On September 24, 1993, television audiences were introduced to Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and his lovable group of friends, family members, and one very important teacher when Boy Meets World made its premiere on ABC. Over the course of seven seasons, fans followed the teen shenanigans of Cory and his buddies, including best friend Shawn (Rider Strong) and girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fishel). In 2012, old and new fans alike got to revisit Cory and Topanga—now married—as they raised their own teenage daughter in a spinoff, Girl Meets World.
On the 25th anniversary of the original series’s premiere, here are 25 things you might not have known about Boy Meets World.
In the first three episodes of the show, Cory has a second friend, in addition to Shawn. The show was originally going to feature Cory’s friends as a group, rather than a duo, so the showrunners kept rotating in new friends. But the characters didn’t stick. The cast even started calling the cafeteria chair that those characters sat in the “death chair” because the actors would never return. Finally, in the season one episode “Cory’s Alternative Friends,” Topanga was introduced and the notion of another best friend was lost.
In the “Cory’s Alternative Friends” episode, Shawn telephones his sister Stacy. In later episodes, Shawn doesn’t have a sister. Why? It has to do with the aforementioned plan for Corey to have two best friends. While filming the episode, the actor who was going to play one of those friends was fired. Rider Strong, who played Shawn, was given all of his lines at the last minute. In the original script, Stacy wasn’t Shawn’s sister. So, she never shows up in the show again.
What’s with all the disappearing Boy Meets World characters? Mr. Turner played a vital role in the high school years of the show. Shawn even lives with him for a time. But in the fourth season episode “Cult Fiction,” Mr. Turner gets into a life-threatening motorcycle accident. He never appears on the show again and is rarely mentioned. In the next season, during the graduation episode, Minkus (who has also been MIA since season one) mentions Mr. Turner, saying that they had just been on “the other side of the school.” Mysterious.
Strong claimed that the twentysomething Mr. Turner was written into the show because Friends was popular at the time. But he didn’t quite fit into the show. He did, however, seem to fit into Girl Meets World: He appeared in three episodes of the spinoff.
Topanga’s family tree is also all over the place. Like Stacy, Topanga’s older sister, Nebula, is a one-episode wonder. She appears in the season one episode “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not,” but is never mentioned again. And Topanga is later referred to as an only child. Topanga’s parents were played by five different actors over the course of the show: Peter Tork, Michael McKean, and Mark Harelik played her father, and her mother was played by both Annette O’Toole and Marcia Cross.
The writers changed Lee Norris’s character’s name to “Stuart Minkus” after it was discovered that there was an actual Stuart Lempke (the character’s original name) living in Philadelphia, which is where the show takes place.
Topanga was originally played by a different actress who ultimately didn’t work out for the part. On Fishel’s first day, she made the character very upbeat and peppy—but after rehearsal, co-creator Michael Jacobs waited until everyone went home and had a meeting with her in which he told her that he wanted Topanga to be more of a slow, calm character, and they went through the script line by line. Fishel was terrified that she’d lost the part like the actress who played Topanga before her, so she spent all night practicing the part.
After the next day’s run-through, Fishel recalled that, “Michael started the notes session off with me again. My heart stopped beating regularly, and my palms got sweaty: ‘Danielle, yesterday I gave you an enormous amount of notes. I did that because I believed you were capable of handling them,’ he said in front of all the writers and producers and my fellow actors. Then he stood up. I panicked. Was he going to fire me, slam his script on the ground, and storm out of there? ‘However, with your performance today, you exceeded my expectations,’ he concluded. He started clapping, and all the writers stood up and clapped next to him. Michael wasn’t going to fire me. He believed in me. He gave me a freaking standing ovation.”
In the first two seasons, Lily Nicksay played the youngest member of the Matthews family, Morgan. Then, a few episodes into season three, Lindsay Ridgeway took over the role of Morgan. It was never explained why Nicksay was replaced. In the third season, Corey says, “Morgan, long time no see.” She responds, “Yeah, that was the longest time out I’ve ever had!” Nicksay—who now goes by Lily Gibson—made a few reunion appearances with the cast and even appeared on an episode of Girl Meets World.
It was taking a while to come up with Topanga’s name and it ended up becoming a last-minute decision. According to Fishel, “Michael Jacobs says he was driving down the highway when production called and said, ‘We need a name for this character!’ He happened to be driving past Topanga Canyon, so he said, ‘Topanga.’ He says that if they had called him two miles later, I would’ve been named Canoga, which is the next exit.”
Just like the show, the set itself revolved around a classroom. During the show’s early years, Savage, Fishel, Strong, and Will Friedle (Eric) were all still in school. Fishel later explained, “When we started the show, we had little sectioned off areas for each one of us to try to focus and work with our own individual teachers, but it always ended up being more like a regular school classroom with all of us chiming in and learning little bits of what everyone else was learning.”
Though Shawn’s haircut was beloved by the fans, Strong didn’t feel the same way. Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to change it. “I hated my hair. I came to the audition with that hairstyle, got the part, and the director Michael Jacobs never let me cut it from there on out,” Strong said. “A bunch of girls at a sleepover told me to wear my hair like that—parted down the center—and I was 12, so I listened. It was my version of Christian Slater. But my hair is wavy and they would straighten it on the show and it would take forever. I wanted to cut my hair so bad, but the only time I got to was when we found out the show was going to be canceled.”
