Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years
Episode 6: Dance with Me
The Season Finale
By: Carlos Uribe

The Wonder Years is a show about Kevin who is coming to age in the early sixties and late seventies. It ran from 1988 until 1993.

Spoilers Ahoy!

One of the great things about the Wonder Years is how great it manages to capture adolescence. It's the ultimate television coming-of-age story. This is an episode that had Kevin asking Lisa out to the dance, only to have her ditch him moments later. That's the nature of many middle school relationships: they can begin and end within minutes. The scene of Kevin actually asking Lisa out, by passing notes, felt completely realistic and was completely funny. The rest of the scenes also felt realistic and within that realism, the show is able to make the audience laugh. What makes this show work isn't just how it captures pre-teens, but their interactions between each other. It's not like Kevin is going to be able to express himself very well, and the awkwardness of his attempts to communicate with the fairer sex are very relatable. This is also an episode that had Kevin finding out that Winnie already had a date to the dance and his attempts to make her jealous. The episode ultimately ends with the two slow-dancing, calling back to how the pilot had ended with a kiss.

This is important. In the pilot, the two had been drawn together and had shared a special moment together. It's as if fate had united them. Since that episode, Winnie has appeared less and less frequently. Kevin even moved on to Lisa and Winnie moved on to some other character. When they slow-dance, they know that even though they might have feelings for each other that fate is drawing them apart. It doesn't pack the same emotional punch as the best episodes of this season, but it does manage to end on a nice and sweet moment. The episode did have many great comedic moments-the dancing lessons from Kevin's family and the I Dream of Jeannie dream sequence come to mind. It's an episode that manages to grasp that first school dance and the feeling of insecurity around the opposite sex. The Wonder Years manages to have a first season finale that is pretty great. It might not be the best episode of the season, but it'll be an ingrained reminder of why this show is simply so fantastic. That's a good accomplishment of the finale.

When I began reviewing the Wonder Years, I knew that I was picking a special show. I had seen the first few episodes of this season a while back, and it's the memory of the quality of these episodes that convinced me to cover the series. This is a show that deliberately creates the all too real awkward interactions of Kevin. In doing so, the series has a protagonist that the viewer can easily root for. Whether that's him throwing an apple at a cafeteria, trying to call a girl, or simply trying to get a date to the dance, the viewer will stand behind him. Anyone who has gone through middle school should be able to perfectly relate to Kevin and his troubles. It's often very hard for any series to create a strong protagonist, but the Wonder Years has managed to do so by creating a pre-teen that is well-written and relatable. Very little media can create kids who feel real and this show does it. Kevin might not curse all the time, as some movies and shows seem to think makes a kid feel more realistic, but he has his foils and his strengths.

There's more to the Wonder Years than Kevin. It manages to capture an era that transports a viewer, such as myself, to this by-gone age. I was born in 1991 and I only know the 1960s from my history books. Watching this show, I can actually picture myself growing up in 1969. The series has managed to do this by not only getting detail periods fine but with the music and the news events. It manages to do this partially with Kevin. Mad Men gets a lot of praise on how it portrays the 1960s, but it never really manages to transport me as this series does. It doesn't matter if the rest of the show's run isn't able to capture the magic of these six episodes-this show has earned enough good-will for me to forgive it for pretty much anything.

This may not have been the best episode of this fabulous season. This episode even feels a bit less ambitious than the other episodes. There is no exploration of the decade's issues and there is nary a mention of sex. This doesn't disappoint me because I feel that this was the kind of episode that should close this season: one that touches on where Kevin and Winnie stand and one that calls back to that scene in the pilot. In doing so, the episode is able to leave a good memory on the viewer. I won't be reviewing season two until next summer (despite the lack of interest for these reviews) but I'll keep having a good memory of this show.

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