Monday, January 16, 2017

20 Greatest Meets World Characters: #11. Chet Hunter

#11. Chet Hunter



Played By: Blake Clark (1995-2000, 2015)
Episode Count: 13 (12- BMW, 1- GMW)
Role: Shawn's father, Jack's biological father
Signature Episodes: Career Day, I Never Sang For My Legal Guardian, Fishing For Virna, Janitor Dad, Turkey Day, Brothers, We'll Have A Good Time Then

One of the cornerstones of Chet's character is his ability to draw us, the viewers, into his game. We love this guy. We love hearing his stories and his jokes. But he's a criminal! A hustler! A conman, and a drunk! Chet is a liar, but we still want to listen to his lies. We'll forgive all of that just because he's likeable. And suddenly... we're part of the problem. No one holds Chet accountable for his nonsense, so he just goes on like always. The moment where this overwhelms me is his first appearance, in Career Day. Chet is grandstanding and making up stories and all the students buy into it. Shawn doesn't even bother trying to tell Cory that his father is lying. This is every day for Shawn, watching his father get away with this crap. And we're part of it. We personally experience the power of his charisma, we are players in this game that has Shawn so trapped. It would be easy to make the viewer feel sorry for Shawn, it happens all the time, but here Chet is bringing us in on the wrong side. That's incredible.

But Shawn isn't the only one who can see through to what Chet really is. Chet sees it too. We start to develop this in I Never Sang For My Legal Guardian with this line when Cory tries to convince him to go back to Philly, "I love him. I love him so much I can't go back." And it's true, he genuinely does love his son. Every time they run into each other, Chet glows and says "Hey Shawny!" or something like that. We learn in Road Trip that Chet loved to brag about Shawn to anyone who will listen at this truck stop, and presumably every other truck stop he frequented. He gives Shawn the toaster he's been working on all episode in Brothers because it's all he has to give. He swallows his pride and goes to Jack's stepfather for help with Shawn's tuition. He does love Shawn, and he genuinely wants what's best for him. Without that love we could have written off "he's better off without me" as a convenient excuse. Fortunately, we have plenty of proof that it's genuine.

That thread returns in the season 5 opener when Chet basically forces Shawn to move in with Jack, because he thinks it's for the best. What's really interesting about it is at the end of I Never Sang. Chet agrees to return and take care of Shawn, but he never admits that Shawn is in good hands with him or that he's good enough of a father to raise him, he never really says what he wants to do. He just gets talked out of chasing Virna anymore and basically says "Okay I guess I'm back." That's interesting because of two parallel moments: there at the end of I Never Sang, Shawn attempts to convince Chet to stay, "I need you. And I'm thinkin' you need me." But Chet doesn't respond to that! He deflects with a joke, like he always does. It's not until We'll Have A Good Time Then that we return to that. There are so many great lines here, Chet saying "I'm a lousy father" directly to Shawn, Shawn asking in tears if he just wasn't good enough for Chet to stick around, and Chet responds with his theme, "No Shawn, I wasn't good enough for you." But the REAL champion line is right after that, the parallel moment I was talking about with I Never Sang. Shawn falls into his father's arms, "I need you dad." And this time Chet responds. "I need you too, son." 

That is the line that convinces me 100% that Chet has finally changed, that he actually would have stayed this time. The two situations are so similar. Chet wants to leave, Shawn is living without him, Shawn wants him to stay and says he needs him. But this time, his poisonous mentality of not being good enough doesn't matter, because he realizes he needs Shawn too. I love that they didn't give him the easy way out, there isn't some magic moment where he realizes that he is good enough. They just need each other. And what's amazing is that Chet does stay! His spirit stays with Shawn and guides him, all the way up to Girl Meets Hurricane and presumably beyond that. It would be cheesy and unacceptable to have this explosive crushing death on the show just to bring him back as a ghost if it weren't for all of Shawn's work to get him to stay, culminating in that scene in We'll Have where he says "I'm stayin." And this time he really does.

Change is easy on this show. People change every week, back forth, forgetting what they learned. But the grave consistency of not being good enough, the heartwarming consistency of honestly loving his son, and this final moment of genuine revelation... It might be the most solid and polished character arc in the series. And one of the most powerful. Start to finish, there are no cracks in the design of this character, or in the telling of his story.

And that's just his core theme. You've got his devout and relentless (if foolish) love for his wife, the contrasting fatherhood that lets us examine Alan more closely, his compelling mix of shame and pride in Turkey Day, and most importantly, he's responsible for setting up most of Shawn's internal struggles, in particular the passing on of "I'm not good enough." And we'll get into that in the Shawn post.

