As a young kid in the 90’s, I gravitated towards wholesome comedic shows on TV. Saved By The Bell and Boy Meets World are among the very few shows from the pre-streaming era that I watched start to finish, never missing an episode. This of course meant I had to learn to program the VCR since I only had that one chance to watch the show as it was on. I had collections of VHS tapes with random episodes of all kinds of shows, but I didn’t want to miss a single one.

Fast forward a whole lotta years and we have digital libraries of practically everything that’s ever been on TV. It’s been nice to have access to these shows that hold so many memories and nostalgic feels. Watching these shows now, as an adult, professional and working, and as a parent, has brought a whole new meaning to these shows.

Of all of the shows I’ve rewatched, Boy Meets World has seemed to hold up the best.

This show was always very intentional about the lessons they presented and what they were striving to achieve. As a young kid, I really only saw it at face value: a funny show that brought me great entertainment which I could semi-relate to (I was a little younger than the main characters). As an adult, I can clearly see the intentionality with which they built their plot lines and characters.

Probably the best part of my rewatch of Boy Meets World has been rewatching it alongside members of the original cast.

Pod Meets World is a podcast which began streaming about a year ago. Hosted by Danielle Fishel (Topanga Lawrence), Will Friedle (Eric Matthews), and Rider Strong (Shawn Hunter), Pod Meets World is a twice weekly rewatch and interview show where the hosts, sometimes joined by other 90s stars or Boy Meets World alum, share what they think about each episode from their memories of filming to the life lessons they and the audience might have learned. And I’ve been watching episode by episode and listening right alongside them.

The Podcast has really opened my eyes to not only the inner workings of Boy Meets World, affectionately called “Boy” by the cast and crew, but also to the tv and film industry as a whole. The show touches on the personal experiences of the hosts, with a very clear acknowledgement that others with similar backgrounds also went in very different directions than they have. In the first episode alone, they shared about what it was like to be on a sitcom set, what a week at work was like from table reads to run throughs to notes from the director. They have talked a lot about the live audience they filmed in front of, even briniging back a few regular audience members to share their perspective on the show and filming. Conversations about jokes gone wrong, plot twists that just didn’t work, lessons learned from crew members on set, and a perspective shift not only from kid to adult, but adult to parent are all sprinkled throughout the stories from the set.

One of the most interesting things for me is hearing the real life stories of what it was like to be a child actor on a hit sitcom.

In the 90s, the only information we had access to was what the press put out in teeny-bopper magazines, trashy tabloids, or an occasional radio or tv interview. Celebrities were not easily accessible in the days before social media and the tone of television at that time really did not lend itself to honest, reflective discussion about personal experiences behind the scences. Happy stories were shared while celebrities were tied to the show. Sad stories were shared by the press of an actor going down the wrong side of the tracks. And stories of anger, for any reason, were almost never shared.

Strong and Fishel recount their “school” days, in which they were working with a set teacher whose responsibility it was to ensure they were on track with their schooling. All of the actors attributed their love of learning in some way or another to one of their set teachers. They also note that if they were not on set filming or rehearsing, they were in school on set, which meant that they missed out on most of the things that happened outside of their scenes. It is no surprise that they have such disjointed and inconsistent memories of filming many of the episodes.

In the present day, there is much more space given to truth, no matter the scenario. And this podcast aims to really get at the truth of the matter, from hardships as an actor, to mental health struggles, to parenting in a new age, this podcast touches on so much that is relatable for those that were viewers in the 90s.

Friedle has openly shared about his mental illnesses and what he has done to live with anxiety everyday. His honesty and vulnerability about these topics has been both heartbreaking and inspiring. He has shared on the podcast that his anxiety is what took him away from television and movies and how is what helped him land a comfortable spot in Voice Over acting, where he has found much success. While on Boy, Friedle shared that he experienced low confidence and struggled to find his comfort zone as the seasons went on. He admitted he almost left the show more than once because of how difficult it was for him to get up in front of the live audience week after week and play this character, one who, I’ve learned through the pod, is vastly different than the actor who plays him. For Friedle, the seventh and last season of Boy may have come later than he would’ve wanted.

