These ‘Boy Meets World’ Episodes Were Banned From Future Airings on TV

The Big Picture

  • Some episodes of the beloved sitcom Boy Meets World were removed from syndication due to their controversial content, including underage drinking and sexual innuendo.
  • Despite tackling serious topics with restraint and good-natured humor, the Disney Channel deemed these episodes inappropriate for viewers and never aired them.
  • With the rise of streaming services, these banned episodes have become accessible again, but their past censorship seems baffling when viewed through a modern lens.

Though many television series have had the misfortune of particular episodes being removed from syndication, the respective reasoning behind such bans has widely varied. From violence to sexuality to otherwise provocative content, all manner of taboo has sparked backlash from audiences and critics alike. And while one may expect this kind of hand-wringing to be associated with certain kinds of boundary-pushing shows, the fact remains that some of television’s more straightforward fare has ruffled feathers from time to time. With the advent of home video and streaming services, however, these bans are largely temporary as viewers have acquired a range of ways to access episodes that had been axed from reruns.

With 158 episodes over a seven-year-run, Boy Meets World proved to be one of the most beloved sitcoms of the 1990s, but even this light-hearted series chronicling the coming-of-age hijinks of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), and Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) couldn’t escape controversy. Between the show’s fifth and sixth seasons, three episodes would ultimately cause enough of a stir to be removed from syndication on the Disney Channel after originally airing on ABC. As was and continues to be the case with the majority of sitcoms about adolescence and young adulthood, Boy Meets World touched on some quintessential topics with restraint, tastefulness, and good-natured humor, making the response to this trio of episodes that much more baffling.

‘Boy Meets World’ Addressed Underage Drinking in Season 5

Cory (Ben Savage) drinking a bottle of whiskey with Shawn (Rider Strong) in Boy Meets World Season 5
Image via ABC

The 18th episode of Boy Meets World‘s fifth season saw Cory struggling to cope in the aftermath of his and Topanga’s break-up. As so many angst-ridden teenagers do, he decides to try his hand at drinking to loosen up and have fun. After he ropes Shawn into taking some slugs of whiskey at a party, the pair get busted after urinating on a cop car. While Cory quickly does an about-face and swears off alcohol, Shawn takes a liking to it and continues indulging. But when his drinking escalates, and he brushes off his concerned friends, things come to a head when he gets physically aggressive with his on-and-off girlfriend Angela (Trina McGee).

Dubbed “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love,” this episode tackled the universal issue of underage drinking with a deft combination of irreverent humor and sensitivity. Per the sitcom formula, Cory and Shawn learn the error of their ways and come through the 22-minute episode largely unscathed, though the latter has to confront some personal demons in the process. As Shawn’s brother Jack (Matthew Lawrence) addresses, alcoholism runs in their family and was a driving factor in their father’s inability to maintain a relationship. While the episode largely avoids coming off like a generic after-school special on the perils of addiction, the powers that be at the Disney Channel deemed it inappropriate for their viewers and never broadcast it.

Disney Channel Also Banned This Season 5 “Will They Or Won’t They?” Episode

Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) wearing prom king and queen crowns and smiling at each other in a hotel room in Boy Meets World
Image via ABC

Just a couple of months after “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love” dropped, ABC aired “Prom-ises, Prom-ises.” Having mostly rekindled their relationship, Cory and Topanga go to their Senior Prom and contemplate going all the way. While the word “sex” is never even uttered throughout the episode, bits of innuendo and wink-wink references come in droves. After Cory and Topanga check into a hotel room, the episode takes a decidedly silly turn when the former’s parents — who just discovered they have another child on the way — check into the same hotel for their own night of fun. Shenanigans ensue, with Cory and his father accidentally and awkwardly gaining access to one another’s room, and ultimately the teenage couple hold off on their big night after having second thoughts.

As it turns out, the brass at Disney Channel wouldn’t be the only ones to have an issue with the episode. Decades after it aired, Rider Strong expressed reservations he had at the time of filming it. According to People, the actor revealed,

“I remember being very upset during that entire week. I was very upset with the adults on our set — the way that they were approaching this, specifically because we were not discussing safe sex. The fact that we would not bring up Cory and Topanga using condoms or having a discussion about birth control at all, and yet the entire episode was about whether ‘will they’ or ‘will they not’…I just remember being so upset, and I brought it up. I remember talking to Michael Jacobs about it, saying, ‘Can we talk about this?'”

Danielle Fishel echoed a similar sentiment and said, “I don’t have specific memories other than just, kind of, ickiness about the week.” Though it was tame by most standards and played more for laughs than a dramatic meditation on teenage sex, the episode never saw the light of day on Disney Channel reruns.

RELATED: The 20 Most Controversial TV Shows of All Time, Ranked

The Final Banned ‘Boy Meets World’ Episode Was Deemed Too Racy for Disney

Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) talking in an elevator in Boy Meets World
Image via ABC

A year after “Prom-ises, Prom-ises” aired, what would become Boy Meets World‘s third and final banned episode premiered. After a series of petty truths about one another come to light, Cory and Topanga pursue a relationship policy of pure, unfiltered honesty. But no good deed goes unpunished as their newfound level of brutal truth-telling backfires. As is often the case, their behavior reverberates through their entire social circle, culminating in an uncomfortable gathering among friends where the highest priority is honesty. Once again, the culprit responsible for the Disney Channel’s refusal to air the episode was sexual content.

As harsh truths fly unabated and tensions flare, sexual frustration comes to the fore as Cory expresses a desire to take his relationship with Topanga to the next level. At the same time, Shawn and Angela, despite not being in a relationship, have their moment in the spotlight when they consider the idea of engaging in casual sex without any real commitment or consequence. Much like the previously controversial episode, “The Truth About Honesty” is all bark and no bite, merely scratching the surface of sexuality while restraining itself from being too provocative or explicit for such a series.

Though the Disney Channel removed these three episodes from their Boy Meets World catalog of reruns, such censorship lasted only so long. As streaming services began coming out of the woodwork in the 2010s, all sorts of episodes from numerous TV series began reappearing for viewers to check out, albeit with some exceptions for those deemed too offensive for various reasons. With hindsight as clear as day, however, one can’t help but take another look at this trio of episodes through a modern lens and chuckle at the fact that they were considered too problematic and racy for audiences.

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