Chet is a robust character, fully fleshed out and brought to life, with an almost unmatched level of consistency. His story is emotional and compelling with an overwhelmingly satisfying ending, and he leaves a massive, lasting impact on many of the main characters. He has no trouble contending with the ranks of some of the top ten characters, despite such a low episode count. To be blunt, the #10 post better be damn convincing. 

49 comments:

  1. Shipping Wars Are StupidJanuary 16, 2017 at 5:07 PM

    Jesus Christ, Sean. Way to rip my heart out and set it on fire.

    Chet's arc with Shawn was gorgeous despite how limited it was.

    Chet is a drunk, a conman, a swindler.

    But he's also a funny, dry and very warm, if somewhat distant, man from what we saw.

    If it was literally anyone other than Blake Clark, I doubt we'd feel as fond for him.

    But he is, and it's fantastic.

    I also think we always saw Chet at his best. We never saw him drunk, we never saw him as the guy who watched tv all night while Shawn sat and waited for him to say something to him...but we know. We know he wasn't perfect, we know he screwed up so many times...but he tried.

    And that's all I can ask for in a character.

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  2. This is Cryptid.

    Dammit, Sean. This is your best write-up yet.

    That's the closest I've come to crying since I ever actually joined the Feeny-verse's fandom.

    Chet is simply an outstanding character. I'll elaborate more tomorrow, since it's getting late, but damn.

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    1. literally will friedleJanuary 22, 2017 at 12:44 AM

      Is your heart made of stone?! I've been watching a few episodes of BMW tonight (City Slackers, Eskimo, Things Change and I don't remember which others) and I'M BAWLING MY EYES OUT, DUDE.

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  3. I wanted to look more at Chet and Virna, but it was already pretty long. The gist of it is the distinct LACK of "i'm not good enough" when it comes to Virna. He's not just some self loathing guy who thinks he's not good enough for anyone. It's Shawn in particular that's special.

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    1. This.

      Even with Jack, he seems to want to make some kind of nascent efforts, but there's not much in the way of guilt; perhaps because he's aware Jack has a capable support system outside of him. I'd guess that it's knowing he was leaving Shawn without that which caused him to make the efforts he did, inconsistent as they were, rather than any kind of self-loathing as a characterisation choice.

      And he definitely never seemed to think he wasn't good enough for Virna - even Ghost!Chet jokingly blames Virna and Shawn's anonymous real mother for 'kicking his butt' in their relationships (and Shawn's drunken rant at Jack implies that Chet told him Jack's mom 'found a guy with more money'.)
      At his worst, he's abusive; but even when he's shown as most 'normal', living with Virna and Shawn, there's the inability to really deal with issues. The bills go in the microwave, Virna apparently not coping mentally is joked about...

      TBH, Chet's desire to try for Shawn is really the only thing that redeems him as a likeable guy beyond the surface charm, he doesn't come off as a guy who would ever have maintained a functional romantic relationship; and he probably had other kids out there (lol, Eddie and Stacy before they went wherever Nebula did?)

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  4. I can't fault his importance on the show, but honestly, I don't think he was going to stay. He told Alan as much. Sure, I -think- that was before the big culmination, but I think what it was ultimately saying was 'every time I mean to stay, and every time I don't.'

    He may have stayed for a bit longer this time; but I think ultimately he would have left. Chasing Virna was really just an excuse.

    Having said that though, GMW has sabotaged his character. He really did try, and it was only near the end, when Shawn was about fifteen, that he was -constantly- coming back and then leaving again. GMW has made out that he was -never- around, and constantly leaving from when Shawn was very young.

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    1. Oh, I think that was the story they were going with by the time of Chet's death, though, no? I feel like that's more a BMW retcon.

      Really, though, I'm having trouble remembering what negative stuff was said about Chet in GMW. I feel like Virna's gotten a rougher rep than Chet.

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    2. Yeah, I'm not quite as convinced that Chet was DEFINITELY going to stay as Sean is, though I'd like to believe he would. I'm certain he believed it as he was saying it, and that he'd have stuck around for a while... but in a couple months? Once he was back on his feet? I don't know.

      And that's the thing about Chet. You never quite know. Yeah, he means well, yeah,he tries his best.... but he's also quite selfish at times, and his best simply isn't good enough. A very morally complex character in a show that doesn't have a ton of moral ambiguity.

