Boy Meets World Christmas Episodes (1993 - 1998)

After watching a handful of episodes of Boy Meets World, I'm a little confused how the series lasted as long as it did (seven seasons) and why anyone remembers it at all. It's more unremarkable than awful.

The series mainly seemed to revolve around five characters. The title references Corey, played by Ben Savage (Fred's little brother), who feels like a poor man's Shia LaBeouf. His best friend, Shawn, fills in as the requisite "bad boy with a heart of gold", and Topanga serves as Corey's childhood friend/eventual love interest (hell, they get married in the last season). Corey's brother, Eric, is mostly interesting because he's played by Will Friedle, who voiced Terry McGinnis on Batman Beyond (we got far more laughs spotting accidentally ambiguous Batman lines from him than anything intentionally scripted). Finally, there's Mr. Feeny, their mentor who inexplicably winds up teaching at every school and/or college they attend.

The show's notable feat was following its leads from middle school into college (jumping a few years on the way) as they grew up. Other shows have started with similar premises, but this was unusually committed to the idea, embracing its casts' growth instead of hiding it.

Santa's Little Helper (1993)

This holiday episode was from the first season. The A-plot concerns Shawn hiding the fact his father lost his job. Corey's finds out the truth, and... I'm already bored.

Ugh.

The point of this is for Corey to learn a lesson that a real good deed should come from a place of wanting to help, rather than wanting to be thanked. To get there, the show has him try re-gifting one of his own Christmas presents in an act of pity, which is of course rebuffed. Only when he secretly pays for Shawn's portion of their teacher's gift does he accomplish something meaningful.

Oh, look at that. I just threw up a little.

There's a secondary plot line concerning Corey's little sister going to the mall to see Santa, only to have the actor collapse from a heart attack in front of her. They don't show this occurring, but even so, the story is by far the best part of this otherwise tedious episode.


Turnaround (1994)
This episode from the second season was a late addition to this list. I almost missed it entirely - there was nothing festive in the title or description, but I clicked on it to be sure, since it originally aired in December. And... yeah, there were holiday decorations left and right, along with several references to Christmas.

References... but no content. This is what I might call a belated Christmas episode; an episode which wasn't originally intended for the holidays that got adjusted at the last minute. It was also by far the best episode of the bunch.

The title refers to a "turnaround" dance being held at the school (i.e.: girls ask boys). Corey is terrified what it could mean for his social standing if he doesn't go with someone popular. Topanga is removed from the table pretty quickly, since she finds the implication girls can't ask boys at other times offensive, plus she's going Christmas shopping in New York that weekend (how much do you want to bet that detail was tacked on at the last minute, along with having snowmen on the posters for the dance).

Corey winds up accidentally accepting an offer from a nerdy girl. How does he accidentally say yes? Picture the stupidest set-up you can imagine. Now rest assured you're not even close, because you're way too intelligent to come up with this (I said this was the best of the holiday episodes - I never said how high that bar was).

He's quickly informed going back on his word will have disastrous implications for his social standing. Instead, Shawn comes up with a plan to save him - they'll turn the girl who asked him into someone popular, and... did I mention they're reading Pygmalion in class?

The reason this is the best of these instead of the worst boils down to a simple subversion of the concept: the girl they're changing is aware what's happening. She wants to be popular, so when she inevitably betrays Corey, it's all the sweeter. There's even a last minute fake out where her plan seems to have backfired, they almost make-up, then she ditches him again when she has a chance to be popular once more. And they don't imply she's being cruel or unfair: she just wins, fair and square.

On top of that, the comedy was a little better here than in the other episodes. It was still nothing spectacular, but it was a little edgier, a little closer to being on-point.

This still wasn't great TV, but it was serviceable enough.


Train of Fools (1995)
We originally skipped this since it's New Years, but between watching the others and writing this... I felt like I should count it, if only to fill in the break between seasons. It was a mixed episode overall, a bit more mature in content than either the holiday episode from the previous year or the next.

The premise centered on a series of misadventures befalling Corey, Eric, Shawn, and Topanga as they try (and fail) to make their way into town to celebrate the New Years. Also with them is Eric's date, a supermodel who he's obsessed with kissing at midnight. More accurately, Eric is obsessed with being seen kissing her in public.

Corey accidentally blurts this out, which leads her to bail. Her character was surprisingly thought out - the jokes around her were always at the expense of those objectifying her; the script never treated her as an object. Keep that in mind when we get to the ending which completely murders this goodwill.

As soon as she leaves, the train breaks down, leaving everyone stranded underground. Shawn starts wandering from car to car and meets everyone, while the other three stay put. Eric, furious at Corey for driving off his date, mopes in the corner, and most of the rest is them working through some issues.