Thankfully, Friedle has worked and continues to work through the mental health issues he’s faced. He is not afraid to talk about his experiences and what he has done to control the anxiety he feels. Friedle has reported that he is now in a place where he is ready to take on screen acting once more. In a recent podcast, Friedle and Melissa Joan Hart (of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Clarissa Explains it All fame) divulged that they are working on a movie together, set to begin pre-production in the near future. Friedle stated he hopes to bring together many of his 90s co-stars for this project.

Similarly, Rider Strong talks about his own anxiety and how it has taken him from acting completely. Strong came into acting with his older brother Shiloh, who also had a successful screen career. Strong shared that he and his brother became interested in performing, starting first as a magical act, before commanding the stage in theatre at young ages. When he landed Boy, he was a mere pre-teen. His character, Shawn, is also wildly different than he seems in his real life. Shawn was a kind and loyal kid, but he was much more street wise than book smart. He was a popular student who lacked common sense in many situations and often found himself in “troubling” spots, usually at the hands of his best friend Cory (although memory of the show would seem to point to Shawn dragging Cory into the fire, in actuality, it seems to have been the other way around).

Strong, however, is quite the intellectual. He reported on the pod that his own poems were used in episodes of Boy. In fact, in a previous pod episode, producer Jenson Karp, also Danielle Fishel’s husband (and husband of the podcast if you’ve listened) played back old interviews of each of the hosts from the early show days in the mid-90s. Strong is heard sharing that he didn’t believe he would remain in acting, but instead wanted to be a writer and be behind the scenes. He is now a director, writer, and a professor of TV/Film at a university in Southern California. He reportedly has zero interest in ever returning to the screen, but has said he would consider theatre. Whether he joins Friedle and Hart in their upcoming film remains to be seen.

Fishel has also become a successful director, primarily working in children’s sitcoms for networks like Disney. She prides herself on being able to advocate for young talent on set and ensure they have a positive experience despite the tough business they’ve chosen. Fishel’s departure from consistent acting jobs was different than her co-hosts. She shared that after Boy, the jobs just kind of dried up. She was too old to play a kid and the roles she was known for before were not available to her any longer.

Fishel also talked about how she came to be the iconic Topanga, and how this fell at the expense of another actor who was actually originally cast in the role. The pod welcomed this actress, Bonnie Morgan, to the show to share her side. Listening to her side and listening to the person who ultimately took the role of a lifetime from her discuss the realities of that week on set were eye-opening. Fishel recalls being called back in for an audition after the first day of rehearsal. She auditioned against another actress and earned the role, which pushed Morgan out of the show completely. Fishel admitted that it was not until recently that she realized her story of triumph was directly related to another person’s story of failure.

All of these stories illuminate the then-hidden hard and sometimes excruciating parts of the business for anyone, let alone a kid. Each of the hosts details their experience trying to get into the business, landing the roles which would cement them in pop culture history, and then ultimately, adjusting their career when those opportunities came less frequently, or not at all. It also paints these actors as human. This is an interesting and almost jarring thing for me, someone who, as a young child, could only imagine each of them was the character they played. It was hard to fathom the idea that they, in fact, had real lives which were not depicted on television.

And honestly, that might be my absolute favorite part of the podcast. The hosts are all so real, stating opinions and memories in an unapologetic way. They are never afraid to argue an episode or theme did not sit right with them, or that a character or story line was not well planned. Most impressive is the vulnerability they bring to their reflection of their work, the show as a whole, and the content of the episodes. They understand and appreciate that we live in an ever changing and diverse world and the approach the show took 30 years ago will sometimes need to be criticized or scrutinized with a new eye.

The candid conversation, scene by scene account of episodes, and the guest interviews which only add to the stories and content the Podcast already owns, makes this one of the most enjoyable, entertaining, thought-provoking, and nostaligic listens available. For anyone who was ever a Boy Meets World fan or even took an interest in 90’s pop culture, this is a must listen. And if you weren’t a Boy Meets World fan then, give it a try now. Even 30 years old, it still works to address many of today’s biggest and most challenging themes.

If you get a chance, check out the Pod Meets World crew on the road and at 90s con in Tampa, September 15-17, 2023.