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Festive Rewind: Boy Meets World “A Very Topanga Christmas”

23 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

More ’90s treats and Whitney McIntosh discusses Boy Meets World and “A Very Topanga Christmas.”

topanga“A Very Topanga Christmas” isn’t the worst episode of Boy Meets World by a long shot; I wouldn’t even classify it as a particularly bad episode when taken as a whole. The problems I had with the episode are few, but any fan of BMW would be able to tell immediately that a few characters seem off in their mannerisms and reactions to certain things. Which is unfortunate, because I really think this show is one of the TGIF programs that could pull off a holiday episode seamlessly and without it feeling like a “very special episode” every time.

The episode, which originally aired around halfway through Season 5, centers on Topanga spending the holidays at the Matthews’ home because her parents are away and she didn’t want to spend the holiday season alone. That is where the premise starts and end, no more details needed than that simple set up. Shenanigans are obviously bound to ensue, but the way everything unfolds is fake seeming and almost feels like someone wrote a spec script and the producers decided to film the episode without reading it first.

Instead of acclimating herself to the Matthews traditions and participating in a family Christmas, as anyone who has ever watched an episode where Topanga speaks could tell you she would be likely to do, she instead decides to be uncomfortable with other people’s traditions and pressures the Matthews to change their holiday to make her feel at home. It’s a false feeling storyline to start with, and only becomes increasingly so when this division between the way the holiday is celebrated is then used to cause a divide between Cory and Topanga and cast a shadow on Cory’s feelings for his girlfriend of many years.

Most of the episode centers on these “issues”, but still manages to be funny. Topanga making them drive all the way to Vermont from outside Philadelphia just to get a real tree may be unrealistic, yes, but the subsequent cut shots to show the passing of time were well done and Topanga not letting Cory have maple syrup on his pancakes when they just drove all that way to get it definitely made me laugh. Of course the two make up at the end of the episode and give each other the promise rings they bought for each other (cue the awwwws from the audience), but I just didn’t feel the need for manufactured drama when so much of the joys of Boy Meets World come from the way we know each character inside and out and how they interact in their tight knit group of friends and family.

The appearance of Mr. Feeny as the annual reader of A Christmas Carol to the Matthews family was a welcome one, if not exactly surprising. His annoyance at being told the tradition had changed was classic, as was the decision to have Cory dream he was in the Christmas Carol situation of being visited by a ghost. Having this only be a brief part of the episode is a nice nod to the cliché of Christmas episodes using it as a framing device, and I liked the creative decision not to suffocate the episode with it. The joke of Topanga being married to Jack in the future was there, it was funny, and they didn’t ruin it by beating it into the ground for more than 2 or 3 minutes.

The Shawn and Jack part of the episode feels a little shoehorned, but not enough that it should have been cut completely. Since most of the later seasons took place in their apartment and treated them as brothers who get along for the most part, it’s always interesting to go back to when they were first introduced and see how far the relationship came from these early days. For most of the main plot both of them served as the peanut gallery for everyone else’s issues, but what else are you going to hire a Lawrence brother for if not that reason exactly?

The best part of “A Very Topanga Christmas” is that even with all the useless drama, the story wraps up with not only Cory and Topanga recommitting to a healthy and happy relationship for many years to come but also with Alan giving Cory some fatherly advice. Once Cory grew out of the early high school years that relationship didn’t get as much screen time and the advice between father and son aspect of it was mostly phased out. Which is true to life, as fathers and sons only share so much in conversation after a certain point, and this was a nice moment between the two.  The episode ends with everyone being happy together as a family, having fallen asleep to the sound of Mr. Feeny reading Dickens aloud. Even Morgan gets some face time this episode, although I’m pretty sure she didn’t actually get a line. All in all, it isn’t the best holiday episode I’ve ever seen, but it does reinforce familial relationships (as you would expect an ABC show to do during this era) and supply a lot of laughs in what feels like a short 20 minutes.

Whitney McIntosh is a marketing professional/sports and television lover who blogs in her spare time. She is currently in the process of moving to New York after living in Boston all her life, which can only end in interesting ways. You can read more of her writing at her blog MyTVSangtoMe.

   

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One Response to “Festive Rewind: Boy Meets World “A Very Topanga Christmas””

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  1. Fantasy Costuming: Which TV Character Would Wear this Burberry Prorsum Coat? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 19, 2014

    […] the color is perfect for Mellie, the overall look isn’t really her style. As one of our other contributors, Whitney McIntosh (see I said this was a group effort) pointed out it’s the kind of thing […]

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