Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day One Hundred and Sixty-nine - The Wonder Years: Pilot, "Young, awkward, petulant love. It's beautiful."

I have to confess that Danica McKellar was my TV crush when I was a kid.

The girl next door who blossomed into a beautiful young woman who not only liked you, but forgave you when you were acting like an idiot (which, at that age, was all the time), Winnie was the ideal adolescent love match that I never actually got to participate in.

On top of that, Danica has made a name for herself as a mathematician after she finished her tenure on the show... brains and beauty! I might as well just melt in my chair simply from thinking about her.

In any case, The Wonder Years was one of those witty, coming of age family dramas posed as the narrator (voiced by Daniel Stern) flashes back to his heady days as a youth growing up in the suburban 60's and 70's. What the Wonder Years did for their era is fairly similar to what the Apatow crew did ten years later at the turn of the decade into the 80's with a fresh generation. Both shows focused on the true problems of kids going through puberty and trying to find direction in the world.

A struggle for pretty much everyone involved.

In addition to my crush on Danica McKellar, this was also the show that kept Fred Savage in the limelight after his endearing role as the sick boy in The Princess Bride as the show's main character Kevin Arnold. The kind of everykid for my generation, he was only supplanted when the wider appeal of a different Kevin... Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin)... stole his thunder in the Home Alone series.

Personally, I think Fred was the better actor (Kieran being the stronger of the Culkin brothers at the craft, IMHO), but the market spoke and there you have it.

The pilot is a little rough in places... with the play punches from Kevin Arnold's older brother, Wayne (Jason Hervey) being obviously too soft and fake, a mistake that was not repeated over a decade later in Malcolm in the Middle. Still, the combination of realistic behavior and perfectly timed inner monologue/narration made for a much stronger adolescent drama than ABC's other teen coming of age drama of the era, Doogie Howser, MD.

I love you, NPH, but Fred and Daniel did it better.

The Wonder Years always reminds me of a more wholesome take of the era than Steven King's Stand By Me. Both feature wise, older men looking back on their adolescence wistfully and portraying those childhoods realistically, it's just that The Wonder Years seems a bit more tame in comparison. Granted, it makes sense, considering one was a rated-R film and the other a primetime family drama on ABC.

I think, if I were looking to bond with my children, I'd have this and Freaks and Geeks primed and in the queue in the hopes that some of the wisdom would rub off. It probably wouldn't as, now that I think about it, when I watched it back then I was more concerned with how cute Winnie was than anything else, but still... osmosis occasional works.

And who knows... maybe the narration style would enamor them to Neil Simon plays and we'd have that, too.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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