"Boy Meets World" episodes could swing from light sitcom laughs to intense "full-on dramas," as Rider Strong (Shawn Hunter) recalled, and he thinks writer Michael Jacobs would've liked to do the same for the soon-to-end "Girl Meets World," but Disney would not let them.
That was Strong's take, anyway, in a new interview on the Kevin Pollak's Chat Show podcast.
During the conversation, Strong ended up talking about his "infamous cult episode" on ABC's "Boy Meets World," where Shawn joined a cult, got brainwashed, learned that his teacher Mr. Turner teacher got in a motorcycle accident and lapsed into a coma, and left the cult and discovered God all in the course of 22 minutes. Guest host Samm Levine ("Freaks and Geeks") started talking about an episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" that struck him as a kid, since it suddenly got super dark and emotional at the end, and closed without laughter. He was shocked at the time -- since he watched the show for laughs and levity, not serious drama -- but the episode stuck with him years later.
Rider Strong continued on the topic of sitcoms taking bold risks:
"When you do a tonal shift like that it either — I think 'Boy Meets World' missed the mark almost as often as it nailed the mark, honestly — for some people that tonal shift will never work. It's just like 'Woah, I want it to be funny!' But for others I think what 'Boy Meets World' and 'Girl Meets World' tapped into is that there's actually a huge segment of that age group, you know ... the target age group from 8 all the way up to 16ish, that is very melodramatic and that does see life as 'It's all fun,' and then the rug gets pulled out from under you and you're, like, crying. That sort of emotional swing. And I think Michael [Jacobs], to his credit, really wrote well for that [age group], and he still does. We've had some very dramatic episodes [of 'Girl Meets World']. I don't think as dramatic as 'Boy,' mostly because we're on Disney Channel and they won't allow us to. I think had Michael had his way, 'Girl Meets World' would have swung just as extreme. And I think sometimes, as I said, it misses, and other times when it hits it really touches people and sticks with them."
True. We can all probably think of episodes or moments from shows we watched as adolescents that shocked us by going deep and dark. Those are the episodes that you go back to later in life.
But Rider Strong just called out Disney, so what does Disney have to say? Here's what the network told TVLine:
"Disney Channel is committed to presenting age-appropriate, entertaining, optimistic and empowering stories for our core viewers, age 6-14, and we're proud of the heartfelt and comedic stories that Girl Meets World brought to fans for over 70 episodes."
"Girl Meets World" ends Friday, January 20 at 6 p.m. on the Disney Channel, in an episode fittingly titled "Girl Meets Goodbye."
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