The Wonder Years: Complete Series

| October 7, 2014

At long last it’s here. Earning the distinction of the most requested, unreleased TV DVD in the marketplace, The Wonder Years (1988-1993) is finally available on DVD. We’ve been waiting for this for so, so long, haven’t we? And after so long, who actually ever thought it would happen, and with so much of the original music choices intact at that? All 115 episodes of the series’ six season run are now available in a deluxe, 26-DVD collection from Time Life and StarVista Entertainment—a set containing more than 23 hours of extras and over 300 songs from the series’ original broadcasts, including Joe Cocker’s rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends” of course!

I know I’m not alone when I say this, but The Wonder Years played an integral role in shaping my expectations of young adulthood during my formative years. It had this remarkable way of making me somehow feel nostalgic for things that had yet to happen to me upon first viewing, be it my first kiss or driving a car for the first time. It, along with any number of other movies and TV shows, would define the way I approached my teenage years, creating a host of great expectations for better or worse. I mean, what young, straight male in the late-80s/early-90s wasn’t in love with Winnie Cooper? What boy didn’t want to have the adventures Kevin Arnold had? It was life-changing.

The Wonder Years combined in my young psyche with heavy helpings of such 80s, teenage classics as Sixteen Candles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High to define the future as I saw it lay out ahead of me. As a result, my teenage years were plagued by what I can only describe as the “John Hughes Syndrome.” Unfamiliar with JHS? Well, let me enlighten you: Those afflicted by JHS suffer from an unwavering, gross misunderstanding of how their teenage years are actually going to play out. All JHS sufferers inevitably dreamed of going to summer camp, meeting the love of their life at Saturday detention, or doing some crazy thing or other in which they beat the odds, meet the girl/boy of their dreams, overcome adversity, defeat the school bully, and have a host of generally wacky adventures. But those things hardly ever happen, at least not often or in abundance—not even in real life in the 80s!

This is not to say that The Wonder Years presented some kind of idealized, perfect view of our teenage years, because it didn’t, and neither did any of other films/series in the same vein. As its title would have you believe, the series’ view of the 60s and 70s is exceedingly nostalgic, and certainly makes you wish you were young yourself during that era—never mind the horrors that befell the nation during that era. And in fact, Wonder Years does nothing to gloss over these horrors. A main character’s brother is even killed in Vietnam in the very first episode! Just like the domestic abuse in Breakfast Club or the horrible embarrassment endured by Judge Reinhold in Ridgemont High, we somehow ignore all this as we imagined ourselves to be a part of the world, to ourselves become little Kevin Arnolds.

But then, as I look back on the connection I had with these movies and shows now, I think these things—which is to say, the horrible things that happen to and around the characters—may in fact be what makes them so accessible. Were it not for the real hardships these characters endured, we couldn’t imagine ourselves in their positions when they do meet the boy/girl of their dreams.

Revisiting The Wonder Years in preparation for this review, these are the things I thought about. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the hell out of the series and found in it greater nuance and humor than I had ever seen in it as a kid. I find myself in love with the series in ways I never could have imagined I would grow to appreciate it when I saw those same episodes as a young man. As the father of a little man of my own now, I see The Wonder Years through a decidedly different lens.

I was revisiting the series’ third episode, “My Father’s Office,” when I realized just how beautifully this series about a 12- to 17-year-old boy could bridge multiple generations of viewers, connecting with viewers of all ages. I saw this very episode as a boy and dreamed I too would spend a day with my dad that would forever change the way he and I saw each other. And now here I am on the other side of the equation. I no longer view the series as a boy enamored with the promise of an exciting, if unrealistic future that would always be just out of reach, but as a man who dreams of just such a future for his own son instead.

The Wonder Years: Complete Series (which will run you $249.95 on WonderYearsonDVD.com) comes packaged in a collectible metal locker (a replica of those used by Kevin and Winnie in Kennedy Junior High School)—complete with Wonder Years magnets to decorate the locker.  Within the locker are housed the 26 DVDs in binders, as well as two notebooks featuring episode guides and production photos. Also inside this beast of a metal package is a replica yearbook featuring behind-the-scenes photos, series memorabilia, and liner notes penned by Fred Savage, series creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black, and executive producer Bob Brush. This is of course to say nothing of the 15 hours of special features including ten brand-new featurettes, outtakes, alternate versions of Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss, and interviews with stars Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Olivia d’Abo and Jason Hervey, plus guest stars David Schwimmer, Ben Stein, Bob Picardo, Seth Green, and of course narrator Daniel Stern and a host of others from the crew.

Another configuration of the complete series, The Wonder Years Experience, includes not only the complete series with locker and all, but a host of memorabilia as well. The swag packaged with the Experience includes a Kennedy Junior High School tee shirt, tube socks, and a vintage gym bag; a Kennedy Junior High School pennant and commemorative patch, as well as collectible pins and a newly-produced Wonder Years CD.

But then, maybe you’re not looking to drop $250-$300 on the series all at once (that’s a lot of money, I know). In that case, StarVista will also release Wonder Years: Season One on October 7, 2014, with other seasons sure to come. This 2-disc set includes all six unedited episodes from the series’ first season and two hours of bonus material. The first season notably includes every single song that was played during the episodes’ original broadcast, including Jimi Hendrix, The Monkees, and Steppenwolf.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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