Picks and Pans Review: Boy Meets World
Prime time's new enfant Savage is Ben, younger brother of Fred, who reigned as TV's cutest kid for five seasons on The Wonder Years before those awkward teen years intruded. In this sitcom, li'l Ben plays a smart-alecky boy, dealing oh-so-precociously with school and family. Betsy Handle a Mary Kay Place look-and-sound-alike, plays his mother, and William Buss portrays his father.
At one point Savage says to his teacher (St. Elsewhere's William Daniels), "Are you aware that I'm only 11 years old?" Actually that's an awfully hard concept to hold on to. Savage's sarcastic bon mots sound distinctly more like the words of a grown-up gag writer than they do the spontaneous utterings of a preadolescent. Even though they've dumbed him up since the Borscht Belt pilot, his character is still overwritten.
Ben does have two things going in his favor, however. His character is a Philadelphia Phillies fan, an awfully endearing trait. And he's got Daniels, the master of the withering riposte, as his primary foil. No TV actor since Gale Gordon can put as much sting into such a simple line as, "Well, you shrewd little observer of the human condition."