ABC’s The Wonder Years Turns 30
In 1988, ABC Television, along with creators Carol Black and Neal Marlens, brought audiences their first glimpse of a truly classic television program for the whole family. The Wonder Years premiered 30 years ago, January 31st, 1988. A show about a teenage boy, Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s; Kevin had to learn how to cope with a generation on the eve of destruction, as the Vietnam War, the Summer of Love and the Civil Rights Movement all converged into a cluster of confusion and chaos.
All of us, growing up, felt like we were facing the best of times and the worst of times. Kevin’s world was a bubble inside of that cluster.
The groundbreaking series was narrated by Daniel Stern as the adult voice of Kevin Arnold and co-starred one of the best TV dads since Mr. Cunningham on Happy Days, Dan Lauria as Jack Arnold. The cast also included Alley Mills as Mom, Norma Arnold, Jason Hervey as Kevin’s butt head brother, Wayne and Olivia d’Abo as Kevin’s hippie sister, Karen.
The music itself could be considered one of the costars, as the soundtrack of the baby boomer generation was enough to bring an emotional response from even the hardest hearts. From Joni Mitchell’s calming, bewitching voice, to the raspy, soulful theme belted out by Joe Cocker, the embodiment of the era was perfectly represented by the refrain.
Kevin’s love interest throughout the season was Winnie Cooper, played by Danica McKellar. The relationship was hardly perfect and seldom even civil. The couple had little in common and their communication skills were lacking, at best. Still, the audience cheered for the couple to find a way to fall in love, as if we were living vicariously through Kevin and Winnie.
Every teenage boy had to have his nerdy sidekick, pal and closest confidant. Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) was one of the best. He always understood Kevin and made it a point to be patient, even though Kevin was never patient with Paul.
For 115 episodes, The Wonder Years helped us reminisce on Christmases, deployments, marriages, financial burdens, family fights and even losing loved ones. There were laughs, but also a lot of tears, because the Arnolds were a relatable family. One we either knew, or were ourselves.
It’s hard to believe it was thirty years ago that it started. What a difference in time that it was from the series to the year it portrayed. Time goes by way too fast, which was exactly what Kevin Arnold would tell us today. Take a minute to look around you. The show ended in 1993 after six seasons. Winnie and Kevin didn’t end up together. As a matter of fact, nothing went quite how we expected. Things change over 30 years, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.
“When you’re a little kid you’re a bit of everything; scientist, philosopher, artist. Sometimes it seems like growing up is giving these things away one at a time.” – Kevin Arnold.