The Wonder Years
|The Wonder Years|
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||115 (|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||The Black-Marlens Company|
|Original release||January 31, 1988– May 12, 1993|
The Wonder Years is an American
The show earned a spot in the
The series was conceived by writers Neal Marlens and Carol Black. They set out to create a family show that would appeal to the baby-boomer generation by setting the series in the late '60s, a time of radical change in America's history. They also wanted the series to tie this setting in to the life of a normal boy growing up during the period. After writing the script for the pilot episode, Marlens and Black began pitching the series to television networks. None of them was interested, except for
Marlens had originally wanted the setting to be his native
When they started writing the series, Marlens and Black took a script for a future film that they had been toying with, which featured an off-screen narrator. Black explained, "We liked the concept that you could play with what people think and what they're saying, or how they would like to see themselves as opposed to how the audience is seeing them." They based the show, in part, on their own childhood growing up in the suburbs. Black recalled that "we naturally [took] elements of our experience and [threw] them into the pot. The basic setup, the neighborhood, the era – that's the time and place where we grew up."
The search for the main lead of the show did not take long. Marlens and Black went to five casting directors and interviewed them for recommendations. All five of them recommended Fred Savage, who at the time was famous for his roles as the grandson in
At the end of the first season, Marlens and Black departed from the show. Although they never gave a reason for their sudden departure, it may have been due to Black's pregnancy. She hinted at it in an interview in April 1988, saying "We have secret plans to leave Los Angeles before our kids reach the age of cognizance." One challenge for the cast and crew was filming around a child actor, meaning that the show had to obey child labor laws. Savage at the time explained, "You have to get at least three hours of school in every day. So whenever I'm on a break, I go to school. It's really intense because I have to get a lot done in short periods. And it's hard because if they need you back on the set, they pull you away every twenty minutes. If you're writing an essay and suddenly get inspired, you've got to stop and go back to work." Many exterior shots were filmed in Burbank, California.
As the show was in the process of wrapping its sixth and final season, a costume designer on the show named Monique Long filed a sexual harassment charge against stars Fred Savage and Jason Hervey. The suit brought a lot of unwanted publicity to the show. In the end, the case was settled out of court, with Savage stating that he was "completely exonerated", adding that it was a "terrible experience".
The Wonder Years wrapped its sixth and final season in May 1993. Its cancellation was partially blamed on conflict between producers and executives at ABC. As Kevin matured, the producers wanted the storylines to mature as well. However, the executives at ABC felt uncomfortable with more explicit content given the time slot, saying, "We felt it was inappropriate to present Kevin's awakening because of the setting in the 1960s, the gentle tone of the series and, most importantly, the 8 p.m. time period." Bob Brush noted that, "When Kevin became 16 and 17, there were really things he needed to get to that we couldn't do at 8 p.m., especially with the kind of venerable cachet that the show had obtained with its audience. We would get notes from the network saying, "You could do this on any show besides The Wonder Years." Other reasons for the show's cancellation were escalating costs and declining ratings. The cast's salary increases, coupled with location shooting (which was due to the producers wanting to reflect Kevin obtaining his driver's license), led to Brush claiming that they were spending $1.2 million an episode. The final episode aired on May 12, 1993. Bob Brush noted that the finale was not what he would have wanted it to be, but because the cast and crew were unsure at the time of filming if the sixth season was going to be the last, he was forced to have the ending be open-ended, until the recording of Daniel Stern's narration. Fans were somewhat disappointed with the ending, in particular the revelation that Kevin and Winnie don't end up as a couple. Brush acknowledged this disappointment, saying, "Some viewers [were] surprised that nothing works out the way your fondest wish would be," and explained, "The message I wanted in there is that that's part of the beauty of life. It's fine to say, 'I'd like everything to be just the way it was when I was 15 and I was happy,' but it seemed more nurturing to me to say that we leave these things behind and we go on to forge new lives for ourselves."
In a January 2018 interview with