If you're of a certain age, The Wonder Years needs no introduction. For six seasons, between 1988 and 1993, it was one of the most successful shows on US TV, charting the adventures of twelve-year-old Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as he, and his friends Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), negotiated the often very funny but sometimes bittersweet turmoil of adolescence while, in a wider view, Kevin’s family tried to hold things together in the disorder of late 1960’s America.
It was essentially a sitcom, but it quietly redefined what a sitcom could be (if you can call a show that had the guts to debut on Super Bowl night 'quiet'). Its humour comes from the heart, from the memories the show evokes about our own growing-up, to the wish fulfilment that we all wanted to have friends like Kevin, Paul and Winnie (and Olivia d'Abo, even more gorgeous than her Bond girl cousin) who would stand beside us through good times and bad. But there was plenty of drama too - in fact, in one of the best pilot episodes that has ever been made for any series anywhere, the comedy of Kevin's first day stepping through the portals of manhood at Robert F. Kennedy Junior High is offset by the news, at the end of the episode, that Winnie’s brother has been killed in the Vietnam War. It is a genuine moment of shock that not only ends with Kevin and Winnie’s first tentative kiss, setting up an on-again off-again relationship, that would last right through until the series finale, but bravely sets out the stall for the 114 remarkable episodes that were to come.
And there isn’t a bad story among the bunch, and they’re all here inside this mammoth 26 DVD box set together with more exclusive bonus material than even the most enthusiastic Wonder Years fan could ever wish for. It's during one of these special features, when the cast reunites to share their stories about the show, that you get a real clue to the magic of The Wonder Years - working on the series was obviously an intense experience for everyone, and there's a genuine sense of a family reunion as they sit together and reminisce. And, in a particularly fascinating interview, the show's creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black give a terrific insight into not only the evolution of the series but about what came afterwards, when they decided to quit Hollywood to lead a real life. Even better though, all the original sixties and seventies music that was featured in the show when it first aired has been restored, including Joe Cocker’s all-important cover of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’.
It sounds hokey, but revisiting this series is like catching up with a long lost best friend and learning more about them than you ever thought possible! This is a phenomenal set, a terrific keepsake of one of the best television series ever made, and it's truly – erm – Wonder-Years-ful to finally have every episode available to relive over and over again.
THE WONDER YEARS: THE COMPLETE SERIES- DELUXE EDITION / CERT: PG / DIRECTORS: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: FRED SAVAGE, DAN LAURIA, OLIVIA D’ABO, ALLEY MILLS, JASON HERVEY / RELEASE DATE: 4TH APRIL