The Wonder Years: An Examination on how to market a show to two generations BY Trey-seal The Wonder Years: Television’s Most Rebellious Comedy Many shows struggle to capture the feeling of nostalgia and wonder that the The Wonder Years expertly tackled throughout nearly its entire run. The show follows it’s main character Kevin Arnold and to a lesser extent his friends Winnie and Paul as they go through Junior High and High School.
The show starts in the year 1968 where the pilot introduces the audience to the Arnold family, a 1960s Nuclear family eminiscent of familiar sitcom families like the Cleavers (of Leave it to Beaver fame. ) Like those shows, The Wonder Years focuses on its youngest cast members but unlike those shows, The Wonder Years does not only focus on comedy with a moral value at the end but instead it blends the common obstacles of growing into adolescence with a 1960s setting that gives a youthful perspective of the various major events that occurred during this rebellious era.
This style lets the show appeal to a dual audience due to present day youth being able to relate to the obstacles faced by the oung characters while the adult audience can feel a sense of nostalgia but also deeper reflection on the familiar events that they experienced the aftermath of in their childhood. In addition to it’s main cast, The Wonder Years has an extradiagetic narration by an older Kevin Arnold who we can assume is either writing a book or telling the story to somebody.
The older Kevin’s narration both expands on the situation that we are watching and reflects on it through knowledge that he’s gained in the years since. It helps to offer a deeper level of depth than would be expected rom a show with such a young cast. Kevin’s best friend Paul is the poster boy for the stereotypical nerd: a Jewish-American lanky young man with low self-confidence and what he claims to be an allergy to Just about everything as revealed in the Pilot where he has to eat plain white bread at dinner with the Arnold’s due to being allergic to both meatloaf and salad.
Winnie Cooper, Kevin’s constant love interest throughout the show, Winnie Cooper is depicted as being the epitome of innocence. In Kevin’s eyes, which are certainly biased, she is the perfect woman and no matter how many irls he dates throughout the series run, he constantly finds himself getting back with her. Kevin’s father Jack is a Korean War vet who now works as a management Job for Norcom, a defense contracting company who Kevin’s sister Karen claims on a couple occasions that they manufacture micro weapons much to her disdain.
Karen starts as a hippie in the beginning of the show and continues to mature eventually enrolling in College(“Growing Up” S4:E1). Kevin’s mom Norma starts out in a typical housewife role but later on yearns to do more with her life eventually culminating in er returning to College in order to obtain her degree which leads to her working for an electronics startup. Wade, Kevin’s brother is his constant adversary throughout the show, suffering from the lack of attention that is associated with being a middle child, Wade constantly picks on his little brother and generally tries to make his life hell at times.
The Wonder Years is a single-camera Telefilm production that uses a presentational style of storytelling, its genre is claimed to be a comedy/drama by IMDB (“The wonder years-imdb,” ). The sets used initially are limited to home nteriors, outdoors in the cul-de-sac or surrounding land in addition to Kevin’s school. As the characters grow over time so does their range of exploration eventually culminating in the widest radius when Kevin receives a car (in the season 5 episode “Back to the Lake”, he drives to an entirely different town to see a girl again).
This wider range of locations was also the result of an increased budget due to higher ratings. Camera angles in the show are always shot at eye level using Medium Close- ups with tight framing, this helps to diminish the perception of their short height. The camerawork in addition to the extradiagetic narration help to break the viewer’s perception of the main cast as being merely children. The exception to this unspoken rule is when they are in the presence of adults in which cameras are tilted upwards in order to gain a P. O. V. shot from Kevin’s perspective.
Another alternative to the P. O. V. shot is the dinner table at the Arnold house, a constant buffer point throughout the show where the family reflects upon the plot that is occurring at the moment. In the dinner table shots, the camera is pulled back in order to frame the roup into a single shot. The camera zooms in on each individual as they speak in order to center the audience’s attention on that character. The Mise en scene of “The Wonder Years” has time-appropriate sets and costumes, which build a sense of authenticity within the framework of the show.
As the characters age so does their sense of style, a memorable example of this is in the “Pilot” episode where Kevin walks out of his room wearing a colorful shirt with frills, a shirt which looks like it could fit in with the wardrobe of Sonny Bono. After ridicule by his family, he goes ack into his room and changes. He walks out to the bus stop to find Paul wearing a similar frilly neon outfit: this subjects him to the ridicule of his peers. Kevin describes Winnie Cooper in loving detail as wearing “fishnet tights and Go-Go boots”.
