Cory Matthews — The boy on ABC’s long-running family comedy Boy Meets World — was a man betrayed. By ”man” we mean, of course, ”sixth grader,” and by ”betrayed” we mean ”unjustly subjected to the horrors of growing up.” Cory faced those horrors every Friday night (as part of ABC’s TGIF lineup) with a sitcom-ready stable of supporters: Shawn, the best friend with a troubled home life; Topanga, the pal-turned-love interest; Eric, the charming yet self-absorbed older brother; Morgan, the little sister (who magically aged several years between seasons 2 and 3); clean-cut suburban parents; and a dry-humored teacher named Mr. Feeny. The result was an innocent but never pandering collection of half-hour life lessons with a side of romance, corny humor, teen drama, and Fee-hee-heeenay.
But this is where the Boy Meets World phenomenon sets itself apart from other sweet ’90s sitcoms: In late 2012, more than a decade after the show’s conclusion, Disney Channel (the network where BMW found a second life in reruns) announced plans to film a spin-off pilot called Girl Meets World. Internet-dwelling twenty- and thirtysomethings responded accordingly — by blowing up Twitter. No one was more shocked by the excitement for Girl — which will debut next year — than creator Michael Jacobs. ”Not until we announced that Girl Meets World was going to get done did I realize the fondness that people have for Boy Meets World,” he says. ”It’s been the most touching, gratifying thing that’s ever happened in my life.”
Ben Savage Cory Matthews
Ben Savage grew up in the entertainment business. He first stepped onto a movie set at the age of 5, and from 1988 to ‘93 he watched his brother, Fred, star on The Wonder Years. So when the 12-year-old learned he’d have his own chance to star on a TV show, he handled the pressure by setting his sights low. ”I prepared myself: ‘Oh, you’re not going to do this show for the next seven years,”’ Savage recalls. That’s exactly what happened, though. Audiences fell in love with precocious, curly-haired Cory, but the real magic happened when he developed a crush on Topanga (Danielle Fishel), a girl as unique as her name. ”People saw it from the very beginning when Cory and Topanga were hanging out and playing basketball with a pair of socks,” says Savage, 33. ”[The Cory-Topanga relationship is] something that’s very special to people who grew up with the show.” Savage spent his post-Boy years earning a degree in political science at Stanford before jumping back into producing and acting full time. He’ll reunite with Fishel for Girl Meets World, which will follow the couple’s tween daughter (Rowan Blanchard). ”It’s a new show with new kids and new themes,” he says. ”We want it to affect people and hopefully inspire people just as Boy Meets World did for our generation.”
Danielle Fishel Topanga Lawrence
Fishel was not the first person picked to play quirky girl next door Topanga. After an audition for producers, she got a role as a student — but it had only two lines. That is, until they decided to recast Topanga and gave Fishel a second opportunity to read for the part. What they didn’t know was that she had spent the first day on set watching the director work with the original actress and noting the things she did that weren’t quite working. ”Opportunity, preparation, and luck came together in a moment that made that happen,” remembers Fishel, 32. Over the years, viewers saw Topanga grow from a strange little girl with a knack for channeling dead spirits into a confident young woman (thanks, life-changing onscreen haircut!) and half of one of the most beloved TV couples of the ’90s. She hopes the next chapter of Cory and Topanga’s story will bring some of that heart back to the small screen: ”Girl Meets World is coming out at a time where the audience is watching Boy Meets World in reruns and going, ‘Man, I miss this.”’