Lionsgate // 1997 // 576 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 3rd, 2011
Cory: "This city is a cultural vacuum, my friend."
Shawn: "That's why my people settled here."
It's getting more and more difficult to find things to say about cult favorite '90s sitcom Boy Meets World, especially now that the show is getting further away from what I once liked about it. Having reviewed the first four seasons of the series on DVD, I've nearly exhausted everything that can be said about the show; now, faced with discussing Boy Meets World: The Complete Fifth Season DVD set (available after years of being MIA courtesy of Lionsgate, who took the show over from Disney), I find myself hitting a wall. For better or worse, this isn't the show it once was.
Make no mistake: when I first started watching (and enjoying) Boy Meets World in the '90s, seasons four and five were where I jumped in. This was the show that I used to like (ironically, when the early seasons would air in syndication, I was probably disappointed -- much the same way that my heart would sink when TBS would air a Saved by the Bell rerun and it was one of those terrible junior high episodes with Haley Mills). Having now gone through the first five seasons in under a year though -- and with both age and perspective on my side -- I find myself more drawn to those early seasons, when the show was just about a couple of kids attempting to navigate the world (you know -- the world that the boy meets) they didn't quite understand. But, in much the same way that Scrubs would do (another show I really liked for a while), Boy Meets World continued to get broader and sillier with each passing season. By Season Five, at least half of the season has almost completely broken with reality; the episodes are goofy one-off experiments or feature stories that are way too far out to resemble any kind of real like. The rest of the episodes center on a lot of romantic angst. The show is kind of bipolar that way. I don't mind a TV series that does both things; I only wish Boy Meets World had found a way to do both at the same time.
For the uninitiated, Boy Meets World follows the adventures of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage of Little Monsters, also Fred's younger brother) and Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong, Cabin Fever), two best friends who are now seniors in high school. In season five, Cory and longtime girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fishel, National Lampoon's Dorm Daze) hit some major roadblocks; Cory's older brother Eric (Will Friedle, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker) finally moves out of the family home and into an apartment with Shawn's long-lost brother Jack (new cast member Matthew Lawrence, The Longshots, also Joey's younger brother). Shawn finally gives up on dating girls for only a few weeks and falls in love with a classmate named Angela (Trina McGee, Daylight, who was almost 30 at the time she played a high schooler). Other wacky stuff happens.
Here are the 24 episodes that make up Boy Meets World: The Complete Fifth Season:
"Boy Meets Real World"
"It's Not You, It's Me..."
"The Witches of Pennbrook"
"No Guts, No Cory"
"I Love You, Donna Karan"
"How to Succeed in Business"
"Last Tango in Philly"
"A Very Topanga Christmas"
"The First Girlfriends Club"
"Torn Between Two Lovers (Feeling Like a Fool)"
"And Then There Was Shawn"
"If You Can't Be With the One You Love"
This is the season of Boy Meets World that will really separate the casual fans from the diehards (I find myself leaning more towards the former). If you're invested in these characters and have enjoyed the touches of absurdist humor that the series has employed until now, you'll probably be willing to go along with it as things get sillier and sillier. A number of episodes are like extended dream sequences, including one then-timely Scream parody (featuring a guest appearance by Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was dating Will Friedle at the time) and a not-very-good episode in which all of the characters appear in a WWII fantasy. Other episodes play in the real world, but just barely: Eric (a character that the show never really figured out what to do with, despite the fact that Friedle is very funny in the role) gets a role on a sitcom that's exactly like Boy Meets World (predating the meta trend of the 2000s). New character Jack (who is, I'm sorry to say, unnecessary) gets involved with a coven of witches, led by guest star Candace Cameron. When the show is dealing with romance and heartbreak and what to do with one's future, it's at its best -- assuming it doesn't get too overly dramatic, which storylines involving Rider Strong tend to do. But that's me; I'm sure there are plenty of Boy Meets World fans who like the show specifically because it's willing to be silly. Those are the people who will be best served by The Complete Fifth Season.
Anyone who has been collecting Lionsgate's season-length releases of Boy Meets World will find no surprises with the quality of The Complete Fifth Season. All 24 episodes are presented in their original full frame television aspect ratio and look like video that's 15 years old and hasn't been perfectly preserved. The quality is fine -- there's nothing distracting about it -- but it obviously can't compare to how fantastic some more current shows look on DVD. The stereo audio track delivers the dialogue clearly and manages to balance everything out pretty well. Unlike some of the earlier seasons which contained a minimal amount of bonus features, this season doesn't have a single extra. Nothing.
For completists only.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 576 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated