“Boys II Mensa” – Boy Meets World S1E6

There were many times that young Cory Matthews came across as an entitled jerk, as I’ve noted before, which you can’t entirely fault him for. You don’t know much about the world until you grow up and evolve into that person who knows what’s REALLY up, after all. But there were also times when he didn’t really deserve the benefit of the doubt, and his poor choices couldn’t be entirely written off by ignorance of youth (or laid at the mischievous Shawn’s feet, as often happened). His decisions in this episode, “Boys II Mensa,” illustrate one of those times he should have known better and just kept living his life without breaking bad.

This is also one of the first episodes to really expand Shawn, unrivaled best friend to Cory, who would go through absolute fucking hell before series’ end. The kid had a shitty home life, with a sister who vanishes, a half brother he knew existed but never saw or spoke to (before season 5), and parents who seemed only marginally interested in raising him. He was the epitome of being from the wrong side of town, literal trailer park trash, since he lived in a trailer park and all. Shawn Hunter came across as every bit the troubled young man he should have been, so he deserved some leeway for his actions and choices. Now, he’s shown here leaving detention like it’s a common occurrence, and immediately grabs a test answer key from the trash bin; not the most noble entrance for the week. But he is soon disinterested when it’s clear they aren’t for anything related to general academia, and tries to warn off his spoiled, upper middle class Cory from opening the Pandora’s Box of seeming to be a genius.

Cory feels insulted early in the episode, when Mr. Feeny chastises him for a ‘C’ grade while commending a fellow student’s effort for the same result The teacher correctly (and privately, as not to embarrass the other student) points out some need to work harder for less than others. And Cory, he bluntly assesses, only seems interested in being the “class clown” (which is made clear, if you couldn’t connect the dots, with a red rubber nose he wears). Believing his teacher is “always picking on” him unfairly, he takes the IQ results from the trash thinking he’ll earn respect and “get Feeny off (his) back.” Shawn, the wise, world weary young man he is, advises his friend to let it go and not “complicate” his life, but the foolish Mr. Matthews moves forward.

Cory, of course, memorizes the answers and is rated of exceptional intelligence, under the jaded eye of Mr. Feeny. He tries to shrug off the test results and supposed brilliance as no biggie, but is refuted with vigor by his teacher as being “a very BIG deal.” Cory is immediately concerned about how he’ll be punished for his idiotic endeavor, and commiserates with Shawn to brainstorm how to continue pulling a fast one. Awaiting his parents return from a meeting with the school (because he scored “higher than anyone in the history of the school district”), he puts on a foam finger as a ‘conductor’s baton’ and waves his arms to “Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in E Flat” to continue the act (because, you know, that’s what a brainiac would do). They rightly question the disparity between his IQ score and report card grades, which he unconvincingly blames on “the system” for causing a lesser academic performance.

The episode includes a running subplot about Eric assisting Morgan in picking out a Halloween costume (in a much less holiday-themed episode than future ones in Boy Meets World canon). She ends up picking out a zombie outfit, to Amy’s dismay and her brother and father’s delight. It’s very inconsequential, doesn’t add much to the episode, and flies by without much notice or pain. The whole episode, in fact, feels a bit inconsequential upon re-watch. Part of this is the similar territory it mines from previous episodes (Cory thinks he deserves more/is more special than he is), which ends with him learning the lesson that it’s ok to be normal as long as you try hard and be yourself. Really, it just wasn’t the most memorable episode in what, I would rate, wasn’t the greatest season. This first season is an odd duck, perhaps indicative of the fact the show started its story right on the precipice of puberty. But it also is reflected in the fact that Topanga is so bizarre, and Morgan is still around, and Eric hadn’t morphed into a sort of idiot savant, and Minkus is a main character (or a character at all). I’ve mentioned before that the almost shameless retconning and character shifts, which wasn’t rare for sitcoms of that era, is part of BMW’s appeal, but it’s still a bit jarring when, say, Amy apparently has a career in real estate.

The episode goes predictably, with no real twists or turns to the inevitable end of Cory being caught and everything going back to normal. Mr. Feeny threatens him with a transfer to a school for gifted students, he’s forced to take a retest which he of course fails, confesses to cheating initially, and ends the 22 minutes a bit wiser. There’s nothing too memorable or unpredictable, and the whole thing feels a bit trite. So rather than discuss this episode further, let’s finish this review with a discussion about the MANY themes and opening credits of BMW.

It’s hard to say which credits sequence was the best. This first season, with its whistling instrumental and goofy computer-animated graphics flying around Cory (like a baseball glove and french fries, among others), is distinctive but unremarkable. The second and third credit sequences, each short but sweet versions, included an animated Cory being crushed by a globe, and a series of color-saturated scenes of Cory, Shawn, and Eric hanging at Chubbies. They are more memorable for their random application during the many, many reruns in syndication (so as to retain more air time for sweet, sweet ad revenue). And then there were the final few credit sequences, each running long enough to stay indelibly etched in our minds. There was, of course, the instrumental intro with Cory racing down the front steps, hopping into the back seat of a red convertible with his friends and brother, before driving off as they smile joyfully at images of memories floating by. It’s pretty silly, but it reinforced who the main characters were and what the show was about.

The final pair of opening credits, with the same song but slightly altered scenes of the cast interacting (after the addition of Rachel), is probably the most memorable and associated theme with the show. And if I had to venture a guess as to why, it’s the god-awful lyrics. Being the only theme song of the show to have lyrics at all, the bar was set pretty low for how successful it would be, and the writers of the song clearly didn’t aim for anything but the bare minimum. They are so simple, repetitive (“When this boy meets world, boy meets world…” it opens), and essentially expository in its depiction of the themes of the show (“good to know I have friends who’ll always stand by me…”). It is hilariously memorable, undoubtedly one of the absolute worst television themes of all time, and served as the backbone for the defining opening credit sequence of BMW.

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