'Boy Meets World' was TGIF's original blend of these 6 classic sitcoms
'Boy Meets World' meets Beaver meets Dobie meets Mr. Wilson.
In the 1950s, ABC's family block featured sitcoms everybody loved to watch, starting with shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Then, the 1970s ushered in a new face for family TV with shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. So when the network's TGIF block was first introduced in 1985, it had some big shoes to fill when it came to delivering laughs to the whole family.
TGIF producer Jim Janicek knew what it would take. He'd grown up watching The Wonderful World of Disney, and he was intent on developing a full night of programming that catered to families. Among the shows that kicked off his experiment were series like Webster, Perfect Strangers and Full House. By the 1990s, Janicek's gamble had heavily paid off, with TGIF dominating ratings led by shows like Family Matters, Step by Step and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper.
By 1993, though, ABC was ready to bring back a more traditional family to focus on, and that's what they did with Boy Meets World.
In Boy Meets World, we meet the Matthews family, which includes the mom and dad, two sons and a daughter. The daughter is young, the older son is a teen, and the middle kid is Cory Matthews, who is just trying to figure out his place, both in between his siblings and out in the world.
As Boy Meets World unfolds, we're guessing many of today's viewers don't realize just how much the successful sitcom borrows from classic TV in its character design. Going through old episodes, we identified six sitcoms that seem to be clear influences on the TGIF writing team behind the 1993 series.
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1. The struggle of sharing your room with your older brother.
On Leave It to Beaver, you frequently see the brothers Wally and Beaver either settling or start scuffles in their shared bedroom. Boy Meets World borrows this trope heavily while exploring the dynamic between brothers Cory and Eric, who don't see eye to eye on the importance of girls when the series first starts. In the pilot episode, when older brother Eric chooses to take a girl to a baseball game over his brother Cory, it introduces the show's very first conflict (unless you count earlir barbs from Mr. Feeny, a character who we'll get to in a bit). If that plot sounds familiar, it may be because you're recalling the first season episode of Leave It to Beaver, "Wally's Girl Trouble," where Beaver feels neglected when Wally starts spending all hisi time with a girl.
2. An earnest dad who knows all and has great advice.
Boy Meets World also understood the importance of an earnest father. Unlike some sitcoms where the dad's job often causes him to be out of the loop on the kids' activities, Alan Matthews on Boy Meets World was extremely involved in what was happening with his kids. Sounds a lot like another dad we know from the classic sitcom Father Knows Best. This feature helped Jim Anderson Sr. stand out in 1954, and it seems the writers took note when coming up with the dad character on Boy Meets World, whose gentle tone and all-knowing eye also extends to Cory's best friend Shawn, who eventually becomes an adopted part of the family. (Starting to detect a My Three Sons vibe? We'll get to that soon.) There's even an early episode called "Father Knows Less," in case the reference point wasn't clear enough to any older viewers tuning in to TGIF.
3. Meet Minkus, the picture of persistence.
Stuart Minkus is the resident nerd at the middle school where Boy Meets World largely takes place in its first season. He runs his mouth constantly, mostly because he always comes correct, and his persistence reminds us more than a little of what it was like when audiences first met Ernie on My Three Sons. In My Three Sons, if Ernie didn't have the answers, he wanted them, and that's the same drive Boy Meets World writers cribbed for Minkus. Visually, the two characters even seem to mirror one another. Although Ernie becomes part of the Douglas family on his sitcom, Minkus barely lasts more than a season.
4. The next-door neighbor is a grumpy authority figure.
Among the best-loved characters on Boy Meets World is the middle school teacher Mr. Feeny, who also happens to live next door to the Matthews family. In this way, Cory becomes the Dennis the Menace to Mr. Feeny's Mr. Wilson, even going so far as to give Feeny the key hobby of gardening, so Cory can always find him with his flowers. Their dynamic worked just as well as Dennis and Mr. Wilson's, too, which is why when Cory moves on to high school, the writers quickly found reason to move Mr. Feeny over as the school's new principal.
5. It made teenagers the main focus of every episode.
Many sitcoms manage to successfully spread their storylines out over the full family. Not Boy Meets World. It took a page from Leave It to Beaver and looked mostly at the kids, then borrowed another idea from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, by opting to create teenaged characters who deal with more mature issues. Throughout Boy Meets World, the audience sees the arc of Cory Matthews exiting boyhood and embracing adulthood. The series even ends with his wedding, which brings us to our final comparison…
6. Childhood sweethearts end the series in marriage.
Boy Meets World can be divided by seasons into three parts: middle school (season 1), high school (seasons 2–5) and college (seasons 6–7). The final episode features the marriage of Cory Matthews to his middle school sweetheart and girlfriend throughout much of the series, Topanga Lawrence. Their TV wedding bells had us thinking Happy Days are here again, taking us back to the ending of the 1970s sitcom, which saw Joanie and Chachi sealing the deal at the altar, too.
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