Recently I was traveling on a bus and found myself thinking of ways to kill the time between destinations. Then it hit me…I have a smart phone…with Netflix! So there I was scrolling through everything the online streaming services has to offer. There was Sharknado (an instant classic), Guilt Trip (Barbra and Seth Rogen…eh…shhh…I actually watched this later), Mad Men (can’t refuse Roger Sterling!), a documentary on eating grass or saving dolphins or Steve Jobs or something…and then I found it. I had finally come across something that I knew, loved and would really enjoy….again. The Wonder Years!! That’s right…a little Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper would surely make this the most enjoyable bus ride ever!!
Before I knew, that recognizable theme song written by John and Paul but performed by Joe Cocker was blaring in my headphones: “what would you do, if I sang out of tune….”. Immediately I was transformed back to a place where my bed time is 9:30pm. Where my little league games and school dances meant everything in the world! Where sleepovers and talking on the phone turned into all night affairs.
But as I started to watch this show, something strange happened. Suddenly I was no longer watching it through the eyes of Kevin; as I did when I was younger. But I was now watching it through voice-over Kevin…or the incomparable Daniel Stern. You see, the first time I watched this show, as a kid, the things they were showing Kevin go through, I was going through many of those things at the same time. So I remember the show being fun to watch because it related to my everyday life as a kid…just like Kevin’s (plus the fact that I kind of looked like him helped as well). But now, now that I am 32, now I was reliving those same stories and memories…just like voice-over Kevin was…they were in my past….and I was feeling great nostalgia. And this gave me a whole new experience of watching the show.
I started with a classic episode of Kevin falling in love on a family vacation with a girl that was older…with a girl that he instantly clicked with…with a girl he would never see after that weekend. I transitioned from there to the great ‘Lake’ episode…where we find a chain smoking teen name Cara (pronounced Car-a…remember her now?) falling in love with a 15 year old Kevin…and him falling in love right back. And the episode ends, of course, with Kevin going right back to the real love his life: the legendary Winnie Cooper. Of course in between the adventures of teenage love we get a taste of a family growing up, growing apart and coming together again. Along with the never ending friendship of Paul and Kevin and the times when we actually start to see our parents as real people and not just, well, not just our parents. So as I was watching these terrifically crafted episodes, I was transported back to the days when I was a kid. Thinking about family vacations. Thinking about having crushes on girls and how I felt with just a simple kiss or conversation from them. Thinking about getting together with friends and just causing trouble…thinking about the past and all the mistakes, successes, loves and friends & family along the way (I know, I know…its just a tv show…but you try it and tell me the connection you feel!).
(Cue in my voice-over for this paragraph please)…As I rode in that bus watching Kevin, Paul, Winnie, Wayne (Butthead) and the whole Arnold Clan, I started to think. I went back to a time when summer vacations lasted a lifetime. When the love a girl meant your whole world had changed for the better. When friendships seemed like they would never end. And you didn’t think about mortgages, medical bills, debt or unjust wars…your biggest concerns were what to wear to school the next day and wondering how to ask out that girl or boy you had a crush on…I mean do they even know you’re alive??
(Ok, end voice-over)….Never has a show really given me a whole new watching experience from kid viewing to adult viewing. Sure I have rewatched plenty of shows that I used to watch when I was a kid. But The Wonder Years…rewatching this show is something special. So do yourself a favor, get on Netflix and watch The Wonder Years again! Enjoy Kevin diving for Paul’s sister’s earring at her dance, that Jets jacket and the first kiss with Winnie after her brother dies tragically in the war. Cringe when Becky Slater yells “friends, I’ll give you friends”. Laugh along with all of Pual’s allergies and medications. Enjoy the cameos by stars of today before they were stars (David Schwimmer, Juliette Lewis, Screech, Zach Morris, Robin Thicke, Jeremy Davies, Seth Green, among others). And just let yourself be transported back to simpler times…back to times when our dreams felt within reach, worries didn’t exist and we had our whole lives in front of us to do everything and anything we wanted to do.
And just remember, as the song goes: “Oh I get by with a little help from my friends”.