"You tortured a fellow named Yogi Tyler?"
I'm not going to dwell on this show for too long here, in the preamble. We all know this show, and I sort of made my bones tearing apart the inanity of control-issue Cory (I refer you to my 2002 general computer skills 101 newsletter project, featuring the seminal essay Boy Manipulates World. Because the older I get, the further I entrench myself in the same bullshit. It's like comfort-food - just the same ol' comfort-bullshit). Yep, it's...
Boy Meets World
Let's just start by saying that the nosedive this show eventually took was not a Ben Savage issue - he's a Savage, he's a professional, and he sinks his teeth into the scraps he's given just like any good Savage would do. Nor is this a writing issue, because this was a fun little show until they tried to give the characters depth. No, this is a Cory Matthews issue, and thankfully it does not come into play in these two eps we're going to be chewing on, for reasons that will be revealed soon enough. Mystery-enough for you? Doesn't matter, we're going there anyway.
Space: Philadelphia, PA
Time: October 28th, 1994
Episode: "Who's Afraid Of Cory Wolf?" Season 2, Episode 6
We begin with Cory locked away in his room on Halloween night, being incredibly dramatic, as Cory is wont to be. Fortunately, his best friend, Shawn Hunter, shows up, dressed in a carbon-copy Cory costume:
This is not unlike the Angela/Danielle Chase outfit of My So-Called Life, and is further proof that dressing up like and impersonating somebody you know will never not be funny. And Shawn really nails it:
"Wow, Shawn - I wish I was as cool as you!"
Oh, I'm sorry - you wanted plot? Goddamn it all: Through flashback we find out that the episode was instigated by neighboring fuddy-duddy, Mr. Feeny, as played by the very fine actor, William Daniels. Daniels reluctantly delivers our premise, his jaw clenched like a tightened C-clamp, uttering some nonsense about a wolf loose in the Philly suburbs. Cory absorbs this and immediately gets himself bitten by something in the bushes. Naturally, he is concerned. Unnaturally, he assumes it was the wolf.
He takes his assumption to the highest authority in his shared-bedroom, big brother Eric.
Eric Matthews Sanity Watch '94
At this point, Eric is still relatively healthy and sane, his mental stability not yet shaken to its core the way it would be, deep into the series. It was those dark times that saw him wandering in and out of scenes, saying random things in a very random way, derailing whatever whining older-Cory was doing at that moment, and generally serving as a batshit-crazy catalyst that would spice up the, by then, heavy proceedings.
Certainly, he's sane enough to fuck with his lil bro, weaving him some story about teenage werewolves. Cory being Cory, he falls for it as soon as the words leave his brother's mouth, leading him to find further information on his curse. This quest takes him to Frank's House of Yogurt (and Some Occult), where strange things are afoot.
"There are things, and there are things."
So says the yogurt-slinging Lugosi in the lustrous sliced-oranges shirt, before leading our hero from the tastefully-festooned dining area into the back room. What terrors will be found there, we wonder?
Phyllis Diller!? Aw shit, the horror. Run for it, Cory! Don't let her get into her Fang material!
It's all your run-of-the-mill charlatan fortune-telling, confirming Cory's suspicions, and making him act even weirder than usual. From there, we get some more of Cory freaking out, seeking help from a sensible Mr. Turner (whose advice is quickly dismissed as being too reasonable), warding off the girl who inexplicably likes him, and howling in the halls.
Just as he howls at home:
The writers have mined a lot of 'bad-dog' humor here, and while I'm more of a cat-person, I do recognize that many people in the world are into dogs, so... whatever.
Hey! Look who it is:
That's right, it's Cory's kid-sister, Morgan - you know, the one who was eventually written off of, and then back on the show (with a recasting, mind you). Morgan's shown up to play ball, sporting a very thorough devil get-up, despite being benched for most of the episode. But thank you for trying, Morgan - we appreciate the effort.
As opposed to Cory, who has now alarmed everyone to the point where his dad rolls his eyes and realizes he needs to engage in a heart-to-heart with his spawn.
