Reviews: The Wonder Years

A timeless rumination on growing up.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Just randomly flippin' through channels in a seemingly vain attempt to find some decent television on some random summer vacation afternoon. After going through what seems like a hundred sitcom reruns, I stopped at this mishmash of significant cultural moments of a decade not too long before our own, set to the loving sounds of The Byrds. See, by chance I'd just wound up half a minute or so into the pilot episode of a TV series that would stay with me my life through. From the get-go I could sense this is the kind of show I'd been looking for all my life, without ever consciously knowing it. It just seemed so goddamn... familiar, as if I'd seen it before in a past life or something.

While TWY's '60s/'70s setting is certainly part of its appeal (for one, it pretty much guaranteed it to forever have the greatest licensed soundtrack in television history), at its core it could've been set at any point during the last 60-70 years as of time of writing, and still retain its efficacy, given the change of a variable or two or fifty... because the themes of The Wonder Years are timeless and universal. Main character Kevin Arnold is your average kid: trying, but not always succeeding in doing the right thing. And sometimes, he does things that are pretty damn reprehensible. Because... goddamn, don't we all at some point? He's no angel, but his heart's in the right place.

Over the course of the series, he deals with love and heartbreak, increasing responsibilities, bullying big brothers, and those goddamn mathematics! You know... normal kids' stuff that seems like the end of the world at the time. Through it all, he has the support of his friends and family, the latter of which constitutes as probably the most realistic and likeable family units in TV history. The red thread of the entire series is Kevin's infatuation with the girl next door. Far from idyllic, it's an on-off thing that borders on self-destruction at times... just like young love does all too often. I must say, the Misaimed Fandom directed at this obviously intentionally doomed pairing really gets my goat sometimes.

The Wonder Years doesn't condescend or sugar-coat anything about the hellish trials of growing up, despite the oft-parodied Nostalgic Narrator. Recommended viewing for all humans.