’S MOVIE.
Anna catches her setting the spell and tries to stop the elevator. She pushes little Sally out of the doorway (which in the weird world of this movie works even though Sally is a ghost) and enters the elevator herself. But the ghost bellhop can’t control he elevator because it is overpowered by the spell.
As Buzzy tries to bargain with Sally’s sister, ghost Sally (not in the elevator, of course) overhears her sister talking major shit. Of course, she doesn’t recognize her because she’s old now. But Buzzy asks Sally what she’d say to her sister if she could. And Sally says she would apologize for not making it to her BIRTHDAY PARTY.
Tragically, Sally shares that she loves her sister — who she describes as her best friend — oh my GOD this is way worse as an adult. As a kid I was like “awww see there’s enough love to go around in this fam!” and as an adult I’m like “YOUR BEST FRIEND/SISTER TRIED TO KILL YOU AND IS STILL TRYING.”
The good news is: Sally’s sister profusely apologizes. The bad news is: she doesn’t know how to stop the spell. So Buzzy tries to reach Anna through the escape hatch of the passenger elevator — begging her to extend herself over the 12-story elevator shaft to where he is on the freight elevator. He grabs her just before BOTH elevators begin to drop.
Thankfully, Sally Shine forgives her sister for attempted murder and this reverses the curse.
We then see the passengers (and Buzzy, Anna, the ex-girlfriend, and the caretaker) all attend the long overdue party where we see the passengers reunite with their families and disintegrate into fairy dust — which is probably the only reason this movie didn’t haunt my dreams and cause permanent emotional scaring. A little fairy dust makes a dark movie a happy memory!
Very Special Halloween Lesson: Family therapy for everyone! Also these movie characters would make for a really great group costume.
If you liked the movie, here’s some more stuff about it:
A park visitor has noted the filming locations seen in the 1997 movie:
Scarlet Johanssen was scheduled to produce a remake and for a minute with the Black Widow dispute it seemed like it wouldn’t happen…but Screen Rant says it’s still in the works!
And here’s a 20-min short documentary on the ride. Check the amazing props! TW: Kirk Cameron
At the top of this episode, Shawn and Cory decide that Feeny’s job is so easy that even a kid could do it. Meanwhile, Mr. Feeny introduces that week’s lesson: Prejudice. The class will be covering Black slavery in the American South, The Holocaust, and several other issues concerning prejudice. ALL OF THIS IN ONE WEEK, FEENY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
He sends this kids home with the first thirty pages of Anne Frank’s diary, but pulls Cory aside at the last minute to scold him for acting up in class. Cory and Feeny argue that it’s easier to be in the other one’s shoes, so they decide to swap places for the week. Cory will teach his class while Feeny sits in front of Shawn and acts up. To make it interesting, Cory bets his new bike and Feeny bets 20% of his weekly paycheck. If more kids do well on the test than usual, then Cory wins. Cory thinks it will be a breeze because: “The book does all the teaching. Feeny’s just Vanna White pointing at the letters.”
At school the next day, Cory tells all of the kids in class that they can wear their baseball caps and should refer to him as “Hey Dude.” That’s my kind of teaching! Topanga requests that Cory waive the entire dress code so that she can be more free to culturally appropriate and wear a sari to school. Cory agrees.
Back at Cory’s house, Morgan cramps Eric’s style with his new girlfriend Linda because she’s really nice and Morgan wants to be her new BFF. But I think this really works out for Eric because Morgan seems so endearing and it makes Eric look like a family man. The next day, Linda sends Eric home with a Japanese lantern for Morgan.
As Cory’s first day of teaching comes to a close, his father (who is very concerned about the new bike he just paid for) inquires about the details of Feeny’s grading. In the course of their conversation, Cory reveals that Feeny is going to take the test since he’s a student this week. Alan explains that Feeny will get the highest score, thus breaking the curve, and will win the bet.
Cory is STRESSED when he returns to class the next day. Topanga decides to sit on a yoga cushion instead of at her desk. She’s wear a sari, as promised, and there’s a whole joke about how “scary she is when she meditates. (For an episode that is all about everyday racism, this whole bit is a sour note.) Minkus decides to goof off for once in his life. And Mr. Feeny shows up wearing a Phillies jersey just in time for Shawn to deal him into poker. Suffice it to say, Cory isn’t able to get any teaching done and is bike is effectively toast.
