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The New Wonder Years


From Executive Producer Fred Savage, who played Kevin Arnold on the original series, comes the African American re-imagining of The Wonder Year which premiered on ABC last night. The show basically follows the premise of the original show, following the cavity-prone years of a kid growing up in 1968, with the adult version of the character serving as the show's narrator. At this point, I should mention that I don't think I ever watched a complete episode of the original series, but because I'm black and because II was only a little younger than the lead in this version when this is set, my curiosity was naturally piqued. Obviously, the difference between this reboot and the original is that racism is probably going to be at the forefront of a lot of the episodes because racism was at its zenith in 1968. There's some clever appreciation of black slang in the writing...loved the running gag based on the phrase "Stay out of grown folks' business." But the story of the black little league team playing a white team for the first time just wasn't that interesting and the battle between Coach Long (Allan Maldonado) and Dean's dad (Dule Hill) was just silly and the segue to the pretentious conclusion revolving around Martin Luther King's assassination was a little convenient. Right now, this show is a nice idea, but nothing special. The writers need to put a little more work into Don Cheadle's narration, which isn't sure if it wants to duplicate Daniel Stern in the original or be more like Chris Rock's narration in Everybody Hates Chris. Dule Hill is excellent as the dad, but other than that, the cast is nothing special, but I'm willing to give it a couple more episodes.

Guy who likes movies
I always try to give new shows at least three episodes to grab me.
That's a good approach. For me, it depends on the show. Some shows I give up after the first episode. Others I will give them at least a handful episodes. I watched the first episode of Ordinary Joe and thought that was ok. I watched Our Kind of People and didn't really care for it. Have you seen Ordinary Joe or Our Kind of People, Gideon?

They've got a tough act to follow using the same title & premise. (I still may try to check it out, though.)

In hindsight, the original is now a masterpiece of classic TV that most likely will never be matched.

I only saw the original in re-runs (used to watch it in the afternoons before going to my 2nd shift job) and it was always an emotional rollercoaster for me. Kevin was a bit older than me (the character that is, not Fred Savage in real life who's quite a bit younger than me). He was about the same age as my older brothers. Still, it was a show that almost anyone close to the era could relate to.

I used to think the Wonder Years was directly inspired by the movie Stand By Me (1986) - had a modern narrator remembering his life as a boy... but the Internet says the Wonder Years was directly inspired by A Christmas Story (1983) - which had the same thing!

Just watched ep 2 and the initial appearance of milking MLK's death provided a pleasant surprise, if not necessarily realistic. First, the nod to the severe overlength and boredom Dean had with church hit a direct bullseye for me. This coming from someone who was dragged to church every Sunday and fell asleep every time the sermon began. The white guilt over MLK being used to Dean's advantage was very funny, if not terrible realistic. I was in the 4th grade when MLK was assassinated and I got no special treatment. Loved the resolution of the Dean/Corey conflict and there was a huge improvement in the writing of Cheadle's narration, which he, of course nailed. Dule Hill is continuing to kill it as the dad and yes, I will be watching ep 3.

Ep 3 was kind of odd...the idea of Dean finding his dad's magazine stash was fine, but the mother legitimizing it and confessing that the magazines were hers and that she and Dad liked to look at them together was just strange to me. And what Mom did would have been all right if she had had Dean's back in the principal's office with the girl's father, but she didn't, which made no sense to me. I just didn't buy a lot of what happened in this episode, but I think I'm going to keep watching.

Ep 4 started out kind of predictable but had a bit more edge than I expected. My mother was a working mom in the 60's but she was a teacher. I'm not really sure I bought a black woman accountant having such an important position, let alone quietly running the entire company by herself and comparing it to a football team was kind of silly. My father worked for IBM when I was a kid and he took me to his office a couple of times and I don't remember seeing another black face, let alone a black woman. Coach Long's behavior was disturbing too. Cheadle's narration was the strongest it's been to date. This show is definitely beginning to grow some legs though.

I'm surprised that we had to wait until ep 5 to have the extreme overlength and total boredom of black church to be addressed, which gave the ep a promising start but got bogged down in this whole "lock-in" thing, something I never experienced in my 40 years of going to church, though it was kind of amusing the way the girls seemed to take completely control of the situation. I was a little confused about the behavior of Dean's mother in this episode...this sexually uptight woman worried about the kids letting their hormones out of control was the same woman, who, a couple of episodes ago, told Dean it was all right for Dean to look at adult magazines and that she and Dean's dad used to look at them together? The mother seems to change from episode to episode in terms of the character's basic makeup. I'm also over Dean's older sister...a waste of screentime IMO. This episode did feature EJ Williams' strongest work as Dean -thus far and Cheadle's narration was excellent.

Ep 6 got off to a shaky start with Dad spouting off about white culture stealing from black culture, sounding an awful lot like Andre Johnson on Black-ish, but mixed emotions were stirred up at the camping trip. Dean may have been out of line the way he spoke to his father, but frankly, it was nice to see the Dad humbled for once. Dule Hill was excellent. Loved Cheadle's narration.

Even though 1968 was a little too early for malls, I did enjoy ep 7 and, needless to say, the ides of being embarrassed by a grandparent is something we all can relate to. For me, it was Auntie Ruth, but it was the same stuff Dean was feeling here. That moment where Grandad handed the keys to Dad made the rest of the show worth sitting through. Loved Richard Gant as Granddad.

Found ep 8 a little troubling. I knew at some point that we would have an episode centered on Dean being bullied and frankly, I didn't think I'd have to wait 8 episodes for it. I was bothered by the way Mom just pushed Dean aside and made it her mission to help Michael Simms. That scene where Dean came in the kitchen and found his mother working ith Michael on his science project and her literally pretending Dean wasn't in the room was just wrong, and then on top of everything have Dean lose the science fair and have Michael standing there in the background laughing at him was beyond wrong. This episode was clearly written by someone who has never been bullied. Cheadle's narration was perfection though, the best thing about the episode.