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Why Hollywood won't cast Ben Savage anymore

From 1993 to 2000, Ben Savage was one of the most famous and recognizable young actors on television. And with good reason: the child star anchored a popular and successful network sitcom, Boy Meets World. As teen (and then young adult) Cory Matthews, Savage grew up on our television screens, portraying Cory all the way from when he was a neurotic, excitable sixth-grader sparring with his teacher, Mr. Feeny, and clowning with his best friend, Shawn, up through high school, college, and his marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Topanga.

Because of non-stop reruns of the classic family sitcom on the Disney Channel and elsewhere, plus its sequel series Girl Meets World, Ben Savage will always be Cory Matthews to a lot of people. That could be part of the reason why adult Ben Savage is not lighting up TV screens the way he did back when he was a teenager. Here's why Hollywood might be reluctant to "meet" with Ben Savage.

Come on, give the guy a break

When Cory Matthews finally met the world when Boy Meets World wrapped up in 2000, Savage was extremely ready to move on. "I was 19 at the time and had been on the show for seven years," he told Rolling Stone. "I was really focused on going to college." And matriculate he did. Savage enrolled at prestigious Stanford University, where he'd been accepted two years earlier but had to defer because of his commitments to Boy Meets World. "When the show ended, I was tunnel-visioned about going to college and being a normal kid for a while."

That's exactly what he did. Savage mostly retreated from show business, only appearing in one major role over the next six years (in 2002's Swimming Upstream). He's worked sporadically ever since, so maybe it was a bit too long of a break.

Things get political

At Stanford, Savage surprisingly didn't major in theater, film, communications, or any other kind of arts or entertainment-based discipline for which he was already extremely experienced. Instead, he pursued a degree in political science, with a special interest in government and structure. As many high-achieving college students do, Savage also supplemented his studies of how the government works with the kind of prestigious, high-profile internship that most any political science major would want: he worked in the Washington, D.C., office of the late Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter. "Getting an internship in D.C. is really all about connections," Savage not-so-humble-bragged to Rolling Stone. "I thought it would be a fun experience."

That seemed to be the end of Savage's political aspirations — he doesn't currently have any plans to seek office. Why? Because he's feels that he's sort of been there, and done that. "Acting and politics are almost too similar," Savage quipped.

With special guest star, Ben Savage

It's not that Ben Savage has completely disappeared from Hollywood, it's just that he's not the out-and-out star of a popular situation comedy anymore. He does, however, stay in the world of show business (and in front of as many people as possible) by playing the episodic TV guest-star-of-the-week game. Not only does that kind of work pay the bills, it also gives an actor a chance to put his performance skills to the test, potentially playing a wildly different character with every new gig.

Savage has really mixed it up, too. He played a young, hotshot department store boss on an episode of Still Standing, a nerdy military engineer on Chuck, a possible murderer on Without a Trace, a nasty blogger on the kid-com Shake It Up, a sketchy lottery winner on Bones, and as the younger version of Mandy Patinkin's character on a flashback episode of Criminal Minds.

World, Meet Ben Savage

If you're over the age of, say, 20, you're probably most familiar with Ben Savage for his role as Cory Matthews on the 1993-2000 TGIF staple, the bildungsroman Boy Meets World. If you're under the age of 20, you know him from reruns of Boy Meets World that have aired on the Disney Channel for the past 20 years that proved so popular, it led to the network's reboot/sequel series called Girl Meets World. A brief synopsis: Cory and his Boy Meets World girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fishel) are now adults in their thirties and the parents of a tween named Riley (Rowan Blanchard).

It turns out that going back to the role that made him famous in the first place is just what Savage needed to jump-start his career. Featuring occasional appearances by other characters in the extended Meets World universe, Girl Meets World ran for 72 highly-rated episodes. The Disney Channel ended the series in 2017, before it had a chance to get stale.

