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The Wonder Years is an Americanmarker television dramedy created by Carol Black and Neal Marlens. It ran for six seasons on ABC, from 1988 through 1993. The pilot aired on January 31, 1988 after ABC's coverage of Super Bowl XXII.

The show achieved a spot in the Nielsen Top Ten for two of its six seasons. TV Guide named the show one of the 1980s' 20 best. After only six episodes aired, The Wonder Years won an Emmy for best comedy series in 1988. Moreover, at the age of 13, Fred Savage gained the honor of being the youngest actor ever nominated Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series. In addition, the show was awarded a Peabody Award in 1989, for achieving two seemingly contradictory effects; evoking a traditional family sitcom while pushing boundaries and using new modes of storytelling. In total, the series won 22 awards, and was nominated for a further 54 more. Modern critics point out the show was lucky to come at a time when, "baby boomers were grown up, and ready to watch themselves."

The show's theme is Joe Cocker's cover of The Beatles' song "With a Little Help from My Friends". The title of the show is adapted from a once widely-shown television commercial for Wonder Bread, in which viewers were urged to nourish their children with the product through their adolescence ("Wonder Years").

Plot

The story begins with Kevin, his best friend Paul, and Winnie on the verge of starting junior high school in 1968. The elder Kevin narrates that, like many schools that year, his junior high was re-named to Robert F. Kennedy. In the pilot, Winnie's older brother whom Kevin looks up to, is killed in action in Vietnam in 1968. Kevin meets Winnie in a nearby wooded area called Harpers Woods, and they end up sharing their first kiss. This unsaid relationship between Winnie and Kevin remains dormant for a long while, with Winnie starting to date a popular 8th grader named Kirk McCray, and Kevin briefly going steady with Becky Slater. After Kevin breaks up with Becky due to his feelings for Winnie, Becky becomes a recurring nuisance for Kevin. Winnie eventually dumps Kirk as well, and Kevin and Winnie share a second kiss at the start of the 1969 summer vacation. Around Valentine's Day 1970, Winnie temporarily dates Paul, who has broken up with his girlfriend Carla. Winnie and Kevin start dating each other soon after.

Just before the summer break, Winnie and her family move to a house 4 miles away. Although Winnie attends a new school, Lincoln Junior High, she and Kevin decide to remain together and maintain a successful long distance relationship. A beautiful new student named Madeline Adams joins Kevin's school quickly catches Kevin's eye, but it is Winnie who breaks up with Kevin after she has met Roger, a typical jock-type at her new school. Both relationships don't last long, but Winnie and Kevin are not reunited until Winnie is injured in a car accident. After graduating from Junior High, Kevin and Winnie both go to McKinley High and Paul goes to a prep school.

Kevin has several brief flings during the summer of 1971 and the 1971/72 academic year. After Kevin's grandfather gets his driver's license revoked, he sells his car to Kevin for a dollar. Paul transfers to McKinley High after his first semester at prep school when his father runs into financial troubles. Winnie and Kevin are reunited when they go on a double date to a school dance and find themselves more attracted to each other than their respective partners. Facing peer pressure in the episode "White Lies", Kevin implies to his friends that he had had sex with Winnie, but the spreading rumor causes Kevin and Winnie to break up for a few episodes. In late 1972, Kevin's older brother Wayne starts working at NORCOM, and starts dating his co-worker Bonnie, a divorcee with a son, but the relationship does not last. Kevin's dad quits NORCOM, and starts up a furniture manufacturing business.

Final episode and Epilogue

In the finale double episode, Winnie decides to take a job for the summer of 1973 as a lifeguard at a resort. Kevin, anxious to experience a taste of adult life, plans a cross-country trip with his friends. Kevin's dad, Jack, vehemently objects to Kevin's plan and ultimately Kevin abandons his planned trip. Kevin returns to his job at his father's furniture factory and telephones Winnie, who by all accounts is distant and seems to be enjoying her time away from Kevin. Eventually, Kevin and his father fight and Kevin announces that he is leaving, reasoning that he needs to "find himself." Kevin hops in his car and heads to the resort where Winnie is working, hopeful that she can secure him a job and they can spend the rest of the summer together.

