“What would you do” if you had to reboot… The Wonder Years?
Well, if it was me, I’d “stand up and walk out” on you. The Wonder Years is one of the top 10 TV shows of all time, and as such, it should be considered untouchable. Watching re-runs of the show on Nick at Nite was part of the very fabric of my childhood. The coming-of-age dramedy dealt with some incredibly mature subjects, including the Vietnam War, and boasted one of the great child performances in the history of the medium from Fred Savage. I mean, years before Dawson and Joey, there was Kevin and Winnie (Danica McKellar), one of TV’s great high school romances. And who could forget Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano), with his huge black glasses and goofy grin? He was the kind of best friend we’d all be lucky to have. Meanwhile, the show’s narration from Daniel Stern is second to none, and its use of music is truly incredible. And yet the series standout, the one who made the sauce so special, was Dan Lauria, who played Kevin’s stern but loving father. Clearly, there is no way to improve on this show, which is all the more reason to leave it alone.
However, The Wonder Years is clearly a valuable piece of IP, and since ABC believes there’s gold in remakes these days, I’m finally writing the article I’ve been dreading since I started working as an entertainment journalist — there’s a Wonder Years reboot in the works.
The series will maintain the original’s late 1960s setting, but this time around, it will focus on how a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama made sure it was “the wonder years” for them, too. The show is inspired by Saladin K. Patterson‘s experiences growing up there in the late ’60s. I dig that approach, as it allows the network to mix it up while capturing a similar flavor to the original series. The music choices and costumes may change — expect a new theme song and forget about Kevin’s beloved Jets jacket, for starters — but the new series will likely feature a similar sound and visual aesthetic.
Patterson is a sitcom veteran who currently serves as an executive producer on FX’s breakout comedy hit Dave. He’ll executive produce The Wonder Years reboot alongside Lee Daniels, his producing partner Marc Velez, and Savage, as well as 20th Century Fox TV, which owns the rights to the original series, and has overall deals with Daniels, Patterson and Savage. Meanwhile, Neal Marlens, who co-created the original series with Carol Black, will serve as a consultant on the reboot, which is being developed for the 2021-22 television season.
THR notes that Savage and Patterson are close friends, as Savage directed Patterson’s untitled pilot starring Leslie Odom Jr. last year. It was the two of them who approached Daniels and Velez and brought the idea directly to ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke, who has previously singled out The Wonder Years as one of the shows that made her want to work in television.
ABC has handed a pilot production commitment to The Wonder Years, and Savage will direct the pilot. The approach is said to be reminiscent of the way the classic family sitcom One Day at a Time was reimagined with a Latinx family. The network has embraced the reboot strategy of late — its Roseanne spinoff The Conners (which Savage has directed) has proven successful — though it recently passed on a sequel to thirtysomething, which debuted the same year as The Wonder Years back in 1988. ABC has also seen success with another family sitcom set decades earlier and driven by narration — The Goldbergs.
What’s crazy to think about is that Savage is actually older right now than Lauria was when he played Kevin’s father. At 43, Savage still seems much younger than Mr. Arnold, but maybe that’s because when you’re as young as I was when I watched The Wonder Years, adults in their late-30’s seem really old.