After years of clamoring, "Boy Meets World" fans can finally get their hands on the much anticipated fourth season release. Years back, Buena Vista was all set to follow their release of the third season with a fourth, but citing low sales, pulled the release. Now, over the past few month's Lionsgate, who has acquired the rights to the show has released, much more reasonably priced re-issues of those previous seasons and now makes good for fans with the fourth (of seven) seasons.
"Boy Meets World: The Complete Fourth Season" is strictly for fans of the show. Well in its groove of following the lives of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), his best friend Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), as well as the love of Cory's life, Topanga (Danielle Fishel) and Cory's family (both by blood and by choice). While new viewers could have easily skipped the tonally different premiere season and began with season two, this fourth season plays off some well-built plotlines and character relationships that just don't have as much meaning, without seeing the roots. The fourth season, is also, sadly a turning point in the series from a quality standpoint.
The bad news first, the wonderful relationship that played out in the third season of the show between Shawn and his teacher/mentor/friend, Mr. Turner takes a huge backseat. Turner is cast off to a handful of appearances, before being written out of the show via an accident that is never mentioned again (not even in the following episode, the season finale). It wasn't until a year later, that Turner was revealed to be a-ok, still teaching at the high school. It was a comment that cheapens the great plotline of Shawn finding his place in the world, including learning what a family is. In Turner's place, we get a fractured family/marriage thread involving Shawn's father, Chet and his absentee mother, Virna. It also leads to a well-intentioned, but clunky episode involving a TV-staple, "the cult." This episode is also the one that writes off Turner as a character and is a prime example of the writers not having a clue what direction they were taking the show.
Additionally disheartening, is Cory's brother Eric (Will Friedle) who continues his run on the show, as, for the lack of a better term, an idiot savant. The writers play with Eric's struggle to find his own place, now graduated and drifting from job-to-job. However, even for a sitcom that isn't shy of having gimmick episodes and fantasy sequences, Eric is too over-the-top, especially considering his character began the show as a solidly written character, important to Cory's life. It's not all bad, as Eric's relationship with Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) benefits from some great one-on-one moments. Almost any Feeny-centric episode, or "lesson" from the character is a point where the show is in top form, and fortunately he plays a big role towards the end of the season in the lives of not just Eric, but Cory and his friends, helping them prepare for the possibility of college in a year's time.
At the core though, "Boy Meet World" is about Cory Matthews and season four is generally kind to him, even as he faces life's trials and tribulations, ranging from part-time jobs to the future of his relationship with Topanga. The two-part "A Long Walk to Pittsburgh" is a series highlight testing the strengths of the bonds between our trio of teenagers, even if it becomes a little melodramatic. Savage has by now, firmly cemented his place in the sitcom world, distancing himself from his brother's legacy on "The Wonder Years." The on-screen chemistry between Savage and Fishel is very natural and they make a very memorable and likable on-screen couple, eliciting all the desired responses when their relationship experiences its ups and downs, even if viewers already know what the outcome may be.
One final aspect the writers do is in giving Cory's parents a few chances to shine, by having the patriarch, Alan (William Russ) quit his job and embark on his dream of running his own business. Alan's outdoor shop provides some great interaction between the father and sons, as well as reinforce a theme of being yourself and doing what makes you happy, which is sprinkled throughout the season. At the end of the day, this fourth season will be a crossroads for some fans; if they don't mind the abrupt changes and sometimes shaky direction our characters are set upon, then fans should be solid for at least one more season. Again, nothing here is absurd as some of the exploits taking place during seasons six and seven (the "college years"), but those expecting the greatness of seasons two and three, should readjust their expectations.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer is on par with the last two seasons, featuring an interlaced transfer, on par with a cable broadcast, lacking sharp detail in the image. Color levels are also a little more balanced, but often find themselves on the warm side.
The 2.0 English audio track is a serviceable, front loaded with a little bit of life. Fortunately, all dialogue is crisp, clear, and distortion free. English subtitles for the hearing impaired are included.
While "Boy Meets World: The Complete Fourth Season" has it's share of memorable moments, including a few series highlights, it does suffer from some uninteresting storylines, most notable Shawn's deadbeat parents and the criminal dissolution of the relationship between Shawn and Mr. Turner. The season does its best to keep viewers hooked and fortunately the performances from the cast remain likable enough to sustain it, as the fifth season is set up, which marks a major turning point as high school comes to a close. Recommended.