Oh, how excruciating those awkward preteen years can be! Your face is sprouting mini molehills by the minute, you somehow lose your ability to speak coherently when your class crush is around and finding a seat in the cafeteria is like being on the set of West Side Story. Girls have to deal with developing boobs (or worse, not developing them), and boys may have to employ library books to hide problems that, uh, pop up.
Yes, puberty is painful. But it's much less so when you can watch friends like Cory, Topanga, Shawn, Eric and Angela suffer through it onscreen. They explore all the uncomfortable, pubescent milestones, saving you at least one or two mortifying talks with mom and dad.
Speaking of parental units, the family-friendly sitcoms we're nostalgic for served up dual perspectives on ol' mother and father dearest. Virtually any preteen would want to crawl in a hole and die if the 'rents were to show up at school to deliver the brown-bag lunch "mistakenly" left on the counter. To a preteen, parents — by nature — seem intrusive beings intent on destroying any semblance of a social life. But no matter how bad you thought your parents were, they likely paled in comparison to super-strict sitcom parents like Philip Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Carl Winslow from Family Matters. On the other hand, these shows also served to reinforce an idea lacking in today's young adult programming: parents being present as parents and as people who — although they make mistakes — would do anything for their kids. Home Improvement's Tim Taylor may have been a walking disaster, and Full House's Danny Tanner may have been completely clueless, but both always found ways to make their families feel special.
Sometimes, young adults do things like glue their hands together on a dare — at that age, decision-making is not a strong suit. Blame it on the hormones or the more likely culprit, peer pressure. Enter Mr. Feeny: the wise, old adult who is full of sage advice and is at once feared and respected. The Matthews family's neighbor on Boy Meets World, Mr. Feeny started off as the gang's sixth-grade teacher and turned into their lifelong mentor. He said the things we all needed to hear (but sometimes didn't want to), and, surprisingly, we listened. Mr. Feeny wasn't the lone dispenser of profound sitcom wisdom in the '90s, though. Remember Wilson from Home Improvement? We never saw more than the top of his head, but he sure gave good guidance.
We would be lying if we said we wouldn't be watching spin-offs of these shows right along with the new generation of viewers — partly because the sitcoms bring back warm, fuzzy, after-school memories, but mostly because we just gotta know what became of our favorite characters. Word has it the Boy Meets World spin-off — aptly titled Girl Meets World — will focus on Cory and Topanga's as-yet-unknown daughter. Will bad-boy best buddy Shawn be along for the ride? Mr. Feeny has surely retired; will he be making a cameo? We may get those answers when Girl Meets World makes its debut, but there are other burning questions to be addressed. Did Family Matters' Laura and Urkel tie the knot? Did Will ever make it big after the rest of the Fresh Prince family moved away? Calling all TV producers — you need to get your priorities straight and jump on these spin-offs, stat!
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