The Wonder Years Is a Remake Actually Worth Your Attention
The Wonder Years. ABC. Wednesday, September 22, 8:30 p.m.
In a fall broadcast TV season consisting mostly of remakes and ripoffs, The Wonder Years sounded like the absolute nadir—a racially reversed remake of a 40-year-old show about growing up in the 1960s, just as the Baby Boomers with whom it is concerned are starting to die off in staggering numbers. But regardless of how the new Wonder Years turns out as a financial/Nielsen bet, it’s no cynical ploy. It’s very funny, rather charming and … well, good.
Produced and written by Saladin K. Patterson, who worked on both Frasier and Psych, and with original Wonder Years star Fred Savage attached to the project as a director, WY2 takes the WY1 conception—a 12-year-old kid taking his first tentative steps into the adult world in in the which-way-is-up year of 1968—and scrambles it a bit. We’re still in the madhouse epicenter of the 1960s: draft cards and bras aflame, political assassinations all around us, Broadway casts stripping naked on stage, and Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley tussling for TV airtime.
But instead of a show about how this was experienced by white families in the ‘burbs (it was never clear whether WY1 was set in California or upstate New York, but it was certainly someplace where people swam and played tennis rather than mumblety-peg and craps), WY2 is in a pleasant black urban neighborhood in Montgomery, Alabama. And young Dean Williams (Elisha Williams, Puppy Dog Parts) gets lectures from his parents that Fred Savage’s character Kevin Arnold never dreamed of: What to do when the cops stop you. And never to embarrass yourself and the race (“show your ass”) in front of white people.
On the other hand, it seems there’s a lot about being 12 years old that
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