RELEASE NOTES: This DVD release of "Boy Meets World" from Lionsgate as well as seasons one and three are identical to the releases from Disney in the early 2000s. Disney chose to discontinue release of the series, despite having season four ready for release. Lionsgate has acquired the rights to the series and has re-released the long, out-of-print initial three seasons and intends to work on new releases starting in December of this year (2010).
When we last left Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and his friend Shawn (Rider Strong) they were finishing up sixth grade in Mr. Feeny's (William Daniels) class, and while their adventures were enjoyable, they were ultimately by and large, pedestrian and more than a little overcooked. Obviously, the creators of "Boy Meets World" felt the same was, because when Season Two premiered, things had done a huge 180. Perhaps due to the actors being older than the characters they were playing (something the creators of LOST learned the hard way with Walt) or maybe wanting to push the series in a direction that allowed it to be more mature, more often, Cory and Shawn moved straight to high school (by passing the rest of junior high) and encountered many changes along the way.
Season Two of "Boy Meets World" is without a doubt solid entertainment and solid fun. The season opener nearly feels like a reboot of the series, introducing the main characters again as well as some fresh faces. Cory and Shawn have changed the least, adopting a more age appropriate attitude towards school while maintaining their penchant for monkeyshines. Their only remaining classmate from the premiere season, Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) however, received a complete makeover, dropping her free-spirit attire and eccentric behavior for a more grounded teenage attitude. The writers handle this change with a quick puberty based joke and never mention the shift again. Away from Mr. Feeny's class, teaching duties are taken over by Mr. Turner (Anthony Tyler Quinn), a longhaired, no-nonsense, young hip English teacher. At first glance, he's the opposite of Feeny, but soon both young men learn he expects great things from them.
Quinn's role as Turner remained for me a personal favorite throughout the show. He was someone the characters could directly relate to; a teacher invested in high expectations, but willing to reach out to what interests his students, including tying comics with classic mythology and allowing students to use new technology in lieu of traditional written reports. He in many ways reminded me of my 4th grade teacher, Tom Buffington, who sported long hair as well (although almost always in a pony tail) and stressed many of Turner's values to students, even at such a young age. He made sure we had free time in class to read every day and pushed us to take responsibility for our actions. Sadly, he lost his life to cancer years later, but the impression he made on me stays with me to this day and has played a part in how I run my own classroom. Digression aside, my point is, while some may scoff at the believability of the Turner role, I can say, Mr. Turner's do exist, and Anthony Tyler Quinn gives a great, often understated performance.
However, Cory isn't out of the clear as his longtime nemesis, Mr. Feeny turns up as the new US History teacher and principal. Also acting as a thorn in Cory's side is a trio of local toughs led by Harley Keiner and later Griff. Keiner along with his toadies, Frankie Stechino (Ethan Suplee) and Joey Epstein (Blake Sennet), not only pester Cory with constant threats of harm, but pester viewers with overplayed stereotypes that feel extremely out of place in a 90s sitcom. Also worth mentioning in regards to annoying characters is Cory's young sister Morgan. No different than she was in the prior season, her over amplified, monotone delivery is either a great child actor saddled with a terrible shtick or one of the worst child star's I've ever seen. It was more at home with the loose feel of season one, but here it's nearly insufferable from the moment she opens her mouth. Fortunately, the actress Lily Nicksay, would be replaced in the following season.
As a whole, the second season is quite consistent in storytelling, balancing between the two major themes of adjusting to life in high school and eventually Cory and Shawn's quest for girls, which the latter has no trouble with. The idea of a Cory and Topanga romance is teased quite often, sometimes for laughs, sometimes for truly heartfelt moments, and once for one of the season's stronger episodes, "Wake Up, Little Cory." It's an episode that's been done before (including on "The Wonder Years" complete with the song that inspired this episodes title), Cory and Topanga work late on a project and end up falling asleep together in the same room. Obviously rumors spread and Topanga winds up embarrassed, while Cory, a young teen looking to fit in, uses this to his advantage. It's a bold move to make the main character of the show look like such a scumbag, however, it ultimately pays off in validating the efforts of Mr. Turner and shows the more grown up direction the show is trying to move towards.
In the latter part of the season, Shawn becomes the focus of things, namely the relationship between his dad, Chet (Blake Clark). This leads to some good episodes touching on what makes a good family as well as social standing, where Shawn experiences rejection from a girl because of who is dad is and where he lives. The episode builds the strong relationship between Shawn and Turner, who eventually becomes a big part of Shawn's life when Shawn is at his lowest point. The only thing that drags the episode down is the side plot involving Cory's brother Eric (Will Friedle) in his quest to impress a girl, which highlights the character's gradual descent into pure buffoonery. It's a shame what the writers did to Eric, turning him from the sometimes-goofy older brother, into what could only be described as an idiot savant, by the end of the series. However, he's only minor quibble in what is otherwise a great season, and to be honest, he's still a very enjoyable, grounded character for the most part.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer is a slight improvement over season one, likely a result of the changes that took place in between seasons and a possibly increased budget. It is however still 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, not as flat as season one, with a tad more life, but still far from spectacular. Fortunately, all dialogue is crisp, clear, and distortion free. English subtitles for the hearing impaired are included.
The extras on this initial season consist of five audio commentaries and a picture-in-picture video commentary for one episode. The same principle players return and the result are fun listens that make you wish there were commentaries for all episodes or at least a retrospective featurette.
"Boy Meets World: Season Two" manages to strike a more consistent balance between the themes of growing up and comedy than it's previous season. The midseason overhaul was a great move by the show's creators, allowing the characters to tackle more mature issues than possible for a series set in sixth grade. The addition of the Mr. Turner character was one of the best in the series, giving Cory and Shawn another positive figure in their lives that they could more easily relate to than Mr. Feeny, although that character still plays a strong role as Cory's mentor, despite Cory not yet realizing that. For those who weren't fans of season one, season two is definitely worth giving a chance. Highly Recommended.