Much to Kevin's chagrin, Winnie does not appear too pleased with Kevin's arrival and maintains her distance. Kevin is finally able to secure a job at the resort's restaurant and resides in the bus boys' dorm. Feeling confused and frustrated over Winnie's behavior, Kevin searches out other activities to occupy his time. Kevin decides to play poker with the resort's in-house band members. Kevin wins big (by bluffing while only holding a pair of 2s) and goes searching for Winnie, anxious to share the tale of his good fortune. When Kevin finds her, Winnie is engaged in a passionate kiss with a male lifeguard.

The next day, Kevin confronts Winnie about her actions, and they fight. The fallout with Winnie leads Kevin to play another round of poker with the band. This time Kevin ends up losing everything, including his car. Desperate, Kevin confronts Winnie and her new beau at the restaurant and ends up punching him in the face. Kevin then leaves the resort on foot.

On a desolate stretch of highway, Kevin decides to begin hitchhiking. He finally gets picked up by an elderly couple and much to his surprise he finds Winnie in the backseat. Winnie was fired over the fight Kevin instigated at the resort. Kevin and Winnie begin to argue and the elderly couple gets fed up and kicks them out of the car. A flash rain storm begins and Kevin and Winnie search for shelter. They find a barn and discuss how much things are changing and the prospects for the future. At first Winnie tells Kevin that she doesn't see them ending up together but quickly recants, telling Kevin "I don't want it to end." Kevin moves over to Winnie's side as she extends her blanket to Kevin and they share a passionate kiss. The adult Kevin narrates that night they made a promise to always be together and "it was a promise full of passion."

They soon find their way back to their hometown and arrive hand-in-hand to a Fourth of July parade. During this parade, the adult Kevin (Daniel Stern) describes the fate of the show's main characters. Kevin makes up with his father, graduates high school in 1974 and leaves for college. Paul studies law at Harvard. Karen, Kevin and Wayne's sister, gives birth to a son in September 1973. Kevin's mother becomes a businesswoman and board chairman. Kevin's father dies in 1975, and Wayne takes over his father's furniture business. Winnie studies art history in Paris while Kevin stays in the United States. Winnie and Kevin end up writing to each other once a week for the next eight years. In the final epilogue, Kevin mentions how he was there, along with his wife and child, to greet Winnie when she returned to the United States in 1982.

The final sounds, voice-over and dialogue of the episode and series, is that of Kevin (Daniel Stern) providing concluding narration with the sound of children playing in the background:
Growing up happens in a heartbeat.
One day you're in diapers, the next day you're gone.
But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.
I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses.
A yard like a lot of other yards.
On a street like a lot of other streets.
And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back...with wonder.


A little boy (Stern's real life son) can be heard asking his dad to come out and play catch during a break in the final narration. Kevin's (Daniel Stern) narrative responds, "I'll be right there" as the episode closes.