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    3. He told Alan to look after them before that big moment with Shawn.

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    4. I know he did; which is why I agree with Christian that he absolutely believed he'd stay -at the time-. I've seen too many examples, both fictional and real, where someone believes that when they're saying it on their deathbed, but when they're back on their feet they don't stick to it.

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    5. Yeah, I'm a cynic. I'd love to believe he would have stuck around, but I don't know...

      I liked Chet, and I love this recap because it perfectly hits on how you're charmed by the guy despite yourself, but even the positive memories of his and Shawn's interaction always have this kind of bitter interpration.

      Like in Road Trip, we know he loved to brag about Shawn, but also that Shawn's another yarn he likes to tell ('How's medical school?')

      He has cute nicknames for Shawn, but he always busts them out when he's telling Shawn he's off again ('It's all about you, slim jim!' or when he tells Alan he won't be back, knowing Shawn's eavesdropping, which seems particularly cruel.)

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    6. "He has cute nicknames for Shawn, but he always busts them out when he's telling Shawn he's off again" Janitor Dad is the perfect counterexample to this. Chet is genuinely thrilled to be spending time around Shawn.

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    7. It's odd to me that the fact Chet ACTUALLY does stick around in ghost form isn't a strong indicator to you guys that he would have stuck around if he lived. That seems like a really blatant metaphor to me. This is Michael Jacobs after all.

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    8. Cryptid456 here.

      I'm on Sean's side. While it is true that when he's on his sickbed, Chet asks Alan to look after his boys--and I find it very interesting he includes Jack in that request, but that's BEFORE the talk he has with his sons.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SChAA3oukv8

      The quality's kind of potato, but there's still enough to get what's going on.

      Chet resolves to change in that moment, because he finally realizes how much his copious absences have hurt his son. He changed his mind, and wanted to stay. And then, because BNW had a World that kicked the protagonists around, Chet died.

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    9. Because ghost forms don't mean anything. It's rather a common theme that people change -after- it's too late, after they die. A Christmas Carol for example - yeah, Scrooge changed, but Marley 'changed' after he died.

      And it -does- indicate to me that he meant to stick around; but ghosts notoriously are governed by their last thoughts in life. So, yes, as he died, he intended to stick around - and so he does.

      Would he have stuck around for the long-haul if he had lived? We'll never know, but I find it doubtful. How many times have we seen someone change on TV, and mean it at that very moment, only to backslide a few months down the track?

      I don't agree though that he was telling Alan whilst Shawn was eavesdropping to be deliberately cruel.

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    10. I didn't think it was deliberately cruel, that's not Chet's makeup; but I did think it was thoughtlessly cruel.

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    11. Will, if you think ghost Chet "doesn't mean anything," then I don't think we're living on the same planet.

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    12. I take Ghost Chet to be a representation of Chet in Shawn's mind, rather than an actual ghost. So, of course Ghost Chet sticks around... it's a version of Chet that's there to do and say anything Shawn wants him to.

      But, still, even if we take Chet to be an actual ghost (and some episodes imply he is) then he still comes and goes. He's not around day-to-day, he pops up every so often, just like living Chet.

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    13. The overarching message, whether the ghost is imagined or not, is that Chet is there when Shawn needs him now. That's a huge flag for what would have been.

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    14. Eh, no, I'm with Will on this, I don't necessarily equate the two. I mean, maybe Chet *would* have stayed, I just don't see his existence as a ghost as being some sort of confirmation of that. I just think they liked Chet and liked having Blake on the show and found reasons to bring him back.

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    15. I am honestly blindsided by you saying that. This entire nuclear war about whether or not he's going to stay, and him showing up to finally be there for Shawn as a ghost, you're saying those two things are NOT connected? Their connection is like, a base level not-even-an-inference conclusion. I mean I can't PROVE that it means he would have stayed, I guess we have to let that go, but to say it's not related is ridiculous.

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    16. I mean, the bombastic description of it being a "nuclear war" aside, I have to admit I was never too troubled on if Chet would or would not have stayed. The truth is, I don't think Chet knew for sure if he was going to stay. He'd probably try, but he always tries. I think he died before he could really be considered as having made that decision or not.

      And so to me the Chet we see Shawn talk to exists in stasis as being who Chet was all along, not a different, reformed one. Ghost Chet's just a little bit more emotionally honest, because Shawn needs him to be for those moments.

