As my winter break came to a close, I, like many college students, scrambled to find a new TV show on Netflix that would help me veg out when needed. After a couple suggestions from friends, and being intrigued by the title – a favorite band of mine named themselves after it – I stumbled upon The Wonder Years. And I have not been disappointed. Actually, I’ve been pretty blown away.
Originally airing between 1988-1993, The Wonder Years follows twelve-year-old Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), an average suburban boy during the ‘60s, as he learns what growing up means through his friends, love interests and family. Although this show is more than 20 years old, it still packs a load of charm. Everything from its slightly grainy picture, to its intro and family dynamics immerses its watchers into this coming-of-age tale.
Now, you may be thinking: “That sounds just like Full House/(insert any late ‘80s, early ‘90s family show).” You’d be right in this thinking, except what separates The Wonder Years from shows like it is its persistence on making you close to Kevin. You feel as though you’re growing up with him.
The way The Wonder Years achieves this is through its lack of a laugh track and its nuanced storytelling technique for its time: An adult version of Kevin narrates the action happening to his younger self. It’s as if we’re watching Kevin’s memories with him. The contemporary equivalent of this would be How I Met Your Mother.
(So, now if you start watching The Wonder Years and someone ever comments on how cool the narration in HIMYM is, you can say, “Yeah, sure. But Wonder Years did it first.”)
While this immersion is cool, the thing that really pushes this show over the edge for me is just how beautiful some of the episodes are. They’re reminiscent of perfectly written short stories centered around themes of growing up, young love and friendship.
This happens because of the show’s smart script. It doesn’t shy away from awkward silences and overthinking that goes on between 7th grade crushes, or the type of confusion one feels when their parents fight in front of them.
And this is all furthered by the terrific acting from the whole cast, most notably the three main children: Kevin, Paul (Josh Saviano) and Winnie (Danica McKellar). They do an impressive job and there’s just something magical about watching them age as the show does.
The Wonder Years is an extended coming-of-age tale that everyone can relate to. While many similar sitcoms can become blurs of familial nonsense or be hindered by cheesy writing, this one keeps things fresh with a script that has the perfect amount of cheese. The amount that makes you smile, not cringe.
It’s definitely worth checking out. Any show that won its first Emmy after just six episodes is worth that!
Who knows, it may just become your next Netflix binge. It’s absolutely become a go-to for me.