Legendary actor William Daniels celebrated his 96th trip around the sun on March 31st, 2023. It is one worth celebrating, especially for 90s kids such as myself.
Daniels portrayed Mr. Braddock in The Graduate, John Adams in 1776 and voiced the famous Pontiac Trans Am known as KITT in Knight Rider.
For those in the millennial and Gen X demo, most of us know him best as the hard nosed, yet delightfully endearing Mr. Feeny of Boy Meets World.
Growing up, I absolutely adored Boy Meets World. It is still hands down my favorite TV show to date. I am currently on Season 3 on my 18 millionth rewatch. I know every episode to the point where I can damn near quote them all. The jokes never get old for me.
It boils down to the connection I have always felt to each character. I always felt Cory was my counterpart. I relate to him in so many ways from the Topanga/Cory love story to the wildly average middle of the road high schooler to mouthiness.
Mr. Feeny was the teacher I always wished I had.
I am currently listening to Pod Meets World every day on my commute to and from work making the connection to every character that much stronger. Now, we get the inside look and everything in between.
As I go through the re-watch, it just amazes me that a show created in the 90s can still hold up in 2023. George fucking Feeny is pretty much at the forefront of it.
It was funny. I came across a Facebook post from 2020. It made me laugh out loud again. It was from one of my best friends who I quoted because, well, it was biblical.
“I don’t see why we just don’t have George teach all these scientists how to overcome and beat the Coronavirus and better themselves as people. The whole thing would be solved in a half hour… 22 minutes if we don’t add commercials.”
The reality is though it took 22 minutes of an episode before Mr. Feeny just bombarded viewers with wisdom and knowledge on navigating this weird thing we call life.
One of the topics often talked about on Pod Meets World is the respect adults were given.
At the time, teachers were kind of the butt of the jokes on sitcoms. In Boy, it was the opposite. Yes, there was some fallibility to the character, but Mr. Feeny commanded the utmost respect.
It was that way by design.
I remember watching an interview with Daniels. He told the story of how he became Feeny. Michael Jacobs approached him with the idea of being a teacher for the Untitled Ben Savage Project. Daniels was hesitant because he had so much respect and admiration for educators. He did not want to be put in a position that undermined them. Jacobs apparently shut that down saying that it would be the opposite basically. Thus George Feeny was born.
It didn’t take very long for the endearing educator to steal our hearts.
So here are some of my favorite Mr. Feeny moments. Many of these moments are some you don’t really see on most lists for Feeny’s best. There’s just so many damn iconic moments for the character so I wanted to take some of the lesser known ones.
You don’t have to be blood to be family
Talking about gathering with a small circle of friends on holidays is just perfect. I love my family, but I also hold my friends in just as high of a regard. I’ve always put my friends on a pedestal. Surrounding yourself with people who you care about that return the favor is a beautiful thing. No matter what happens in life, I have been fortunate to have my friends there with me. When you find those great ones, it’s one of the things you shouldn’t let slip.
Admitting He Loves the Feeny Call
Then Olivia Hussey walks in as the staunch Aunt Prudence, as legendary as you’d expect. Feeny and Aunt Prudence then have an incredible stand off about young love. It’s just *chefs fucking kiss.*
Never Stop Growing
Feeny then explains that he planted the flower there because he couldn’t leave it in the house. To which Cory says because he thought it would do better here? Feeny said no, because he was afraid it would stop growing.
It plays into the idea that being comfortable isn’t always the best thing for someone. Sure, it’s the easy thing. But you’ll never tap in your potential until you get uncomfortable.
To me, it’s important to continue to learn and explore about yourself. Continue to educate yourself. You should never stunt your growth by settling and being comfortable. Even if you fail, it’s ok.
A Friend’s Welfare
After Shawn pulls the infamous Mr. Weeny prank in the school paper, Feeny knows that Cory knows who did it. He even knows it was in all likelihood Shawn. With no proof, he did not set out for a witch hunt. The only thing he knew for certain is that Cory knew. He gave him a deadline to confess and rat out his friend. Cory refused to give him the name and was willing to stand in the fire for Shawn.