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    17. But yeah, I consider Chet a character who, though aware of his flaws, ultimately died before he could correct them. And that that's part of the tragedy of him, and served as an inspiration for Shawn not to do the same. So, Chet having put all those flaws and demons to bed in the moments before his death, I'm not sure I buy that.

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    18. I think that's the point. He -meant- to stay; absolutely. But that's all that ghost Chet means - given we have to accept that he really is a ghost as he knows stuff Shawn didn't. Supposedly.

      But to say that just because ghost Chet stays (and well, Christian's right. He doesn't stay. He just turns up at various points - always when Shawn needs him), means Chet would have? I don't buy it. Chet died before he could tell whether he really could have stayed the course this time. And that, in itself, is so important for Shawn - longterm, I think this has helped Shawn make sure he didn't make that mistake. That he wouldn't be one who left. It took him a while to finally get there, but I think that's part of his promise to Maya that 'I can't promise we'll stay together, but I promise that I want to'.

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    19. This is Cryptid.

      I'd like to point out that when Ghost Chet does make his appearances, not only is it apparent that he is a real ghost and that it isn't in Shawn's head, but it does imply his presence, while not always seen, is indeed permanent.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqj8nWq99j8

      With that in mind, keeping Ghost Chet as an actual being, if not always a corporeal one, then I have to agree with Sean.

      Chet said "I'm ALWAYS here for you boys." And "always" is a word that has meaning in the Chet-Shawn dynamic. Right before Chet has his heart attack, Shawn snarls that leaving is something Chet "always does. You always blow into town, and make all these promises and then you ALWAYS leave!"

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    20. It varies episode by episode, though. In "Family Trees" and "Brave New World" he's treated as if he may be an actual ghost. In "Road Trip" and, particularly, "Girl Meets Hurricane" he's treated as if he's in Shawn's head.

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    21. Cryptid; that's exactly my point though. Chet -does- always make these promises, and always leaves. So why is this different? Because he dies before we can see whether or not it plays out? Even if the ghost is real, and even if he is -always- there; I have to back to the fact that ghosts notoriously don't really change; their last thoughts on earth is how they act. So as Chet really did mean to stick around when he died, he does. Doesn't mean he would have. Just means he -meant- to.

      I do kind of think we're getting to the point of we understand each other's arguments; but just don't agree. I see yours and Sean's arguments; I see your points, I just don't come to the same conclusion about them.

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  5. Great write-up man. While I won't argue that Chet deserves a place among the top 20, I personally feel that he is a bit too high.

    While everything you said is correct and we all liked Chet, I just feel that he was in too few episodes to place this high. Perhaps a few spots lower and I wouldn't argue. While he is a more complete character than Lucas or Farkle, and Blake Clark is a better actor than both, to me they were just so much more important to the overall story of GMW than Chet was to the overall story of BMW.

    Chet was indeed a hurricane. Blowing into town and disrupting Shawn's life only to roll out again before people even fully realized the full extent of the turmoil he caused.

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    1. I get what you're saying; but Chet really did create so much of how Shawn is. The argument of course being that he didn't really have much effect on anyone besides Shawn and Jack; except in how others perceive them. But that's pretty crucial; especially with Shawn.

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    2. I agree with Will on that. Obviously Chet being a *better* character than Lucas or Farkle helped him out, but Chet also is such a seminal part of defining who Shawn is. Shawn as we know him would be a vastly less interesting character without Chet. I'm not sure either Lucas or Farkle affected any character as heavily as Chet affected Shawn, and even if they did, it would be to a character who matters less than Shawn.

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    3. I have to ask who you think should be above him

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    4. Well that's two examples, but is that it? Does 1960 have amy above chet? Or would lucas and farkle be above amy too?

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    5. I might have Amy above Chet. I would definitely not have Farkle above Chet. Lucas... that's... debatable. I think if Lucas and Riley acted like a normal couple, maybe. As it stands though... probably not. Lucas did have a fairly major impact on how Riley acted in season 1; but in the last two seasons her parents and Maya seem to have re-established their influence. (I'm not saying this as a negative.)

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    6. Sean in answer to your question I think Lucas, Farkle and Amy should be above Chet, that's all.

      The three of them had more of an influence on the overall story than Chet. As I said Chet was great, but mostly limited to Shawn's story.

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    7. I gave my top 12 a week or two ago and I had Chet at 11 (the difference being I had Amy at 10 and Katy at 12). To be honest I think my reason for that was Chet was only in half of BMW, but he definitely had a huge part in defining both Shawn and ultimately the whole dynamic of Cory & Shawn.

