Everything We Watch, Read, Hear, Smell, Feel, We Write
Boy Meet’s World is a family comedy show that was able to thrive during its prime as well as live on in syndication for almost twenty years. Much of this success and longevity can be attributed to the shows high production value. The production teams understanding of what their audience would like to see is what helped this show build such a strong fan base that could carry over two decades.
Boy Meets World is a multi-camera comedy as we see immediately in the first scene of the eighth episode of the first season, Teachers Bet. Corey Matthews, the main protagonist, Sean, his best friend, and Minkus, the class nerd, are sitting around discussing the value of Barry Bonds and professor Feeny. Amidst the banter we are taken to different angle of the room as the conversation flows seamlessly revealing that multiple cameras were used in this production. The multiple camera setup was popular for sitcoms of that generation because of the quicker production time as well as being overall easier.
Medium shots are the predominant shot in Boy Meets World because they fit the multiple characters usually engaged in conversation while also capturing significant facial expressions. Long shots are probably the second most valuable shot to the show because of its abilities to fit a larger number of people. As we see later on in episode eight when Cory takes over the class and long shots are used from the back of the classroom to capture the entire classes behavior. Most of the time when Cory and his classmates are in class we see long shots for the same reason. The other very common shot is the shot/reverse shot which is intwined with the medium shots during conversation to provide close ups of each participant and provide detailed expression.
In Cutting the Cord, an episode from season 6, we see more close ups than earlier and this is due to the more mature content they are capturing. In this particular episode Sean and his recently ex-girlfriend, Angela, are learning to live without each other, a topic we would never see when they were in middle school. However with the exploration of a more mature subject, we observe more feelings and expressions. Due to all of this emotional imagery that needs to be captured the director decided to integrate more close and extreme close up shots. Medium shots are still the dominant as we see in the lamaze scene, but close ups are starting to overtake the long shot at this point in the series.
What the cameras catch audibly is equally as valuable to the quality of the show. The mixture of diegetic and non diegetic sound really helps to build the scene. As we see when Cory is attempting to gather the classes collective attention he is not the only voice we hear. Although the camera is focused on him, we hear the commotion of a rowdy classroom which helps us build the image of a uncooperative group without even showing it. The class also ends with a bell ringing off camera which signifies the end of class without needing to bring on camera attention to it. These are the little things that bring the show together and keep the viewer feeling engaged. The built in laugh track was another staple of nineties comedies and was a great indicator of emotion for the audience.
The directors success in manipulating the mise-en-scene to further tell the story is what propelled this show to success. Every characters personality was extended beyond their physical being. Cory’s typical bright clothing and disheveled appearance were both intentional in order to further portray his on screen carefree, energetic, and unique personality. Sean Hunter on the other hand is dressed in a darker pallet and often in plaids to express his harsher and more complex personality. These contrasting personalities are further highlighted when we visit each others house. The Matthews house resembles a typical mid nineties, middle class american home. The light colors are welcoming and provide a homely feeling while the tidiness and order show a level of pride. The Hunter household on the other hand is located in the towns trailer park, as well as all of his relatives. The dark and usually dirty trailer provides us with further evidence of a disheveled family with little care.
However in season 6, Cutting the Cord, we see a much mature Cory and Sean all around. While Cory still holds on to a somewhat carefree aura the bright yellow jackets and backwards Phillys caps have disappeared and been replaced by earth toned sweaters. Sean on the other hand has kept his edge by wearing a black leather jacket, but upgrading his living situation by moving in with his step-brother depicts a much more mature and organized Sean Hunter. Cory has also moved in with his longtime girlfriend Toepanga who was able to control the once out of control Cory.
The consistent figure throughout the entire show which is essential for fans to latch on to and trust was always George Feeny. Mr. Feeny was the boys teacher in almost every grade while also being Cory’s next door neighbor. The well dressed Feeny was never seen phased or aroused while always providing the voice of reason as well as discipline for the entire school, mainly its two infamous jokesters Cory and Sean. In Bet Teacher he provides Cory with the lesson of respect when he agrees to switch roles with him after Cory ignorant comment about the ease of teaching. This form of reverse phycology was one of Georges most powerful tools. His ability to teach Cory lessons while allowing to Cory to feel he discovered it on his own was why he was such a successful authority figure.
All of this coming together is why the show Boy Meets World was able to find a home with a generation of kids and be carried all the way to modern day television where reruns are still air and a spinoff series for Girl Meets World was announced. The careful planning and meticulous production helped this show maintain its beauty as well as its charm.