When he arrives home from school, he agonizes over how to get through to the class. As Cory is trying to figure out a game plan, Eric arrive home with a sobbing Linda. Someone at the mall called her a racial slur. Cory, a white boy from suburban Philadelphia, is fully shocked that prejudice still exists in the modern world of 1993.
The next day at school, Cory goes fully Feeny and wears a suit. (Feeny wears a Meat Loaf sweatshirt.) Even though everyone is goofing off, Cory proceeds on with his lecture: “Class, I’d like to talk to you today about prejudice and how it still exists in today’s world. I didn’t even know that until last night when I saw a real smart totally cool Asian girl crying her eyes out because some idiot at the mall called her a bad name. My lesson for today is that when people treat other people badly because of their skin color, or their religion, or where they come from, then real smart totally cool people can really suffer.”
No one listens to him. Cory is totally dejected and is about to walk out of the classroom (and away from his proverbial bike) when Feeny gives him a meaningful look. Corey turns back around and asks Shawn what his mother’s maiden name is. Then he uses a slur for Italian people. When Shawn is just about to deck him (Feeny is allowing all of this to happen for “education purposes”) Cory points out that not everyone has the luxury of being able to stand up for themselves. (Cory doesn’t say this here but if you were listening to his lecture earlier it’s obvious that his larger point is that they shouldn’t even have to.) Cory concludes the class by reading the most famous quote from Anne’s diary.
The next day, Feeny reveals that the exact same number of students passed, so the bet is a draw. Cory keeps his bike and Feeny keeps his full paycheck. Cory is disappointed and feels like he wasn’t a good teacher. (Turns out it’s a lot harder than it looks.) But Feeny lifts his spirits by revealing that Shawn scored a letter grade higher than he usually does. He got a B! Feeny also reveals that Cory learned something as well. Oh Lord, this brought me to tears multiple times. This episode is AMAZING.
Okay, this episode is especially cute in the context of Girl Meets World where Cory really does grow up to be a teacher. It totally works. I love it.
Something that I think is particularly great about this episode is that it doesn’t stop at raising awareness. Part of this, yes, is Cory becoming aware of the fact that racism exists in his world — something he has never personally experienced as a white child in an upper-middle class bubble. But Cory quickly realizes that raising awareness to this issue through his lecture didn’t really get anyone’s attention. So he quickly moves on to a different approach: he provokes Shawn.
Shawn is a safe person to try this with. If he’s going to punch Cory, there will at least be a bit of a lead up to it (and hopefully time to de-escalate). And with this lead-time, Cory starts a conversation. It’s an inflammatory conversation, but it’s with someone who he knows will continue to listen even if things get tense because Cory has that kind of relationship with Shawn. Cory then uses a series of very pointed questions that provoke Shawn. He questions him on what he would do in this hypothetical situation and then remind him that he doesn’t have the power to actually do anything.
When Cory confronts Shawn in front of the class, it’s like he’s doing his own mini blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiment where he, Cory, is the powerful blue-eyed boy while Shawn (the proverbial brown-eyed) can’t do anything to better his station in the classroom. Our budding activist wraps the class up with a call to action. He reminds everyone that it isn’t enough for the people who are suffering to stand up for themselves, but rather that the people in power must stand up for them too. It’s not a very great call to action because it’s pretty vague and evidently left a lot of kids still missing the point. But he’s only eleven, so we’ll give him points anyway. And hey, Shawn got a B on the final assignment, which really is saying something.
Is there some kind of campaign I can get behind to show this episode of Boy Meets World in every classroom in America? And also maybe every church and every office space? I know a lot of adults who could really benefit from this clip:
This episode may have aired in 1993 but it certainly feels like it could be describing life in 2021.
I’ve had grifters on my mind lately. Yesterday, I started the new Operation Varsity Blues documentary on Netflix. Earlier this week, I finished The Glass Hotel and then decided to round that out with the four-part Bernie Madoff podcast series from American Scandal. THEN, just for good measure, I listened to an episode of CNBC’s American Greed about Anna Delvey. Now if you’re like, “wow that all sounds like a bummer and I don’t know if I want to continue reading,” hold on just a second because one time Cory and Shawn ran a grift on Boy Meets World and it was mostly good fun.
This episode is from Season 4, which I consider to be the golden-era of Boy Meets World. Season 4 contains my legit favorite very special episode “Chick Like Me,” the classic “Cult Fiction,” and a really sweet Eric-centered episode called “Uncle Daddy” — which sounds weird but actually isn’t. In fact, I think I love season 4 so much because it feels like Eric is really coming into his own and the character hasn’t become totally flandarized yet.
In “B&B’s B ‘n B,” Eric and Mr. Feeny are both going out of town (separately). Cory and Eric’s mother is supposed to take care of Mr. Feeny’s plants while he is away, a job she quickly pawns off to Cory and Shawn. Remembering that Mr. Feeny mentioned he would be staying at a bed in breakfast, Shawn is quick to hatch a plan in support of his economics project.
Meanwhile in Boston, Eric pretends to be a CEO but the bartender quickly makes him for a recent high school grad who works for his father and is attending his very first out-of-town conference. He settles for drinking a root beer and bumps into Mr. Feeny who is having a drink at the bar before he meets his dinner date. Feeny confesses that he has been in a long-distance with another school teacher for years, but they’re both too career-oriented to leave their current jobs and move cities.
That night, Cory returns to Feeny’s house to water the plants and discovers Shawn there along with some bed and breakfast guests. Shawn has bribed airport cab drivers to tell travelers that every hotel in the city is booked and redirect them to this suburban Philadelphia home instead. I give you the first Airbnb!
In Boston the bartender offers to buy Eric dinner, which is pretty strange since she just called him a baby when they met two seconds ago. Was that flirting? Idk I’ve decided she’s an old-looking 21 and he’s 19 and it’s been fixed in my mind. In the end, she gives him a kiss on the cheek and he goes to sit with Mr. Feeny who is very sad.
Feeny confesses that he has realized that there is a limit to his love for his long-distance girlfriend (and vice versa). He worries that he’s too old to take a true risk and therefore too old for true love. After years of taking advice from Feeny, Eric is finally in a position to be the advice-giver. He tells Mr. Feeny that he believes love can come at any age and then offers to be Mr. Feeny’s wingman while their in Boston.
“Cruise for chicks?” Feeny says. “And their mothers,” Eric replies.
Back in Pennsylvania, Cory, Shawn, and Topanga (who has compromised her ethics for the good cash tips), serenaded the guests on Feeny’s piano. Cory agonizes about getting caught because he believes the universe will not allow them to get away with wrongdoing. “Without punishment my world loses both form and meaning,” he says and I hope discusses with a good therapist at a later date.
Feeny arrives home, just after all the guests have left, to a freshly cleaned house. Just when they think they’ve gotten away with it, Feeny asks how much money they made from the bed and breakfast. (Turns out the cab driver was still selling the place.) Shawn hands over the cash and expects a much harsher sentence than his usual detention. But Feeny goes easy on him because he’s proud of Shawn for taking a risk. Oh YIKES no I don’t think that was the thing you were supposed to learn from your failed relationship Mr. Feeny!!! Or at the very least, you shouldn’t be projecting it onto teenage grifters!
Feeny promises to keep the cash for Shawn and return it to him when he is in college because he’s shown a keen eye for business strategy. Huh. Well, I forgot that it ended this way. But I guess I don’t hate the college fund aspect of this. Let’s just hope Shawn doesn’t become the next Jordan Belfort or whoever.
This post is brought to you as part of the 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon. Check out the other posts here.
Home Improvement really went all out for the holiday episodes and this one is no exception.
Brad is having a Halloween party and he’s dressing up as Raggedy Andy because his first girlfriend is going to be dressing up as Raggedy Anne. He feels really embarrassed by the costume, but his dad reassures him “A lot of times men do things they don’t want to do so the women they’re going out with will do things they don’t want to do.” Annnndddd this is your daily reminder that Tim Tayor is kind of a piece of shit. When Brad innocently asks for an example and his wife, Jill, challenges him on this terrible piece of advice, Tim offers a few innocent options — my favorite of which is “shave your back hair.”
