I remember a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. I remember how hard it was growing up among people and places I loved. Most of all, I remember how hard it was to leave. And the thing is, after all these years I still look back in wonder.The Wonder Years
— Kevin Arnold
is a nostalgic semi-comedic series about a boy growing up in The Sixties
— or, to be more accurate, a middle-aged man reminiscing about growing up in The Sixties
, with a voiceover narrating/voicing the boy's thoughts. The series was basically a warmhearted and vivid recollection of a specific time and (inspecific) place.
The boy in question, Kevin, has an abusive older brother — Wayne — and parents whom, while still in love each other, would often fight. Kevin's friend Paul is a gangly geek with frequent asthma attacks, and the Girl Next Door
is Winnie Cooper (with whom affection is mutual but "She Is Not My Girlfriend
The show is one of the earliest half-hour sitcoms done in single camera format — and without a laugh track, being a precursor to the shows that are considered to launch the format such as Spaced
and Malcolm in the Middle
. It wasn't afraid of addressing touchy subjects and was often frank about things that happen when growing up. One episode dealt with Kevin getting to touch a girl's breast
for the first time.
The show aired on ABC
from 1988 (when it premiered following Super Bowl
XXII) to 1993; the show's continuity runs from 1968 to 1973, seventh grade
through eleventh grade for Kevin and his friends.The Wonder Years
has long been one of the most-requested shows for TV-on-DVD fans, but the music rights clearances were considered too expensive to make the set worth it — until 2014, when Time-Life announced a complete series release of the show
that has 96% of the original music
(285 individual clearances) left intact, including the show's famous opening theme.
The Wonder Years contains examples of the following tropes:
- Chuck quickly leaps out of the moving pickup truck.
- Series Continuity Error: After he hit puberty, Fred Savage's voice was noticeably deeper than that of Daniel Stern, who narrated the show as Adult Kevin. It's not uncommon for men's voices to dip down during puberty and eventually middle out, but it stood out nonetheless.
- In "How I Spent My Summer Vacation", Paul reveals that his family will be away for the whole summer, starting the day after school ends. But in the next episode, "Summer Song", Paul is able to go on vacation with the Arnolds. There is no mention in either episode of Paul's plans being changed or canceled.
- In "Angel", the family is shown to have a color TV set. But the Christmas episode that comes a few episodes later involves the family wanting Jack to get them a color TV for Christmas.
- In "Heart of Darkness", Paul mentions that his mom once took him to try contacts, but he ended up being allergic to them. But then in the last two seasons he switched to wearing contacts. Maybe he got treatment for those allergies.
- Shaped Like Itself : From the pilot. "The jockstrap, sir, is a particular type of strap that is constructed of a strap-type material, which is utilized exclusively for the purposes...of jocks."
- She Is All Grown Up: Winnie Cooper goes from scrawny dork to "Fanservice for pre-teens" incarnate — all in the first episode.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: One of Kevin's first lines.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Waynes friend Wart comes back from Vietnam and has trouble adjusting.
- Sibling Rivalry: Kevin and his older brother, the butt-headed smart-ass Wayne.
- Slice of Life: During 1960's Vietnam War Era America.
- Spiritual Successor: To Stand by Me and A Christmas Story.
- The Talk: "I actually had to hear my dad say 'genitals'."
- Teacher/Student Romance: Subverted in "Our Miss White". Kevin develops a crush on his teacher throughout the episode, but at the end of the episode, he notices her kissing her husband in the stage background.
- Thanksgiving Episode: "The Ties That Bind"
- That Nostalgia Show
- íThree Amigos!: Kevin, Paul, and Winnie
- Title Drop: Adult Kevin does this in the very first episode.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Again, Kevin, Paul, and Winnie.
- Wham Episode: Shockingly done in the very first episode; it appears to be a fairly standard comedy/drama show, but at the very end of the episode, the audience finds out that the neighbors' son was killed in Vietnam.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The series finale ended with one of these.
- Where No Parody Has Gone Before: The show had a parody of Star Trek: The Original Series where Kevin and three other boys dressed as Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty deal with girls that manipulate them with their wrist controls, as the narrator's way of explaining that he didn't understand girls.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The exact location of the show's suburban setting is never explicitly spelled out, although it's presumably somewhere in California. (In one episode, we see a closeup of a letter Wayne's holding, and it shows the Arnolds' address as being in California, while in another episode Kevin is shown to have a California driver's license.)
- However, other episodes contradict this by hinting at a possible East Coast setting. According to the IMDB, the producers deliberately kept things vague in order to preserve the Everytown, America feel of the series.
- Will They or Won't They?: Kevin and Winnie run an on-again, off-again relationship for almost the show's entire run. They spend about as much time apart as they do together.
- In the end, it's revealed that Kevin ends up marrying another woman, but he and Winnie remain friends through the years.
- Woman Scorned: Becky Slater
- Yandere: Becky Slater.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Winnie in the episode "Fate".