So I recently came across an article in Slate that talks about the Wonder Years on occasion of the 25th anniversary of its first broadcast. As you may recall, the show was about an adolescent teen (Kevin Arnold as played by Fred Savage) coming of age in the late 60s and early 70s. As it happened, the main characters and the actors who played them were roughly my same age and so I naturally felt a connection to the show. Since the series is now available on Netflix (well, a modified version is available with significant musical substitutions - Joe Cocker no longer sings the opening theme) I recently began viewing it again.
The pilot is actually incredibly well done and in watching it anew a few things stood out that I didn’t when I first watched it back in the late eighties and early nineties. Specifically, the opening narration explicitly states that the show is about the suburban condition:
“There’s no pretty way to put this – I grew up in the Suburbs. I guess most people think of a suburb as a place with all the disadvantages of the city with none of the advantages of the country. And vice versa. But in a way, those really were the wonder years for us there in the suburbs…”
A reoccurring device of the show is to frame some universal reality of growing up within the context of Vietnam-era suburban America. In the pilot and throughout the series outside events break through the isolation of the (unnamed) suburb to affect the characters and the lives they are living.
It will be interesting to watch the series again both from the perspective of an architect. It will also be interesting to watch from the perspective of someone who now relates much more to the perspective of the nostalgic narrator than the teenage protagonist hoping to one day be able to have the emotional distance to make sense of puberty.
And for the record, yes – I did have a bit of a crush on Winnie Cooper.