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65 Years of Walt Disney Television: "The Wonder Years"

Steve Arino

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Hello Once Again,

Tonight, for my next Installment of 65 Years of Walt Disney Television, I'd like to share with you readers information on one of the newest Acquisitions of The Walt Disney Company via its March 2019 purchase of 20th Century Fox Television.

Its name: "The Wonder Years," the hit '80s Family Drama (reruns of which I used to watch on Nick at Nite as a teenager ages 12-16) which originally aired on the ABC Television Network (itself owned by Disney since August 1995) from January 31, 1988 - May 12, 1993, spanning 5 seasons of 115 episodes.

Created by Neal Marlens & Carol Black, "The Wonder Years" starred Daniel Stern as Kevin Arnold, a 30-year-old man reflecting and recalling his youth from ages 12-17 growing up in Culver City, Iowa in the 1960s & 1970s.

Like many boys growing up, Junior Kevin (Fred Savage) lived with his parents: dad Jack (Dan Lauria), a former Korean War vet working at NorCom, and mom Norma (Alley Mills), a typical American '60s & '70s Housewife, along with teen brother Wayne (Jason Hervey), a bit of a Bully to Kevin growing up, and rebellious older sister Karen (Olivia d'Abo, a British actress who adopted a neutral American accent for her role on "The Wonder Years").

The series began in 1968, when Junior Kevin spent his final Summer of youth before entering the fictional Robert F. Kennedy Junior High School, alongside best friends and neighbors Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), Kevin's teenage sweetheart over the course of the series.

Towards the end of the series, Arnold family patriarch Jack left NorCom after 20 years to start a new Chapter as the owner of a Furniture Company; likewise, after earning her College Degree, Norma began her first career--eventually becoming a Businesswoman, Grandmother, and Cooker of Mashed Potatoes.

Other characters (both regular and recurring) over the 5-year run of "The Wonder Years" included, but certainly were not limited to, Mr. DiPerna (Raye Birk), the Principal at Kennedy Junior High; classmates Randy Mitchell (Michael Tricario), Jeff Billings (Vonni Ribisi), and Chuck Coleman (Andy Berman); and Mr. Cantwell (Ben Stein), the local Chemistry Teacher at Kennedy Jr. High.

At the end of the series' Pilot episode, Winnie's brother, Brian Cooper (Bentley Mitchum, Robert's real-life grown Grandson), months after being shipped off and drafted to Vietnam, was killed in the War; other events, both serious and occasionally humorous, followed, such as when rebellious teen Karen began seeing (and eventually married) Michael (future TV "Friend" David Schwimmer) toward the end of Season 4; or likewise during that season when Wayne vainly attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army, only to be medically rejected due to Psoriasis after taking his Physical.

In addition to playing the present-day, adult Kevin Arnold on "The Wonder Years," Daniel Stern also directed 10 episodes of the series, from midway through the first season to the start of Season 4; he and Fred Savage are the only 2 Principal Actors to have appeared in all 115 half-hour episodes of "The Wonder Years," with Savage having played Teen Kevin throughout its run.

At the end of the hour-long Series Finale telecast, a number of events occurred: according to adult Kevin, he and Winnie wrote to each other for 8 years after graduating from McKinley High School in 1974; Wayne inherited the Furniture Factory after dad Jack died very young at age 47, presumably of a Massive Heart Attack, in 1975; mom Norma, as noted earlier, became a successful businesswoman, and cooker of Mashed Potatoes; Karen and Michael became parents of a young son, as did Kevin and his unnamed wife in 1982.

Since then, reruns of "The Wonder Years," besides airing on Nickelodeon, have also aired on The Paramount Network (then TNN: The National Network), FreeForm (then ABC Family), The Discovery Family Channel (formerly The Hub), and most recently on the ION Television Network--as well as the entire series having been issued on DVD from Time-Life Home Entertainment (licensed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment); though Disney owns Streaming/DVD rights to the series (via its 20th Television acquisition), Broadcast rights to "The Wonder Years" are owned by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
 

Pig's Laundry

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I loved Wonder Years when I was about 11-13. It was one of the first non Disney/Nick live action shows I was ever into, and the first I got into without one of my siblings. It was also the first one I truly related to.
 
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