      I don't think you can say that Lucas or Farkle shaped the narrative anywhere near as much as Chet did. The urge to include them higher feels much more linked to the fact they were main characters rather than their actual impact on the story.

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  6. The whole family loves this show. Pretty sad that it is getting cancelled and Berzardvark is somehow staying on which is the worst Disney show I have ever seen. Disney may just be leaving my television completely. Horrible move !!! Bye Disney, Bye Disneyland, just cancelled our trip👋

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  7. To me, Chet is a Top 10 character in the MW universe. He just looms so large over the entirety of the universe, that I think it's a slight disservice to him for being outside the Top 10.

    He was a delightful scumbag. And I don't think I'm being harsh about it. He's a family friendly Michael Corleone, save for the murder and racketeering. You want for Chet to finally pull his head out of his ass, and be a dad. You want it because its almost hard to believe this gregarious, and charming guy is as big a heel as he is. He's a tornado of personality that damn near destroys everything he's near.

    Except Shawn. He does everything he can to not hurt Shawn. Sometimes he fails. Sometimes, he succeeds. When it comes to any "greatest ever" type list, I think it's helpful to do one exercise. Remove the person from the overworld, and see if it has an impact. If we remove Chet from the universe, everything changes. The realism of the show, the entirety of the the Shawn and Jack characters, the importance of Alan, Feeny and Turner to Shawn. Entire dichotomies shift. He's that important.

    Fantastic write up, Sean. Some of your best work.

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    1. This is Cryptid.

      Spot on, pwfan. I've been waiting for your take. And I like the idea of that exercise. Without that person, or at least, without their defining traits (what if Chet were just a poor man living with his wife and son), how is it different?

      But I think you missed something important--with Chet being who he is, what is the effect CORY has on Shawn? I doubt Cory would be so devoted, or as Christian and Sean put it two summers ago in the Character Leagues "slavishly loyal," if it weren't for the fact that he realized that Shawn did need that sort of loyalty.

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  8. Probably one of my saddest Boy Meets World quotes is, when the doctor goes to tell Jack and Shawn that Chet is dead, he says "His heart wasn't strong enough".
    It feels like the writers are implying a double meaning between his biological heart and his feeling heart, if you know what I'm saying. And, despite what Shawn and Chet might think, Chet's feeling heart was strong and big. He loved his sons, and he loved life, and we loved him.
    I'll tell you one thing, my heart wasn't strong enough for that line. 😭😭

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    1. I'm always very impressed with the actor playing that doctor every time I see that episode. Those are his only lines, his only scene, he doesn't have a lot of context, he's probably just a work-a-day actor who wasn't familiar with the show who got a gig playing random "Doctor" but he *really* seemed devastated to have to tell Shawn and Jack this. I *really* believed he was a doctor who just lost a patient.

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    2. This is Cryptid.

      Curiousity got the better of me, and I looked up the actor who played the doctor on IMDB. He's got a long history of television appearances, but I'll have to double check to see if anything stands out.

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0575339/?ref_=tt_cl_t14

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    3. Okay, well curiosity also got the best of me, so I looked at his IMDb page.
      His name is Julio Oscar Mechoso, so I'm guessing he's from Hispanic descent and so are most of his characters (including his BMW character, Dr. Sanchez). Not that it matters, just an interesting fact.
      Anyways, he had recurring roles on two shows called Damon and Matador, and a starring role on another show calledGreetings from Tuscon, all three short lived, but all well rated (on IMDb, anyways).
      Besides that, he's had 1-episode appearences on shows like Seinfeld, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Nip/Tuck, Grey's Anatomy, Burn Notice, The Big Bang Theory, Flashforward, Castle, Nikita, and, as we all know, Boy Meets World. He's also been on lots of films, but I'm more of a TV show kinda guy.
      So, he's doing pretty good, and he's a pretty good actor. I totally recomend him.

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    3. .. um, could you please wait till the new episode discussion is up? I haven't actually seen it yet; and I can avoid the main discussion till I do, but it's harder to avoid these little bits on other discussions.

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    4. Yeah, seriously guys. There's no reason in the world to be discussing the contents of the finale in the comments for Chet's character entry of all things. The review will be up shortly.

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  10. More catching up. I like the actor, and really enjoyed the character, except for the bit with his ghost and Rachel right at the end of BMW, which these days would be hard to describe as anything other sexual assault.

    Great write-up, and nice discussion.

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