They don't get to the surface in time for midnight, but thanks to caterers and more stuck in the subway, Corey manages to put together an underground party. His brother comes around in time to grab a caterer in a skimpy outfit, lean her back, and kiss her without asking.

Oh, right. This kind of thing wasn't considered assault in the 90's, was it? Of course, she wraps her arm around him to show she appreciates the gesture. I'd have preferred if she'd filed a restraining order.

I guess women are only more than objects if they're named characters. Let's just say that and some bullshit about appreciating your siblings are the morals here.


Easy Street (1996)
This episode opens with an excerpt of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," which serves as an allegory for the story. In other words, this was episode was incredibly stupid.

Most of this episode centers around Corey taking a job at a restaurant that's really a front for the mob. No, really. Oh, and if you're thinking they did this in an early episode of the Simpsons, rest assured the two old Italian mobsters in this are way more cartoonish.

Corey quits as soon as he finds out, but Shawn fills the opening knowing what he's doing. See, Christmas is coming, and Shawn wants to get his friends something nice for once. Only, even once he's done this, the money is too enticing.

The rest of the episode is basically Corey trying to convince his friend to quit before it's too late. Finally, on Christmas Eve, Corey helps Shawn realize the true meaning of The Road Not Taken and walk away.

While this is going on, Eric winds up trapped in a blizzard with a woman he has a crush on. Hilarity does not ensure.

The episode pretends it's telling some sort of serious story about Shawn almost losing himself, but the whole thing is way too artificial to take seriously. The mobsters are old, grandfatherly types who never threaten or even imply retribution for leaving. Hell, there's no indication they're involved in anything all that reprehensible. The worst thing they ask either kid to do is deliver a mysterious box - they never ask them to hurt or threaten anyone. There's no tension, so the episode has no weight.

Here's a good rule of thumb - if your show is too sanitized to show a serious subject seriously, you're probably better off not trying. Hell, given the rules of this universe and the amount of money they were offering, I kept thinking Shawn should keep the job, and I suspect that was the moral a lot of kids gleaned from this pretentious crap.


A Very Topanga Christmas (1997)
Can a show that was never that good "jump the shark?"

This appears to be Corey and Topanga's first Christmas together as a couple. They're celebrating at Corey's house, and the episode mostly focuses on issues and concerns they're having. Those concerns are that they're different people who like different things.

Yes, their traditions are different, so Corey starts questioning whether or not they should be together. In his defense, Topanga essentially shows up and takes over the family's Christmas, talking them into replacing the aluminum tree they've always had (side note - they have never had an aluminum tree in any preceding holiday episode) and forcing Corey to eat Christmas-tree-shaped pancakes with sprinkled sugar. He runs off, falls asleep, and has a Mr. Feeny-based Christmas Carol dream where he sees his future self, miserable because he broke up with Topanga. Meanwhile, her older self is happily married and celebrating a Christmas consisting of blended traditions.

And thus Corey learns about compromise. Presumably the next episode was brought to you by the letter "R."

They make amends and exchange gifts. They each got each other promise rings, because it turns out they actually are... oh, who the hell even cares?

The episode ends with Mr. Feeny reading them A Christmas Carol, which is actually how several of these ended - I just didn't care enough to mention it until now.


Santa's Little Helpers (1998)
Oh, look - the title is a callback to the first Christmas episode. How unoriginal.

This is the show's last Christmas episode - I guess they were too busy in the last season. Or maybe they just felt like they couldn't top this one (that was a joke).

The title belongs to Eric's storyline. He and his friends take jobs at the mall as Santa and his helpers. Initially, they just want to make a quick buck, but as soon as they see a bunch of needy children, their hearts melt and they decide to use all their cash to buy them gifts. Then, when they run out of cash, they steal Eric's family's gifts, household appliances... anything they think will make a kid happy.

No comeuppance for this, if you care.

The episode builds to one kid saying he just wants a family, which affects Eric deeply. So he goes to the park at night and talks to God. Then he becomes the kid's "big brother" or something and lets him spend Christmas with his family. Touching? Creepy? You decide!

Meanwhile, Corey invites Shawn home for the holidays, unaware that Topanga invited his ex. Only they still have feelings for each other - something Corey and Topanga piece together. Corey decides it's their responsibility to get them back together, but his plan winds up backfiring. Even when they know the truth, Shawn doesn't think he's ready for a relationship. I guess that's as good a resolution as I could have hoped for.

This episode is mostly just dull, though there is one accidentally great moment. When Eric talks about wearing the Santa suit, he mentions it feels like it gives him powers. And... heh... HE'S BATMAN.

Seems as good a place to end as any.

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