He's isn't the king anymore

Somewhere in between a guest-star gig and being a full-fledged series regular is the casting status known as "recurring role." A character, and actor, pops in every few episodes, or a few consecutive installments as part of a plot arc. After the demise of Girl Meets World in 2017, Savage signed up for a stint on a semi-obscure (what with the overcrowded TV landscape) sitcom on CMT called Still the King. It starred real-life one-hit-wonder Billy Ray Cyrus as Burnin' Vernon, a scandal-prone one-hit wonder who can't find any traction in the music industry and winds up becoming a drunk-driving Elvis impersonator-turned-church handyman on parole.

It was, in short, the complete opposite of Boy Meets World, and yet it attracted Ben Savage, who over the course of four episodes played Gene, a federal agent and master of disguise. Unfortunately for Savage (and Cyrus), CMT canceled Still the King in late 2017.

He tried to make it "Legal"

During the relative obscurity between when Boy Meets World went off the air in 2000 and when Girl Meets World debuted on the Disney Channel in 2014, Savage made one notable attempt to return to TV as the star of a primetime show. In 2007, Savage headlined a lawyer sitcom called Making It Legal. Created by Freaks and Geeks and Just Shoot Me! writer Jeff Judah, the series would have concerned two attorneys  competing for an open partner slot at their Chicago firm. (Savage stayed in his wheelhouse, playing a neurotic, nervous, and eager-to-please young lawyer.)

The cast also included Scott Wolf (Party of Five), Ashley Williams (How I Met Your Mother), and Geoffrey Arend (Madam Secretary). Making It Legal could have been Savage's big comeback, and it could have represented a complete break with his kid-stuff past, but unfortunately the pilot didn't get picked up for a full series run. 

His movie career fizzled

Savage has tried to get a movie career going with a variety of roles in an array of low-budget, independently-produced films. While they might have earned solid reviews and enjoyed modest audiences at festivals and on home video, they were small movies in every way, as opposed to big blockbuster hits or major award winners. They didn't do much to increase the reach or magnitude of Ben Savage.

Among the interesting but obscure projects in which Savage starred are: the addiction/family drama The Caterpillar's Kimono; the opposites-attract romantic comedy Girl Meets Boy (not to be confused with Savage's Girl Meets World, or Boy Meets World); the quirky car salesman comedy Car Babes; the teen cancer tearjerker Swimming Upstream; Palo Alto, CA, a dramedy about four friends reuniting in their hometown on the first Thanksgiving of their college years; and Doesn't Texas Ever End, co-starring Emmanuel Lewis, a.k.a. TV's Webster, although it doesn't appear that this project ever came to fruition.

He's in charge

Ben Savage has a lot in common with his older brother, Fred Savage. Both got their start as kid actors and are best known for long-running ABC sitcoms that became cultural touchstones — Ben for Boy Meets World, and Fred for The Wonder Years. They've also both moved behind the camera and behind the scenes as they aged, choosing (or having to) act less but opting to direct and produce. Fred Savage has produced a few comedy shows such as Party Down and Garfunkel and Oates, and he's directed dozens of half-hour episodes for shows like The Goldbergs and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Ben Savage has once again followed his older brother into the family business. Savage served as a co-producer for more than four dozen episodes of Girl Meets World, and he also took the director's chair for 10 episodes of the hit Disney Channel revival.

A childhood that haunts him

For whatever reason, or combination of reasons, Savage's film and TV resume since the end of Boy Meets World in 2000 hasn't been exactly jam-packed with headlining or unforgettable roles. It would seem he's suffered the fate of so many child stars, past and present, as they transitioned to adulthood and adult roles; he's struggled, in other words. Child actors can become permanently associated with the characters they played when they were kids or teens, and they may have a hard time convincing casting agents to take a chance on them in something new, even though they no longer look like their old selves (what with time maturing them and all). Some child and teen stars have made the leap to the big time, like Jason Bateman and Drew Barrymore — but it took a long time to change the public's mind. Perhaps a similar fate awaits Ben Savage.