Major characters

  • Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage): A teenage American student, growing up in the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s. The voice of Kevin as an adult (and the show's narrator) is supplied by Daniel Stern.
  • Jack Arnold (Dan Lauria): Kevin's father, a moody man and a Korean War veteran; he mentions having been in the US Marine Corps and he is seen in photographs wearing the uniform of a First Lieutenant. He works at NORCOM, a large electronics corporation in a middle management position he loathes. Later, he starts his own business, building and selling handcrafted furniture. The last episode reveals that he dies in 1975, around the end of Kevin's freshman year of college i.e. two years after the time of the show's finale. (Though this directly contradicts the narrative script of a previous episode where an adult Kevin says his father would later be the grandfather of Kevin's sons.) His character was meant to be a reflection of the older and more conservative generation with the ideology of the Second World War / 1950s era being confused and angered by the changing world and ideologies of the '60s that were becoming mainstream at that point.
  • Norma Arnold (Alley Mills): Kevin's stay-at-home mother. She met Jack as a college freshman. When he graduated, she moved across the country with him and didn't finish college. She eventually gets her degree late in the series, and starts working at a software startup called Micro Electronics. She is shown to be more moderate (In contrast with her more conservative husband.) and increasingly becoming bored and yearning to break away from her homemaker role hence reflecting the rise of feminism in the 60s.
  • Karen Arnold (Olivia d'Abo): Kevin's older, hippie sister. She continually clashes with her overbearing father due to her free-spirited ways and his traditional views while her mother usually acts as the mediator. She has a falling out with her father when she moves in with her boyfriend Michael (David Schwimmer) during her freshman year of college. A year later, the pair gets married in an outdoor wedding and moves to Alaska, where Michael has secured a good job. Karen ultimately has accepted some of the conservative lifestyle of her parents by having a baby and a husband who realizes the importance of hard work to support his wife and child.
  • Wayne Arnold (Jason Hervey): Kevin's older brother, who enjoys physically tormenting Kevin and Paul. He takes over the furniture business when his father dies. Wayne is typically portrayed as a loser when it comes to serious romantic relationships. For a time he did date a girl named Dolores, but that was a more casual relationship than most others.
  • Gwendolyn "Winnie" Cooper (Danica McKellar): Kevin's main love interest. In an episode entitled "The Accident" and in the final episode, it is stated that every important event in Kevin's life somehow involves Winnie. She lives on the same block as Kevin. Their first kiss and her older brother's death while serving as a soldier in the Vietnam War play an important part of the pilot episode. In one episode, her parents separate over their grief of the death of their son. In the epilogue of the final episode, it is revealed that Winnie goes on to study art history in Paris. Kevin and Winnie write a letter to each other every week for eight years until she returns; in the last moments of the finale Kevin states that when Winnie returned to the States Kevin met her along with his wife and first child.
  • Paul Joshua Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano): Kevin's lifelong best friend, an intelligent and excellent student. He is allergic to several substances. Paul is Jewish, which is the focus of an episode where he has his Bar Mitzvah. In the final episode it is revealed that he goes to Harvard Universitymarker and becomes a successful lawyer. There is an urban myth that the character is played by shock rocker Marilyn Manson, however this is untrue; Saviano is currently an attorney with the firm Morrison Cohen LLP.


