I'm sure that point is arguable (but I've yet to meet a Boy Meets World hater), but sitting through these weekly marathons is more than just an amusing way to spend the day; I feel like I'm reliving my childhood as well. Na and I didn't have cable growing up (my parents still don't have cable), but who needed cable when ABC aired some of the greatest blocks of programming ever? TGIF nights were always an event. We would rush to finish our dinners and piano practice (or we'd make sure Mom set the VCR to record those shows if we weren't home) just in time for 8 p.m., when America's Funniest Home Videos would roll its credits and the "TGIF" graphics would splash across the screen. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World, You Wish, and Teen Angel was the best lineup, of course (when MTV2 played the Boy Meets World time ball episode last week, I immediately searched Twitter for other watchers who remembered the context of that episode and the TGIF arc that involved Salem trotting through two hours of shows), but there were other great shows that cycled through those time slots: Full House, Step by Step, Family Matters, Clueless.
Basically, Friday nights were the greatest for that reason. In between shows and commercial breaks, ABC would air cute "behind the scenes" packages, and we got to indulge in our favorite TV teen celebrities' real lives. This was, of course, before the age of the internet, when we would get our celebrity gossip from J-14 and Tiger Beat magazines, and the most scandalous thing we could learn was that so-and-so actually hated his/her outfit on that one episode we loved.
These were the kinds of shows I grew up on, and I think they definitely had an effect on my own values and the things I thought about or tried to emulate. I wanted to be as smart as Topanga (post early-series hippie phase) and as quirky as Sabrina. I wanted to grow up in a house full of people and feel sometimes too suffocated (though my own large family was unique too, and I know I sometimes didn't always see that while growing up, especially because as the youngest I didn't see too many of my older cousins). I wanted to have the "typical teenage experience" I saw on TV.
As I watch reruns of these shows in syndication or online, I'm struck by how different they are from the "teen shows" that are on air today. The Disney Channel offers shows geared toward a different kind of "young audience" and its stars seem different than the ones I grew up with. Perhaps it's this internet culture in which you can discover every side to Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus--the good and the bad. Or perhaps the idea of those shows existing on the Disney Channel turns off the tweens and teens who don't want that "wholesome" Disney image because they'd rather live in a world full of Twilight-esque drama or whatever's going on on ABC Family and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. In the face of all that, I can't think of many 10 year olds who would find Boy Meets World engaging today.
I think my favorite thing about these shows was that I really did learn something from them, and I think that's one of the reasons my mom encouraged Na and me to watch them too. I still remember the Step by Step episode where Al went on a date with a boy who tried to force her to have sex with him and she said no, but the next day he told everyone they'd slept together and all of the boys at school thought she was easy. It took her sister standing up for her to get everyone to see the truth. Or that Boy Meets World episode where that college professor hit on Topanga, and then Cory hit the professor when he found out and almost got expelled. There was also that story arc where Shawn's father died, and he had to deal with death in a way that I'm sure many kids don't really think about. Or there was that Sabrina episode with the Backstreet Boys--okay, that didn't have a moral lesson in it; it was just fun. (Also, remember how everyone went to Disneyland or Disney World?)
More teen pop star love!
Sometimes, it felt a little like being whacked over the head with a morality stick, but I think it was a nice way to learn about things that perhaps my parents didn't proactively address.
I'm glad for these little nuggets in my childhood and I liked growing up with these shows in front of me. I'm tempted to purchase the complete Boy Meets World series on DVD so I can force my own kids to watch them someday. Perhaps they'll hate it, or perhaps they'll love it...at least I'll be able to watch it with them instead of loathing whatever is on TV for kids in the future ;)