While getting ready for the party in the backyard, Tim starts chatting with neighbor Wilson, who tells him that everyone likes being scared because of the release of epinephrine. As someone with chronic anxiety symptoms I would like to officially say that — NO — I do not like being scared. I’ve got more adrenaline than I can handle based on my natural brain chemistry so please leave me out the “fun” scaring thank you very much.
Anyway, Randy and Mark go trick or treating while Jill puts the finishing touches on Brad’s Raggedy Andy costume. Randy is dressed up as a pirate whereas I’m not sure who exactly Mark is supposed to be. He kind of looks like Gordon Gekko but if they said that officially then I missed it.
Jill is staying home for the party, but she’s decided to dress up as well. They lost her reservation at the costume shop and she had to take the only thing they had left — a giant carrot. Now listen, I don’t know if it’s the fact that I did not get much sleep last night or what but I find this absolutely HILARIOUS. I laughed out loud, I kid you not.
Moments later, Brad answers the door to greet his guests and finds that Jennifer has arrived to the party dressed as not Raggedy Anne but rather a biker chick. And she’s at the party with Shawn from Boy Meets World. (Okay, not literally Shawn but it is Ryder Strong and while they said his character name when he showed up on screen, I have immediately forgotten it and will be referring to him as Shawn henceforth.)
Additionally, this is a pre-Boy Meets World Shawn, so he has a sweet little angel face — and before you’re like wait wait wait didn’t he just steal Brad’s girlfriend? The answer is no. Evidently, Brad was being a little shit (probably about the costume) and so Jennifer decided to attend the party with someone who was nicer to her.
Okay, okay it’s still Brad’s party so I recognize that this is shitty behavior regardless. But they’re preteens and this is their version of communication. As a former middle school girl, I do remember that power plays were commonplace albeit incredibly detrimental to actual human relationships.
Shawn makes fun of Brad’s Raggedy Andy wig, which coming from someone with incredibly good hair, is an extremely low block. Things come to blows — aka a sixth grade shoving match — and Brad runs out of the house after Tim breaks things up.
Tim goes outside to talk things out with Brad and winds up encouraging him to direct his desire to hit someone towards Jennifer (!!!) instead of Shawn, but this is played for laughs because you know joking about domestic violence with your young son is prime parenting.
Tim tries to help determine what Brad did to upset Jennifer, but Brad can’t think of anything and laments the fact that Jennifer said he “should know.” In further misogynistic parenting, Tim tells Brad to go inside and tell Jennifer “I understand,” which in his words makes women “forgive you for just about anything.”
Tim also advises Brad to take the wig off before he talks to Jennifer, which reminds me that this episode was shot back when Brad had a mullet.
Brad confronts Jennifer about not showing up to the party as Raggedy Anne and she tells him, “I was going to.” He replies and, per his father’s instructions, says, “I understand.” Jennifer is like wtf. And Brad clarifies: “I understand that you’re mad at me.” (Nice save.)
It comes to light that Jennifer is upset with Brad because he picked a different girl to be on his kickball team over her. Brad defends his decision by saying that he wanted to win and he did win so there! But Tim (eavesdropping across the room) clears his throat loudly while saying “don’t start talking like that” under his breath. Brad gets the message and course corrects.
Brad tells Jennifer that picking her was more important than winning and he apologizes. Jennifer apologizes for not wearing her half of their couples costume. And then everyone gets to enjoy the Halloween party!
Tim has turned the entire basement into a haunted dungeon with lots and lots of fog machine smoke. He’s dressed up kind of like the old lady from Psycho but there’s no official mention that’s what he’s supposed to be. He does pretend to eat a maggot and then say he wants to kiss one of the kids, who all run screaming up the stairs because that is a truly truly terrifying prospect.
All the kids except for Shawn that is. Shawn stays behind to insult the entire family. He tells Tim that he can’t build anything and his show should be called “Fool Time.” I mean, he’s not wrong but he is a little jackass.
In response, Tim tells him to check out the tool box across the room. At first Shawn thinks it’s stupid, but then he opens the box to reveal Al’s disembodied head. And that’s enough to really freak him out. Then all of the creepy spooky creatures (including Wilson whose face, don’t worry, you still can’t see) pop out and scare the crap out of him. Good. He deserved to get knocked down a peg.
Oh by the way I found it so off-putting that I didn’t even mention it throughout this post, but Jill has been getting low-key bullied by one of Brad’s classmates all night and I sincerely hope she spoke to his adult at home about this.
Very Special Halloween Lesson: I’m going to take a hardline stance on this one. Eleven is too young for couples costumes. You date and break-up every two-days in the sixth grade. There’s no way you’re staying together consistently enough to coordinate outfits.
Mr. Feeney reads the class A Christmas Carol and discovers that Cory and Shawn really don’t get it because they keep expecting the Grinch to show up. He asks Topanga to switch seats with Cory (which she tries to do through transcendental meditation because she used to be New Age, remember) who describes A Christmas Carol as going to cool places with ghosts when you’re mean.
Topanga tries to explain to them the historical origins of Christmas and it’s evolution from the winter solstice tradition. (Uh-oh, I said Christmas, evolution, and solstice in the same sentence. I feel like someone isn’t going to like that.)
Cory is so certain that he’s getting a basketball for Christmas that he’s saved up money to buy his gift a gift, a $5 net (that’s $8.46 in today’s money, for those of you keeping track at home).
Meanwhile, poor little Morgan has been traumatized by a trip to the mall to visit Santa. Apparently, there was a mean elf and Santa had a heart attack right as Morgan was asking him for her present. So she thinks she killed him. (He’s actually alive, in the hospital, and intubated.) Yikes. People spend years in therapy for this kind of stuff.
When Cory arrives home from school, he immediately runs to the tree to see if there are any new presents to shake. AHHH WHAT A WONDER TIME OF LIFE THIS IS! He can’t wait to head over to Shawn’s because Shawn has been bragging about all the gifts under his Christmas tree. That’s when Cory’s dad tells him that Shawn’s dad lost his job, and Cory realizes that Shawn may be having a Christmas more on par with Tiny Tim’s than his own. (So I guess he did learn something from the book.) Cory decides to give Shawn one of the presents from under their tree since he’s no Scrooge.
But when Cory gives Shawn the basketball, Shawn realizes he’s feeling sorry for him and he doesn’t like it. Cory says, “Christmas is about charity. You should be thanking me.” Mr. Feeney overhears from next door and tells Cory that “a true gift is given with no expectation” and that Cory “gave the gift to get the thanks.” He gives Cory the example of friendship as a true gift.
In a surprising turn of events, the mean elf shows up at the house to return their money since Morgan wasn’t able to take a photo with Santa. He also tells her father that he thinks she’s a demon child because Santa had a heart attack when she sat on his lap. Wow, harsh!
Meanwhile, at school, Shawn is embarrassed because he doesn’t have any money to contribute to Mr. Feeney’s Christmas gift. The little shit collecting the money at school, Minkus, says that he can’t put his name on the card without him contributing to the fun, even if he doesn’t have the money, so Cory tells him privately that Shawn lent him $5 which he had forgotten to return. Thus, Shawn is included and Cory’s gift is anonymous. The class gives Mr. Feeney a nice thick dictionary because they obviously think he has no interests outside of school.
When Shawn thanks Minkus for including his name on the card even though he didn’t contribute Minkus tells him not to thank him since Cory contributed the money that he owed Shawn. Realizing that Cory’s not a terrible person out for charity only to feel good about himself, he stops by Cory’s house to give him a basketball net.
At the end of the night, Mr. Feeney stops by the house dressed as Santa and tells Morgan that he is okay and that Mrs. Claus undercooked his figgy pudding, so none of this was Morgan’s fault. This makes Morgan feel better, but now she wants to know why Santa looks like Mr. Feeney!!
Very Special Holiday Lesson: Mall Santas are always a bad idea. You’re not helping other people when you’re focused on making yourself look good.