One of the enduring pleasures of growing up was the satirical show that chronicled the funny, the frustrating and the very often perfect every man in American suburbia: The Wonder Years.
It took place in the Reagan era of Steven Spielberg movies and 1980s hair metal, and hit television when domestic angst was in the air and the fatherless family show raised bigger ratings than just about anything on television at the time.
So many shows will look back on that era as the apex of domestic angst and worry, but the nostalgia for The Wonder Years was immediate, evident on the first episode, which focused on taking a trip to Colorado and playing as much air guitar as possible.
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“Are you saying,” asks Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper, about the trip, “I’ll never be able to listen to Kenny Loggins or John Mellencamp again?”
When she returns from the desert with her band, the show includes a lesbian couple and a cancer diagnosis.
“Winnie has this: You kind of have to separate the good part from the bad,” she explains. “And that’s a real bad part of the marriage.”
But it was hard to quibble with The Wonder Years’ ability to tease out the good and bad aspects of the many lives being presented to viewers by its simple premise: boy meets girl, boy grows up, boy meets girl, girl grows up, boy again.
The “truth” of The Wonder Years was that even its protagonist, Kevin Arnold, displayed many of the traits that the America of the time now (and even now) rails against. He beat his head in and punched his father to anger, was one of the first to get expelled for complaining that his parents had “delayed gratification”, was still as charming and canny as his mother’s apple pie and caught in a complicated relationship with his “far away” father and his mother’s secret paramour, Diane, the loner who some believe the Wonder Years showed us all we can be.
“He’s handsome but kind, with a dark layer that raises some suspicions,” McKellar – a three-time Emmy-winning child actor – said in a recent interview about The Wonder Years. “Even in his sadness, you see it.”
The new Wonder Years showrunner Dan Fogelman has said that he was unaware of the original series but wanted to have fun with it while preserving its warmth and resonant drama.