When the show ended, Strong made off with a nice souvenir. “Disney wouldn’t let us take anything, but I had a leather jacket that I had bought on my own, and I swapped it,” he said. Unfortunately, someone later stole the jacket from his car in Brooklyn. Strong wasn’t the only rebel in the cast; Savage admitted to stealing a pair of shoes from the show as well.
Friedle and Strong remain close friends to this day. Their undeniable chemistry made for some hard-to-shoot scenes. In a 2013 reunion, Friedle admitted, “They never let Rider and I do scenes together because we would look at each other and start laughing, so I think over seven years, we had, like, five scenes together.”
Though it hasn’t been confirmed, many Boy Meets World fans believe that John Adams High School is a nod to Daniels’s career. He played John Adams in the musical and film version of 1776. Another reference to his career: Mr. Feeny calls The Graduate a “great film.” Daniels played Mr. Braddock in the movie.
He didn’t exactly mentor the kids, as fans might hope. The child actors were definitely intrigued by him, though. They originally thought he was British because he came across as very proper. “There wasn’t a whole lot of socializing off set, but we revered the character and the man,” Savage later said. “When he’d come on set, we’d talk, we’d listen, and we’d absorb, and then he would vanish, like some sort of magical person that just pops into your life. He was like a mystic. He always taught us things, and there was so much to absorb from him.”
Both Friedle and Strong have pointed to the season five episode as a favorite. The 1998 episode was inspired by ’90s horror movies like Scream. The episode co-starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was dating Friedle in real life. Her character’s name, by the way, was Jennifer Love Fefferman. It’s no wonder the cast “could barely get through the scenes,” as Friedle put it. “We were laughing so hard.”
Jennifer Love Hewitt wasn’t the only star to make a guest appearance on Boy Meets World. Future Parks and Recreation star Adam Scott played school bully Griff Hawkins on the second season. Freaks and Geeks star Linda Cardellini spent a few episodes almost breaking up Cory and Topanga. In 1995, the same year that Clueless came out, Brittany Murphy played Trini for two episodes. A couple of future Buffy stars also appeared on the show: Charisma Carpenter and Julie Benz.
Perhaps the most surprising Boy Meets World guest star is Blake Sennett, who would go on to be the lead guitarist for the band Rilo Kiley and frontman of The Elected. During his child acting days, Sennett went by the name Blake Soper. Like Scott, he played a school bully: Joseph “Joey the Rat” Epstein. His first appearance was in season two and he popped up periodically until the episode “Graduation” in season five.
Though the show definitely leaps ahead in time, it’s hard to tell when those leaps occur. In season one, Cory, Shawn, and Topanga are in sixth grade. In the season two premiere, the characters are officially seventh graders and enter high school. Then, in the season four episode “I Ain’t Gonna Spray Lettuce No More,” the characters are referred to as 11th graders. Season five represents their senior year and they enter college in season six. Somewhere in there, a couple grades were lost.
Strong approached the showrunners about quitting to focus on his studies, but Jacobs convinced him that it was possible to do the show while attending college. Strong took all morning classes and then went to work. He even had a dorm room, as the school required, though he didn’t stay there every night. In 2004, four years after the show ended, Strong graduated with an English degree from Columbia University. The academic life suited him; in 2009, he earned an MFA from Bennington College.
Maitland Ward, who joined the show during its college years, had actually auditioned for another of Jacobs’s shows, Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane. He really liked her, but she didn’t end up getting cast. Instead, he later called her to take the role of Jack (Matthew Lawrence) and Eric’s roommate (and crush), Rachel.
Joshua Matthews is the younger brother of Cory and Eric, who was born during the sixth season. The part was played by various babies until the season finale, when Daniel Jacobs, son of creator Michael Jacobs, played him. Interestingly, Daniel had already made a cameo that season as a different character. He wasn’t originally supposed to be in the episode, but the child actor that they had cast was being too chatty when he was supposed to be silent during a scene. So, Jacobs called his wife, who promptly brought in Daniel to play the part.
Another famous guest star: Willie Garson, a.k.a. Stanford Blatch in Sex and the City. In two first season episodes, Garson can be seen as the assistant manager of the Market Giant supermarket, where Cory’s father works. He appears again a few years later as Mervyn, who applies for a job at the Matthews’ store. Then, in season seven, he’s the minister who marries Cory and Topanga.
Jacobs wanted the iconic couple to marry before the show ended. ABC disagreed with the decision. The network executives thought that the characters, who were 20 years old, were far too young to get married. It was actually Jacobs who suggested the Internet poll. The audience wanted to see their favorite couple marry, and they did midway through the last season.
The last scene in the classroom with Mr. Feeny was only filmed once. “We did that last scene in one take because we were such a wreck,” Strong explained. Ben Savage has said that the last scene was his favorite memory of the show. “When they said, ‘Cut!’ on that final take, it was almost like someone was saying, ‘Say goodbye to your childhood,’” he recalled.
Because the scene was only filmed once, the crew had four cameras set up to capture all the action. Midway through the scene, a writer asked Jacobs, “What’s on [Danielle’s] neck?” He responded, “Chinese letters.” The writer asked, “Did you ever know they were there before?” Michael responded, “Hair has never given her pigtails before.” Those pigtails revealed a tattoo on Danielle’s neck, which is visible if you look closely,
Jacobs has said, “Whoever wants to be part of this show will be and whoever wants to move on will.”