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'The Wonder Years,' Nostalgia and Life
October 24, 2014  | By Linda Donovan  | 1 comment
On Monday (Oct. 20), TVWW founder and editor David Bianculli moderated the reunion of the “kids” from The Wonder Years (1988-’93) at the 92 St. Y in New York. (You can see the entire discussion here on the 92 St Y site. And, yes, there is an audio problem during the sharing of the first clip.)

These particular actors -- Fred Savage (Kevin Arnold), Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper), and Josh Saviano (Paul Pfeiffer) -- are exceptional in more ways than one. Each one is inordinately talented, impressively smart, incredibly kind and extraordinarily open. As for their importance to The Wonder Years, I think David said it best: “It would have been insufferable in the hands of the wrong young actors.”  

If you watch the video of the interview, I’m sure you’ll find yourself reliving the series, reliving your youth and feeling joy, sorrow and pangs of nostalgia. That’s the magic of The Wonder Years. It can evoke every feeling we have in our emotional arsenal. Happiness and heartache, promise and pain, triumph and torment. Your first kiss, dancing and singing in your room, and the perils and pleasures of just trying to survive school are all standard sitcom fare. But put in the staggeringly creative hands of the writers and directors of The Wonder Years, and especially these three actors, it rockets you back to those times as quickly as those wonder years pass.

Listening to the thoughtful and reflective comments of all three actors and David, I began thinking about the whole idea of nostalgia. What happens when we look back, no matter how long ago?

Nostalgia can be a funny thing. Sometimes it can bring us sorrow when we expect comfort or drama when we hope for levity. Looking back has its positive and negative reactions. Maybe you’re missing someone and, rather than tune into the TV shows you enjoy, for instance, you find yourself having trouble watching them alone because they remind you of the one you’re without. Or there’s a special place you used to share that has become too painful to visit – literally or figuratively.

Regardless, no matter who you are, looking back will guarantee the recollection of people, places, smells and sounds. Sometimes all at once. The sweet and the bitter tastes of nostalgia.

As Fred Savage (left) said during the 92Y Wonder Years reunion, after a particularly tear-inducing clip, “Now, as an adult, I can look back…to those moments in my life. We all look back to those moments in our life and connect to them. It just breaks my heart in a whole other way.”

Television has its own way of dealing with letting us know we’re about to see a flashback. Some special music will accompany that nostalgic look. If only we all could have a harp play as our soundtrack as we reminisce. At least we’d hear it approaching and steady ourselves for the outcome.

During the discussion, David presented a question posed to him by a bartender earlier in the evening. As a big Wonder Years fan, the man behind the bar wanted to know why Kevin and Winnie didn’t end up together. Fred Savage and Danica McKellar both said they are asked that question constantly. Both noted that it wouldn’t have been realistic should it have happened. Savage said if they had finished the series in a way that was amenable to the majority of viewers – Kevin and Winnie together –it wouldn’t have been true to life. Not many people stay with the person they loved when they were 12 years old. And things never stay as beautiful and perfect as they were when we were that age. We have so much ahead of us and so much to look back on.

It's no wonder. It's just one of the many reasons they are The Wonder Years.

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The most refreshing thing about all three is how normal and grounded they are, and what amazing adults they grew up to be. Fred continues as an actor & director, Paul is an attorney in NYC, and Danica graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in math, and has gone on to write math books. And she continues quite nicely with her acting career. They are all role models; never recall event a hint of scandal about them when they were teens and young adults. Nice to see them as productive adults. Were that all our former child/teen stars could age so gracefully.
Oct 25, 2014   |  Reply
Linda Donovan
Absolutely, Eileen. David addressed that same thing in his introduction as well as the fact that they're all parents. During the discussion, they each touched on aspects of their lives growing up which, I believe, gave an insight into why we never heard a "hint of scandal" and why they've become such incredible people.
Oct 25, 2014
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