“And Then There Was Shawn” is the first Boy Meets World episode I ever saw. As sweet as the show was, because it aired on ABC’s TGIF lineup, my parents were convinced that it was as raunchy as Friends, and so I had to sneakily watch episodes at my friends’ houses. This classic horror parody aired in 1998, which made me about nine years old when I first caught it. All it took was these 22 minutes of brilliant parody for me to fall in love with this show and become a dedicated viewer until it ended in 2000.
Fourteen years after it first aired, “And Then There Was Shawn” is still most people’s favorite Boy Meets World episode. Even though the show didn’t air within the window of programs that usually get the GIF treatment, this one has its very own Tumblr tag regardless and has been immortalized through people constantly resharing the same sharp quotes.
In short, the episode follows the formula of Scream (which had come out just two years prior): Pretty high-schoolers are stalked by a masked killer, with one of them — Shawn — acting as the pop-culture-literate guide predicting who will die next. But the Boy Meets World writers also pulled from plenty of other entertainment at the time, including South Park:
Not to mention Eric yelling out “Hidey ho!” just like Mr. Hanky. I was definitely terrified by this episode, since I was a little young for the show’s audience. Hollywood.com had the wonderful idea of doing a sitdown with the Boy Meets World cast and crew to commemorate this episode. The whole oral history is certainly worth a read, but certain parts stuck out to me. For one, Rider Strong mentions how kids under 10 wouldn’t grasp the irony of the episode and were just scared. I had grown up watching all of Mel Brooks‘ movies, so I was already well-versed in parody. I remember thinking, Wait, there are TV shows that make fun of pop culture? Awesome!
You know how else this episode pushed the envelope? With the sex jokes.
Plus the cameo from Jennifer Love Hewitt, who had starred in I Know What You Did Last Summer the year before. Of course, we all knew her as Jennifer Love Fefferman, or the girl that Eric starts making out with upon meeting. Even I know who she was back then, and the makeout session was another jab at the kids’ sex lives that got discussed only a handful of times on the show. (As opposed to something like One Tree Hill or Gossip Girl today.)
But back to the terrifying parts! I was genuinely scared on the parts where the cloaked killer would dart by. In the oral history, the Boy Meets World writers discussed how they couldn’t have any gore even though they were offing half the cast. But death by pencil or scissors was just so much funnier, anyway!
Rider Strong has the best anecdotes about the episode, like how none of the cast could keep a straight face:
“We actors could not stop laughing. I mean, it was a problem. We usually would break character to laugh once or twice an episode, but when we were filming the Scream episode, we were falling apart on every single line. That’s not an exaggeration.You know how when you were a kid and you’d get the giggles and not be able to stop for a few minutes? That’s what it was like shooting the Scream episode, except it lasted for hours.”
But of course the most shocking reveal was that the killer was actually Shawn! Don’t tell me you don’t get chills in this moment:
At the time, I remember being confused: Why was Shawn killing everyone so that it would just be him, Cory, and Topanga? But as we learned, this dream sequence was Shawn’s way of working through how upset he was over his two friends breaking up. And here, Shawn stood in for the fans, but in a way where he could actually impact the plot. Creator Michael Jacobs marveled at how they got to that point: ”How do you write an episode where one of the characters says, ‘It is not okay with me, that the love you aspire to someday, isn’t working anymore. And for that I will burn down the world.’ And then you get that episode from that idea.”
“And Then There Was Shawn” could be the best Halloween TV episode because it skewered the pop culture of the time; it got to make slightly adult jokes that viewers could get on one level as kids and on a whole other level as adults; it still lives on in quotes and GIFs; and it actually advanced the plot. It’s a classic, and I’m so glad it was my introduction to Boy Meets World.
And to make your day even better, you can watch the whole thing right here!