The Wonder Years gives a new take on a classic sitcom
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Nostalgic TV shows try to paint a picture of simpler times, portraying life as it was in a bygone era. From 1988 to 1993, The Wonder Years looked back on the late 1960s through the eyes of Kevin Arnold, a white boy growing up in the suburbs with typical prepubescent troubles and adventures, in the midst of an America that seemed a safe yet exciting place.
Thirty years later, a new version of The Wonder Years on ABC portrays the same era through the experiences of a young black boy in Montgomery, Ala. Dean Williams (Elisha “EJ” Williams) is an awkward, bespectacled youth with romantic troubles and friendship woes. His heroic older brother serves in Vietnam, while his older teenage sister gets in different sorts of trouble than 12-year-old Dean. With two working parents, a station wagon in the driveway, and wood paneling everywhere, the Williams family home in the city seems just as safe and idyllic as the Arnold’s neighborhood of the earlier series.
The old version of The Wonder Years largely avoided politics and issues of race in favor of the personal stories of Kevin and his friends. Working in more serious content—which also includes Kevin’s mom’s progressive ideas on sexual norms—the new show loses some of the innocence and humor that made the original so successful. Producers try to be funny in other ways, but the new version of The Wonder Years doesn’t quite have the humor of the original—even if its new premise is promising.
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