The Wonder Years, my favorite TV series as a kid, recently became available for instant viewing on Netflix. I immediately started watching the series, again. I ripped through all 114 episodes in less than a month.
The Wonder Years is a period-dramedy that aired from 1988-1992. Set in “any town” suburbia, the show follows the life of Kevin Arnold, as he navigates friendship, family, adolescence, romance and growing up, against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1970’s.
The magical thing about The Wonder Years, for me, was that in every episode Kevin seemed to be living out my own life. We all had our Winnie Cooper and a best friend like Paul Pfeiffer (who must have been the inspiration for Millhouse, on The Simpsons). We all had that hot teacher, like Miss White we had a crush on, that kid we didn’t really like much but hung out with because he had all the cool toys, like Doug Porter and that nerdy kid in school who was teased mercilessly but who we wish we could go back in time and be nicer to, like Margaret Farquhar. Kevin also gave us previews of the important moments in our lives that we were getting ready to experience: working up the courage to call Lisa Berlini for the first time, his first kiss with Winnie, his first heart break and rebound with Becky Slater (“Friends?! I’ll give you friends!” Pow!), being picked on by the school bully, like Eddie Penetti, liking two girls at the same time (Is it safe to say that every boy in America wanted to grab Kevin and shake him when he blew off Madeline, the girl from the French class? I still can’t believe it.) We even get to experience Kevin’s first taste of “second base” with Kara, from the Lake! (Don’t believe me? Watch this episode again.)
But, what I love most about The Wonder Years, is Kevin’s family. The Arnold’s are my family. I sometimes thought that Wayne was based on my brother because he seemed to torture Kevin in all the same ways my brother did. When Jack would come home after a day of “busting his hump” and grunt his way through most of the night’s conversations, it was like watching dinner at our house. How about when Jack and Kevin were making the tree house and spotted the voluptuous neighbor with the “big tomatoes”? Watching them squirm together was exactly like the feeling you had, when you’d see a sex-scene in a movie that you were watching with your parents. Or how about when Kevin realized for the first time that his parents have sex! And, I felt right along with him when he’d watch his parents fight. But through it all, he’d always catch glimpses of how they were alone and realize how much they really loved each other.
The Wonder Years was more than a show to me. It was weekly catharsis. It reassured me that the things I was going through were the same things every kid goes through. It taught me how to be a best friend, a boyfriend, a brother, a son, a husband, a father and a man. TV needs more shows like The Wonder Years. We live in the age of Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives, but it’s nice to see shows like The Wonder Years, that remind us of the power and potential of the medium, to create beauty and beam it into our living rooms, every week.