The Wonder Years premiered on the air when I was 6 years old. A bit too old for me, of course…. But definitely the kind of show that works for both adult and child audiences.
And Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage’s character and the lead) was *about* the same age as my father. My dad was 13 years old in 1968, and he experienced much of the same history at around the same age as Kevin.
That’s probably the main reason we started watching the show when I was growing up.
If you’ve never seen The Wonder Years:
The series depicts the social and family life of a boy in a typical American suburb from 1968 to 1973, covering his ages of 12 through 17. Each year in the series is presented as having taken place 20 years before the original air dates (1988 to 1993).
The plot centers on Kevin Arnold, son of Jack and Norma Arnold. Kevin’s dad holds a management job at NORCOM, a defense contractor, while his mother is a homemaker. Kevin also has an older brother, Wayne, and an older sister, Karen. Two of Kevin’s age peers and neighbors are prominently featured throughout the series: his best friend, Paul Pfeiffer, and his crush-turned-girlfriend Gwendolyn “Winnie” Cooper. Story lines are told through Kevin’s reflections as an adult in his mid-30s, voiced by narrator Daniel Stern.
So, I remember watching the show when it was on the air – of course, again I was rather young (age 6-12) and didn’t remember ALL the story lines, etc. But I do remember that I just LOVED it.
In fact – true story – the first CD I EVER bought for myself was a 5 disc collection of The Wonder Years soundtrack from Costco. (Of course, I love ‘oldies’ so this wasn’t a super big stretch for me)
And once I got out of high school, and had money of my own to spend …. I pretty much had my eye out for The Wonder Years on DVD constantly. CONSTANTLY.
I completely understand if you’ve never seen it. ….. Because the show has never been available on DVD.
I even ended up purchasing a bootleg copy from eBay (clearly taped of some TV station) …. that got delivered to me with 1 disc of episodes completely blank, and another couple episodes burned to the disc without audio.
But, yea, I watched all the other 5 discs of episodes anyway. Even with those gaps, it was still just as amazing as I remember.
But now finally – FINALLY – the episodes are available for live streaming!!! On Netflix and Amazon (and maybe more, but that’s what I know for sure). The delay was due to expensive licensing of all the 1960s period music that was originally used in the show – and I get the impression that a lot of that music was cut/replaced in order to make it available now. (But, to me it’s been so long since I’ve seen it with the ‘correct’ music I don’t even notice).
I’m just so thrilled to be able to watch this show again!
Trust me …. The pilot ALONE makes this show worth watching. The writing and the characters and the nostalgia. It’s just so different than most TV shows.
As with pretty much any TV show or movie I watch, I always spend a bit of time on imdb looking up the actors, seeing what else they’ve done (before and since)….
Josh Saviano – the kid who played Paul – is now a lawyer in NYC. Although, he did go through a little kerfuffle when there was a rumor floating that he grew up to be Marilyn Manson.
Danica McKellar – went to college and is some kind of math genius. But she must be trying to get back into acting, because when you search Google Images for The Wonder Years photos like this and this show up.
Jason Hervey – I actually rung him up at a Michaels Arts and Crafts when I worked there about 10 years ago. Strange. No idea what he’s doing now.
Dan Lauria – the father. Watching a few episodes together, Andrew and I realized his dad is JUST like Jack Arnold. Comes off as grumpy and prickly, but really a softie at heart. Don’t tell my father-in-law I said that
Plus, The Wonder Years is just MAGIC with all the guest stars and 1 or 2-episode characters that went on to make it big(ger). People like Juliette Lewis, David Schwimmer, Ben Stein, Seth Green, Jim Caviezel, Giovanni Ribisi, and John Corbett.
As of this typing I am about halfway through the 3rd season (of 6).
Some of my favorite bits so far….
- Episode 3 (season 1) where Kevin goes with his dad to work and he asks him “Dad, when did you know you wanted to go into ‘Distribution and Product Support’?” ….. And then they talk about how his dad wanted to be a baseball player, or a ship’s captain .. .. .but instead became a manager of distribution and product support. love it. love the idea of making choices and being happy with them.
- Episode 15 (season 2; episode 9) where the boys play basketball in gym class. Kevin makes a real effort to help his friend Paul – who is terrible at basketball and keeps getting picked last. Kevin nobly (or foolishly) chooses a team full of all the worst players that actually ends up letting them all enjoy the game, instead of feeling bad about themselves.
- Episode 16 (season 2; episode 10) where Kevin unintentionally becomes part of a student council committee to organize a walk out in protest of the Vietnam War. I love the juxtaposition of a 12 year old trying to make sense of something that seemed so big and pervasive, and yet too big for him to really know what to think about. Kevin is really challenged to think critically about what he stands for …. and while he realizes that a junior high walkout may not have changed anything, but they did all “have the memory to carry with us today … of 800 children, on a football field singing [Give Peace a Chance]“
- Episode 38 (season 3, episode 15) when Kevin and his dad build a treehouse … Kevin finally gets up the courage to tell his dad he wants to use the power saw (instead of just hold the ladder) and they use ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’ as the victory-using-a-power-saw soundtrack!
- Episode ?? (season 5, episode 16) Double Double Date …. Kevin and Inga and Winnie and Matt go on a double date to the spring formal. … But Kevin and Winnie recognize the connection they have to each other, in spite of any other date. Kevin mentions “destiny” at least 2 or 3 times. It’s very sweet…. I love teenage love
While looking for photos for this post, I noticed there are not really all that many sources for The Wonder Years images, video or tidbits (I’m sure this has to do with the fact it’s been off the air for almost 20 years AND not released on DVD).
Nevertheless, I DID find this little gem – I am not a stalker – a blog that posts about TV and film locations (in and around Los Angeles). Turns out the Arnold house (that you can see in a this family cast photo) is in Burbank and still looks exactly the same as when the show was filmed!
Anyway, if you can’t tell from ALL of the above …. I genuinely LOVE this show, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying being able to watch it whenever I want.
Have you seen The Wonder Years? Have you added it to your Netflix queue?
Watching The Wonder Years plants a seed of inspiration to:
- figure out what all these actors are doing now…. Fred Savage is directing, I think. And we all know Daniel Stern as the tall robber from Home Alone … but other than that?
- get my dad to write about when he was that age. He was the oldest of 5 boys, of course. Very different than Kevin Arnold. But still.
- figure out how to use the 8mm camera I have (like the opening credits of the show)
- find a good oldies radio station. K-Earth 101 has been going downhill.
- scan my photos/negatives from Junior High and High School. Remember when a “serious relationship” was one that lasted 2 weeks?
- watch my other favorite 1960s era TV shows – Mad Men, American Dreams …. (and maybe Pan Am)
- find myself a vintage letterman jacket or sweater…. I love the green Jets jacket Kevin wears in so many of the episodes