Minor characters

  • Grandpa Albert Arnold (David Huddleston): Kevin's paternal grandfather, Jack's father. He sells his last car (and Kevin's first) - a 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan - to Kevin for $1. He also gives Kevin a beagle named "Buster" (see below). Grandpa is a widower, as his wife died before the series timeline began and is only seen in flashbacks. In one episode, Grandpa takes the entire Arnold family to a funeral of a distant relative and in a rare instance of anger, furiously roars at Wayne and Kevin because they do not take the funeral seriously.
  • Randy Mitchell (Michael Tricario): Kevin's friend, described as loyal and brave, though noticeably lacking Paul's intelligence. (He gets a 730 combined score on his SAT's.) Randy and Paul are the only characters to remain on throughout the series as Kevin's friends in both junior high and high school.
  • Doug Porter (Brandon Crane): Kevin's junior high school classmate. In one episode, he briefly replaces Paul as Kevin's best friend after the two have a falling out. In later episodes Doug befriends both Kevin and Paul where they engage in activities such as touch football or sneaking to a sleepover attended by older teenage girls.
  • Rebecca "Becky" Slater (Crystal McKellar, sister of Danica McKellar): Kevin's junior high school classmate and one-time girlfriend. He dates her purely to make Winnie jealous and she punches him when she finds out he still likes Winnie. She holds a grudge against Kevin and becomes a recurring nuisance throughout junior high school. Her character is physically aggressive and hostile towards men.
  • Craig Hobson (Sean Baca): Kevin's junior high school classmate and friend. He often teases Kevin and Paul over their emotional hang-ups resulting from girlfriend problems, only to accidentally start a relationship himself by falling for Becky Slater when she hits him with her bicycle (her intended victim was Kevin). Craig's relationship with Becky stops her from harassing Kevin and allows the couples to happily co-exist. However, Hobson ends the relationship with Becky when he gets sent to military school for his ninth grade year, reviving her hatred of men and blaming Kevin.
  • Carla Healy (Krista Murphy): Kevin's junior high school classmate and one-time girlfriend of Paul.
  • Coach Cutlip (Robert Picardo): Kevin's gym teacher, who excels in bullying his students and always wears a red cap to hide his bald head. He enjoys drawing diagrams on the board that nobody can decipher. Kevin describes him as having an inferiority complex. However, he is shown to be somewhat of a more sensitive person than usually indicated when he plays a department store Santa in a Christmas-related episode, where Kevin is the only student to know of Coach Cutlip's part-time job. Coach Cutlip is also aware of his mean personality towards the students, and admits to Kevin "Kids like me when I am Santa".
  • Miss White, later Mrs. Heimer (Wendel Meldrum): Kevin's junior high school teacher, upon whom he has a crush. Kevin simulataneously has to deal with his crush as well as foray into drama when Miss White asks him to play the role of Robert Kennedy in a performance she wrote about American leaders of the 1960s. Her name changes to Mrs. Heimer after her marriage. She is later pregnant in an episode, causing Kevin to have to drive her to the hospital to give birth.
  • Mr. Cantwell (Ben Stein): Kevin's junior high school science teacher. He often shows filmstrips to the class while speaking in a monotone voice with steady emotion.
  • Mr. Chong (Michael Paul Chan): Kevin's boss in high school and owner of Chong's Chinese Food. He was known to shout rapid Cantonese and Mandarin at Kevin but speaks perfect English to his patrons. In order to work at his restaurant, he mandates that Kevin paint the company logo (a gigantic dragon) on his Oldsmobile, which Kevin does not bother to paint over even when he quits the Chinese restaurant to go into his father's furniture business. Chong's Chinese food also employs several kitchen workers who only speak Chinese, but are also aware of Kevin's relationship with Winnie and enjoy chuckling about it.
  • Chuck Coleman (Andy Berman): One of Kevin's high school friends, who often appears with a "nervous tick".
  • Jeff Billings (Giovanni Ribisi): Plays Kevin's good friend in the later part of the series. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother, which is the reason that he moves in late.
  • Alice Pedermeir (Lindsay Sloane): One of Kevin's classmates in high school and girlfriend of Chuck Coleman. Occasionally whines to make the person she's with feel bad to satisfy her for what she wants.
  • Delores (Juliette Lewis): Wayne's girlfriend in high school; who was almost always seen with chewing gum in her mouth. Although by and large Delores was seen as a gum-cracking airhead, there were times she was attentive, such as when Wayne was goofing off and harassing Kevin, Delores scolded Wayne that he needs to take his driver education textbook seriously.
  • Dave "Wart" Wirtschafter (Scott Menville): Wayne's best friend, who gets shipped off to the Vietnam War. After he comes back, he shows signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He frequently repeats whatever Wayne says.
  • Madeline Adams (Julie Condra): Kevin's temporary flame during his final year in junior high. Madeline was explemary in French class, while Kevin struggled in the class. They break off their relationship some time later. During a time when Kevin felt left out and that nothing had been going his way, it was his relationship with Madeline that helped him out as she said it was hard to find guys who were sweet to her.
  • Cara (Lisa Gerber): Kevin's summer romance while vacationing with his family at a lake. He meets her before he begins high school and returns to see her after getting his driver's license.
  • Debbie Pfeiffer (Torrey Anne Cook): Paul's younger sister, who has a crush on Kevin. In a later season Kevin is made to be her date to a dance while his friends are checking out cheerleaders at a football game.
  • Alvin Pfeiffer (Josh Moskoff): Paul's father. He is an opthamologist. Mr. Pfeiffer trusted Kevin to escort his daughter Debbie to a dance and complimented Kevin for doing so.
  • Ida Pfeiffer (Stephanie Satie): Paul's mother.
  • Eric Antonio (Don Jeffcoat): Kevin's classmate in junior high.
  • Young Kevin (Eric Lloyd): Seen in flashbacks in the form of family movies, such as where he is playing with a younger version of his sister or meeting his grandparents.
  • Michael (David Schwimmer): Karen's live-in boyfriend and later husband. Kevin's father is happy that Michael will be a good husband to Karen and has a good job to provide for her. However, he (Kevin's father) is dismayed to learn he (Michael) will be working on the distant Alaskan pipelinemarker. Kevin's father later comes to term with the fact when recalling that when he first married Norma, he took a job far away from home.
  • Mr. Collins (Steven Gilborn): Kevin's rigid but dedicated algebra teacher who he [Kevin] comes to admire at a certain level. The character unexpectedly dies of a heart attack which caused Kevin some grief, as he had drawn funny faces on Mr. Collins' last test as a form of protest. When Kevin is informed that Mr. Collins had misplaced his exam (apparently an implication that Collins had intended to give Kevin a second chance at the test) and is told to take a test from scratch, Kevin diligently applies what he has learned, then momentarily sees Mr. Collins' ghost who commends him for good work. The episode "Goodbye" was nominated for three awards.
  • Buster Arnold: A beagle given to Kevin by his paternal grandfather. He had major roles in the episode "The Powers That Be" (third season) and "Buster" (fourth season). He appeared in scenes in "She, My Friend, and I" in the third season and "Growing Up" in the fourth season.
  • Kirk McCray (Michael Landes): An 8th grader who dated Winnie.
  • Ricky Halsenbach (Scott Nemes): Kevin's classmate. He was featured a few times during the series.
  • Mr. Nestor (Charles Tyner): Kevin's slightly eccentric shop teacher. He has minor parts during the fourth season when Kevin is in ninth grade.
  • Louis (John Corbett): Karen's first-season hippie boyfriend whom Kevin takes a dislike to, and also enrages Jack by shooting his mouth off about political and military issues at the Arnold's dinner table.
  • Brad Gaines (Mark-Paul Gosselaar): Appeared in only one episode (titled: "Dance With Me"). Kevin asks Lisa Berlini to go to the dance with him and she agrees, but then decides to go with Brad Gaines when he asks her.
  • Eddie Pinetti (Robert Jayne): Appeared in the episode "Fate". He plays the school bully who Kevin stands up to. Pinetti also attempted to muscle in on Winnie, but she quickly realizes the true nature of himself and his flunkies when they do things such as lift up her skirt.
  • Lisa Berlini (Kathy Wagner): Kevin's love interest in "The Phone Call" and "Dance With Me".
  • Brett (Jon Frear): Kevin's classmate. He was featured a few times during the series. 1992-1993.


