Looking back at The Wonder Years

Feature Carley Tauchert 13 Feb 2014 - 07:00

Now that it's finally coming to DVD, Carley continues her classic kids' TV look back with The Wonder Years...

“Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. I know they didn't with me. Still, like my father used to say, 'Traffic's traffic, you go where life takes you' and growing up happens in a heartbeat… And the thing is, after all these years I still look back in wonder.”

1988 saw the first Bush (George H. W to be precise) take power in America, three of the top ten movies of the year were laugh out loud comedies (Coming to America, Twins and The Naked Gun) and Roger Rabbit was being framed by a pretty scary Judge Doom.

Right at the beginning of the year ABC piloted a new series that would not only capture the hearts of the American viewing public but also tickle their nostalgia bone. It was a huge success being nominated for 54 awards during its run and winning the Emmy for Best Comedy Series after just six episodes had aired.

What’s it About?

Set from 1968-1973 (and narrated twenty years later from 1988-1993) The Wonder Years focused on the life of Kevin Arnold, a teenager growing up in one of the most exciting and turbulent times of American history and while history is being made around them the focus of the show is the joy and the pain of being a teenager. Along with his best friend Paul and crush, turned friend, turned girlfriend Winnie, Kevin works his way through adolescence, with his older-self providing sage perspective.

Why Did I/Why Should I Watch It?

The late 80s was a great time to grow up, the cartoons were great, the toys were great and you were young enough not to worry too much about the bigger picture in the outside world, for anyone older the 80s were radically different to their own upbringings and I think that is why The Wonder Years made such a massive impact when it was first broadcast. For half an hour a week an entire generation could look on back to the good old days while the younger generation could connect with the issues Kevin and his friends were going through because no matter what the year, growing up is hard to do.

The premise of the show is very simply, a boy going through the twists and turns of life but what brings it to life in such a vibrant way is Fred Savage’s portrayal for Kevin Arnold (which must run in the family as brother Ben did the same thing in Boy Meets World the year The Wonder Years ended). Kevin is a total everyman, his experiences are not out of the ordinary and his family basically encapsulates the 2.4 children ideal of the time.  

It is however the normalcy of it all that makes the show so great, although nothing truly out of the ordinary happens it is the heart, soul emotions and humour that pour out of it that makes it ideal viewing for everybody. Kevin takes us though his life in a very honest if sometimes rose-tinted way and you really connect with the events that make him the person he becomes later in life. There is also that connection at an emotional level because who doesn’t remember fondly their first crush or first kiss and that connection is truly what makes the show work.

Another factor in the show’s success of course is its supporting characters that weave in, out and into Kevin’s life. Special appreciation must go to Dan Lauria who played Kevin’s father Jack to perfection. The man who hated the changes going on around him but wasn’t afraid to take a leap of faith in himself. Then there was Winnie, played by the beautiful girl next door Danica McKellar. Not since Moonlighting had there been such a will they/won’t they romance on the air and you couldn’t help but root for them both to just figure things out and be together and the innocence and magic of their relationship was a key factor to keep tuning in each week.

Best Episodes

 

My Father’s Office

The Family Car

White Lies

The Little Women

Independence Day

What Else do I Need to Know?

After a long, long wait, The Wonder Years is finally coming to DVD later this year, but if you can't hold on until then, it can also be watched via Netflix and Amazon Prime. The final ever episode was ranked at number 43 in TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

As mentioned above Fred Savage’s real life little brother became best known as Corey Matthew’s another ABC Comedy, Boy Meets World, he also appeared in an episode of The Wonder Years as did a very young Giovanni Rabisi and David Schwimmer.

Also Grandpa Arnold played the title role in Santa Claus the Movie

If You Like This You May Also Like

Happy Days

Boys Meets World

Doogie Howser, M.D.

Freaks & Geeks 

Read Carley's look backs at Round The Twist and Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

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