Airs On: ABC
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
First, I would like to go on record as someone who is not a fan of remakes or reboots. In fact, when I heard that The Wonder Years, a show that I watched faithfully from the late 1980s into the early 1990s, was being “rebooted,” I was annoyed. I didn’t plan to watch it, but then I noticed that Fred Savage, a star from the original series was one of the producers, it got me thinking. If this was a total remake, would someone who took part in the original want to be a part of the new one? Then I learned just what this reboot would be about and I relented. I tuned in to ABC on September 22, 2021 to check out the debut of the new Wonder Years.
Initial reports that this series was to be a reboot of the original series were completely wrong in my opinion. This new version of The Wonder Years is something of a companion to the old version. In the old version, we followed Kevin Arnold, a member of a white, middle-class suburban family, and his experiences growing up in the late 1960-early 1970s. These years were a source of great turmoil and change in the United States and the show gave us one perspective of what that was like for a young boy growing into a man in that time period. That being said, what this era was like for a white, middle-class, suburban family would be different in many ways from what a black, middle-class family might experience.
Thus, we have, The Wonder Years (2021) in which we meet the Williams family. Like the Arnold family, we have a family unit made up of a mother and father, two sons and a daughter, but there are some differences. The family lives in Birmingham, Alabama – the deep south – for one thing. The show is narrated by an adult Dean Williams (Don Cheadle), the youngest son in the Williams family. As a twelve-year-old boy in this tumultuous era, young Dean (Elisha Williams) is navigating the political and social atmosphere while still trying to figure out his place in the world, friendships and girls. Older brother Bruce (Spencer Moore II) is already with the military in Vietnam when we meet the family. Older sister Kim (Laura Kiriuki) is an intelligent, precocious teenager who is interested in civil rights movements and change. Father Bill (Dule Hill) is a jazz musician and teacher, while mother Lillian (Seycon Sengbloh) is an accountant with a Master’s Degree.
The pilot episode of The Wonder Years (2021) deals with civil rights and segregation, a topic very hard for twelve-year-old Dean to get his head around as he tries to organize an integrated baseball game. As we move on in the series, we see Dean dealing with various historical events and movements, like the assassination of assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, Vietnam, the moon landing and more. But we also see him dealing with puberty, fitting in, bullying, friendships put to the test, the social importance of barbershops, and more.
Is this new version of The Wonder Years on par with the old version. In my opinion it is that and more. This new version has all of the elements of the older one. It just shows us a different perspective of what it was like to grow up in this era. The actors that portray the Williams family have that chemistry that makes you believe they truly are a family. The events in the show are realistic and often touch the heartstrings as we think back on our own struggles at Dean’s age. Music was a big deal that worked towards defining the era in the original version of The Wonder Years and it is a huge part of this version as well. Fans of music from the era will love hearing old favorites by Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, The Turtles and more.
So, what do I think about this new version of the classic favorite. I wouldn’t call this a reboot, but an addition. The Wonder Years (2021) is a must watch for people who want the full experience of what it was like to be a middle-class family growing up in the late 1960s-early 1970s. The cast is great, the writing is funny when it needs to be and serious when it needs to be, the storylines are believable and on par with the times, the music is terrific, and I haven’t found too many visual eras like cars or clothing that might not be from the era…then again, I’ve been too engrossed in the story to be bothered with all that. This new version of The Wonder Years is definitely worth watching.