Over the shows run, the different characters styles grew more conservative as time goes on reflecting the move from the hippie era. Music plays a major part in the show, acting as a non-diagetic (and occasionally diagetic) soundtrack to the scenes that it is used in. Instead of using unlicensed instrumental rhythm’s, The Wonder Years uses eriod-centric music in order to set the mood of a scene. In the “Pilot” for example, the ending scene shows Kevin and Winnie sitting next to each other as they mourn Winnie’s brother Bryans’ death.
Kevin slowly reaches his arm around her, which cues Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” to begin playing. Another example is the Season 2 premiere titled “Heart of Darkness” which uses Riders on the Storm by The Doors in its opening moments in order to demonstrate the sense of mystery and fear that Kevin was feeling when exploring a dark, dank cave in his prophetic dream. This is later followed by a camp fire scene between Kevin, Paul, and school rebel Kirk Mccray.
Kevin and Paul are prepared for an innocent camp out involving s’mores and scary stories but are surprised to learn that Kirk brought beer and cigarettes. In order to exemplify is rebel attitude, Kirk pulls out an 8-track player and begins to play Cream’s “Sunshine of your Love” as a diagetic soundtrack to the debauchery at hand. The pilot episode is a great example of a well-executed introduction to a television story, it begins with a slideshow of various events that happened throughout the 960s including images of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F.
Kennedy among the images of agent orange being dropped into Vietnam. The slideshow culminates in a kid running down the street in black and white before slowly transitioning into color. The time period is revealed to be 1968 and the use of 1960’s style home video footage is aired with the extradiagetic narration of older Kevin explaining how the Summer being depicted was the last one where he truly felt the Joy of childhood. We are introduced to the main cast that we will see grow over the coming years in addition o Winnie’s brother, Bryan.
We learn that Bryan get’s drafted to Vietnam as the show moves it focus back to Kevin, Paul, and Winnie who are starting their first day of Junior High. The first teacher that Kevin has immediately Judges him by the actions of his older brother, Wade. The overbearing portrayal uses an over the shoulder shot from a standing position while Kevin is sitting in order to show her an overbearing position while he sinks in his seat. Kevin finally has the last straw with his long, rough day when Wade comes over and picks on him in the cafeteria by telling Winnie that
Kevin “love’s her and wants to kiss her” (which Kevin adamantly denies). Storming out of the cafeteria, he is pulled aside by the principal who stops him for taking an apple outside the cafeteria. He rebels by pitching the apple back into the cafeteria causing a loud noise indicating damage. After having his parents come speak to the principal, older Kevin starts to speak about how he was expecting a beating from his father. When they pull into the driveway older Kevin’s narration says “and then it happened” this is followed by Kevin’s sister Karen saying “Bryan Cooper died.
The show suddenly abandons its happy go lucky tone to remind you that this the 1960’s wasn’t all about peace. Kevin then goes to Harpers Woods (where Kevin’s future-self claims that he secretly believed that Winnie would be there). When he arrives, Winnie is sitting on a log huddling herself up for warmth, The Wonder Years excellent use of period music is then put on display as “Percy Sledge’s When a Man Love’s a Woman” is played as Winnie and Kevin share their first kiss.
Over time, The Wonder Years changed from having a major focus on the 1960s to having a major focus on the elationship between the characters devolving more into a show about the characters and Kevin and Friend’s romantic trouble though there were exceptions including Season 4, episode 3:”The Journey’ which focuses on Kevin and a group of his rarely seen friends (including Paul) who take a trek by foot to make it to a high school slumber party in order to persuade the girls there to hang with them by providing beer.
Throughout its run, The Wonder Years proved to be a very different type of show, it is a shining example on how a television show can appeal to both a young nd adult audience without having to rely on a-plots or double entendres. With it’s excellent writing and chronological character development, it is surely a show that will be watched for years to come. works Cited 1 . The Wonder Years. Pilot. ” 31 January 1988, ABC 2. The Wonder Years. “The Journey. ” 3 October 1990, ABC 3. The Wonder Years. “Heart of Darkness. ” 30 November 1988, ABC 4. The Wonder Years. “Back to the Lake. ” 6 May 1992, ABC 5. The Wonder Years. “Growing Up. ” 19 September 1990, ABC 6. The wonder years-imdb. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. imdb. com/title/ tt0094582/? ref_=ttep_ep_tt