Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Wonder Years

Thanks to Netflix streaming video, Roku, and a snowy weekend, I been lost in The Wonder Years over the past two days. I thought I'd just watch one or two then move on, but I got caught up in the wonder-fulness of it all. The writing and Daniel Stern's narration, a la A Christmas Story, perfectly captures life on Planet Middle School - at least the Planet Middle School of the 1960s/70s.

Everykid Kevin, played to perfection by cutie-pie Fred Savage, drags all of us back through the horrors and joys and back through the horrors of being 12, 13. 14. Emotional wounds - long since healed (or so we thought) - have those scabs ruthlessly ripped off during each episode. Lockers, junior high dances, bullies, Phys Ed disasters, parent-child battles, crushes, break-ups, misunderstandings, first phone calls, fashion, peer pressure, looking cool - is it all coming back to you now? Eeek.

Terminally-allergic Paul and the object of everyone's affection Winnie round out the trio of friends. Each brings a different facet of adolescent experience to the party. The Arnold Family is fairly normal as television families go. The parents aren't idiots, though Dad is kind of tough and grumbly. Brother Wayne is a real jerk and sister Karen tends toward hippie-militant, but the family sticks together, just like most of our families did. And the other characters that tromp through are recognizable.

I wonder if the cringe-worthy moments that take us back to our own junior high experiences resonate at all with 21st century kids. Certainly, the phone call terrors have disappeared, since a lot of ice is broken via email and Facebook now, I suppose. Have Phys Ed teachers changed? Do kids agonize over what to wear to school? Do they pass notes or slip them into lockers? Do they even have lockers?

No matter. Well done, The Wonder Years cast and crew. Your show withstands the test of time, at least for those of us who endured growing up in the pre-internet age.

Hey, we all got by with a little help from our friends.

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