Look, any puberty-talk is going to feel weird and sticky, so let's ignore the characters and instead focus on the subtlety with which the Matthews family has decorated their house - please note the jack o' lantern (naturally), the folk-artsy witch on the landing of the stairs, and that odd Halloween wreath hanging from the bookcase? That's kind of a weird thing to prioritize when you're going for a tasteful, mid-to-late-90s crafty-Halloween feel, right?
Anyway, puberty-talk accomplished, all that remains is finding out what bit Cory in the first place, meaning the episode ends with that classic chestnut: It was all just a rabbit.
Cory, you are such a ninnyhammer.
But wait! This show can offer us so much more.
Space: Philadelphia, PA
Time: October 31st, 1997
Episode: "The Witches of Pennbrook" Season 5, Episode 5
And so, here we are, a few years into the run of the show, during which time Cory has started becoming really annoying - to a point where we must wonder what Topanga's deal is, because surely she could do better? The point is moot, as these two anchors (Topanga is an anchor-by-association) don't even show up until six-and-a-half minutes into the ep, which is brilliant. Your show kind of a drag? Well, marginalize your lead and focus on the more entertaining supporting cast, sure! The less Boy in Boy Meets World, the better.
But what have we been doing up until Cory and Topanga's arrival and subsequent fast-forwarding? We've been spending time with Eric and... Candace Cameron Bure?
DJ? Is that really you? It really is, and it's refreshing to see this cross-pollination between television institutions. Just as it's refreshing to watch her do a startlingly-accurate Stevie Nicks impersonation with those scarves.
So, she plays "Millie," a new gal in the building that Eric lives in with Shawn and his older brother, Jack, as played by Joey's-Brother Lawrence. Millie starts laying it on pretty thick with Jack, causing Eric to bristle at losing his best friend. Shawn's cool with it though, especially after it's revealed that Millie comes with her own sexy coven.
Oh, did I not mention they're all witches? Yeah, that's the deal, they're witches. Otherwise this screengrab only exists because I like the shirt Shawn's wearing.
I just checked ebay and it's not there, but keep your eyes peeled for it, huh? Thanks.
Later that evening, we check in on Mr. Feeny, who's busy stretching out the stodginess within by giving the trick-or-treaters a pretty hard time. Just look at him, getting off on being withholding:
Classic Feeny. As the kids leave, disgusted by the thesauri he's handed out to them, Eric swings by for some advice. He's suspicious about this Millie-character, her sudden appearance, her infatuation with their apartment balcony, her speaking in multiple personalities - you know, the usual things we deal with when coming of age. Feeny offers his sage wisdom of Eric pulling his head out of his ass, hands him a thesaurus, and sends him on his way. Mentoring, consider yourself done!
Isn't this great, ignoring Cory's B-story? Who needs that guy! Oh, it's a pleasure scanning past him as we head back to the apartment where the likable characters (seriously, this show should've just been called Older Brother And Best Friend Of Boy Meet World) are partying with the coven. Jack and Shawn are gobsmacked to realize that all of the black demon hoods (leftovers from the Happy Guys of Pittsburgh from Belvedere?) and talk of demigod worship is not simply a lark, but rather the real deal. It turns out that they'll just have to be sacrificed if this coven wants to get its demon-worship off the ground.
And Jack and Shawn can't fucking believe it!
There's no need for them to panic though, for Eric has been lurking in their midst the entire time and is carrying some ammo with him:
Eric Matthews Sanity Watch '97
At this point Eric is still relatively sane. But he's definitely a dumb-dumb.
Needless to say, evil is thwarted, the coven pisses off, along with DJ Tanner, and this show grinds on for another two-and-a-half seasons. But not before we get one more slice of show cross-pollination...
Clarissa? I mean, um, Sabrina!? Is it really you?? It really is, and with Sabrina's clever appearance on an episode about witches, we could only hope that this would lead to a mash-up of the two shows melding into one big mess of teen-programming. Alas, it never came to be, and the world is all the worse for it.
The ep then concludes with that classic chestnut: It was all just Shawn being turned into a hideous frog-puppet.
What the hell? Boy Meets World, you are so weird.