Feeny then breaks the wall of being his principal and shares how proud he is of Cory for his decision to fall on the sword. He says watching him grow up, he never doubted it.
This is quintessential Feeny of teaching his students about complex circumstances beyond the 4 walls of the classroom. It’s just another glimpse of how much he loves and respects the young man Cory is becoming.
Feeny Stands Tall for Eric
Similar to Cory, there is an enormous amount of respect for Eric. Before becoming full on comedic relief of the show, he was the pretty boy who only cared about girls. In order to attend a summer abroad with his best friend Jason Marsden (played by Jason Marsden), he sought out a tutor. Enter Tori Hart.
Instead of helping Eric, she proceeded to give him the answers to his tests and helped him cheat to pass. Even with Eric pleading to do this on his own, she did not oblige. She just mentioned he had so many other things going for him including his looks and charm. Very superficial.
When Eric confessed to cheating without outing how he received the answers, Tori walks in and asks Eric how could he do that to her. To which Eric replies that he didn’t. Feeny flips it on her and asks how she could do this to him? She pleads that it’s not she didn’t like him. Feeny matter of factly says she doesn’t respect him.
Feeny then says this is what he gets for selecting a pretty girl to be a teaching assistant. Then asks if she resents that.
The sexist remark is then followed up with an incredible lesson that growing up with a pretty face she probably had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. She denied Eric his chance of being taken seriously.
She asks if he’s firing her? Then Feeny asks if she learned something? She says yes and Feeny does nothing.
Sometimes the self punishment and guilt outweighs other consequences. Again, he understands the importance of teaching kids more than just what is in the books. It is easily one of my favorite Feeny moments. The way he stands up for Eric and the way he is able to help Tori understand the impact of what she did.
Balance of Power
This episode and this scene is beyond powerful. The students experience unconventional methods from Stuart (played by Fred Savage) at Pennbrook. He acts like a friend more so than a teacher. Which, in my opinion, is ok. However, there’s lines you MUST NOT cross. He then uses his power to make a move on Topanga. Cory confronts him about it and ends up pushing him through a door. Cory faces disciplinary action.
In a classic case of manipulation, Stuart attempts to cut the students off in order to create a narrative that he did nothing wrong. He even went so far as to undercut Mr. Feeny when asking Shawn his thoughts. Shawn clearly feeling bad apologizes. Feeny, of course, thinks nothing of it.
The best part is of course Feeny getting worked up to defend what happened to Topanga threatening Stuart with hyperbolic violence. Because he was on their side, it helped both Cory and Topanga stand up for themselves. But the gravity of the situation also created a vulnerable moment for both him and the students he loves. That idea being that he can’t always protect them. It doesn’t mean he won’t try.
Grand Process of Education
Cory ends up falling asleep and failing a test due to staying up with Alan to watch a no hitter. Cory experiences the conundrum that there is not always a right answer. Alan said Mr. Feeny was right about him not making up the test. Mr. Feeny said Alan was right for waking Cory.
At the end of the episode when the latter happens, he tells Cory a story of when he was a kid. He wanted to hear the president on the radio. His father told “I don’t want you staying up with me.” He says he learned nothing in school the next day. He explains to Cory that education is all about the overall effect of years of absorption. The process can’t be threatened by the occasional late night no hitter and that it is important that a boy spends time with his father.
That part just always hits me to the core. I never ever want any of my kids to feel like I don’t like or want to spend time with them. There have been nights where my son has come from his room while I am watching TV or hanging in the living room. He’s asked if he can sit with me for a while before going back to bed. I let him because there will be a day where those moments don’t happen again. At the end of the day, I feel my job as a parent is to be my children’s most trusted friend and leader.
Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do Good.
I love you all. Class Dismissed.
Thank you William Daniels for giving us the legend that is Mr. Feeny.
Leave a Reply