Syndication

Reruns of the show aired on syndication on September 1992, then on Nickelodeon, from 1997 to 2000, it was also seen on sister network Nick at Nite from 1997 to 2001, and then the show was picked up by ABC Family where it ran from 2001 to 2004, It was also seen on Ion Television in 2007. As of 2009, the show does not air anywhere in the United States. The show currently airs on DejaView in Canada. The show currently airs on 111Hits [21981]in Australia

DVD releases

Unlike most long-running popular American TV sitcoms, The Wonder Years has still not yet been released on DVD as official season box sets due to the cost of securing the music rights. Because of this, The Wonder Years routinely appears high on the list of TV shows in-demand for a DVD release. Unofficially, The Wonder Years has so far only been released as two official 'best-of' DVD sets, without the original music. They are the following:
  • The Best of The Wonder Years - 1 Disc
  • The Christmas Wonder Years - 1 Disc
Both sets are now quite rare and exceptionally expensive.

Anchor Bay did release two volumes (four episodes total) on VHS on March 31, 1998.

Audio soundtrack

The official soundtrack was released in 1988 by Atlantic/WEA and contains a total of 13 tracks, featuring Joe Cockers cover of "With a Little Help from My Friends," which is the show's theme song.

Also, after the series' original run was over, Laserlight Digital released a 5-disc compilation box set under the title "Music from 'The Wonder Years'" in 1994. This is the same company that later released the only two DVDs for the series, The Best of The Wonder Years and The Christmas Wonder Years. The disc included 40 Motown favorites and 5 original songs (each is repeated twice in the set) written exclusively for the series by W.G. "Snuffy" Walden.

References

  1. The Wonder Years from the Museum of Broadcast Communications
  2. Peabody Award Winners Archive
  3. Awards for The Wonder Years
  4. Top 10 covers of all time
  5. Amazon.com: The Wonder Years OST


External links




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