ABC launched The Wonder Years on January 31, 1988 following Super Bowl XXII. The placement of the show would indicate a great deal of confidence, yet ABC only invested in six episodes for Season One. Due to the legendary music used in the series, it took StarVista and TimeLife Entertainment until October 7, 2014 to bring those original six episodes to stores shelves on DVD. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait as long to get some more help from our friends as season two was released on February 3, 2015.
The second season of The Wonder Years continues to chronicle the life of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), a normal 12-year-old boy growing up in the suburbs during the turbulent times of the late sixties and early seventies. In the 17 episodes included in this release, we delve deeper into the day-to-day life of junior high school and Kevin’s relationships with friends and family.
The season is full of both highs and lows as we travel through the calendar with Kevin from fall to summer. The story of Kevin’s relationship with the girl next door (Danica McKellar as Winnie Cooper) runs throughout the season and though it seems to bog things down in the early episodes, the writers do eventually provide us with more. Where the season really struggles is midway through with episodes eight “Hiroshima, Mon Frere” and nine “Loosiers”. In both episodes there is an attempt to deliver poignant messages that get lost on poor storytelling or general lack of content.
The relationship between Kevin and his brother is stretched in “Hiroshima, Mon Frere” but the performances are one dimensional and the plot is too contrived. In “Loosiers” the effort to focus on the dynamic and social politics of sports and gym class is valiant, but ultimately, the writers ran out of things to say and we are left with far too many basketball sequences.
Luckily, the highlights of this season are many. In “Square Dance” we relive the story of that one student that we all knew. In “Birthday Boy” we see Kevin grow up a little as he is able sacrifice the natural desire to be the center of attention on one’s birthday. “Pottery Will Get You Nowhere” allows us to examine the relationship of Kevin’s parents through his eyes and lets us to truly appreciate the talents of Dan Lauria and Alley Mills.
There is over two hours of bonus material which is more, and often repetitive, of the interviews filmed for the release of the series and which we saw on the DVD set of Season One. Again, these interviews would have been far more interesting and entertaining had there been a moderator interviewing the cast. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what the subject; it’s going to be difficult to sit and watch you talk directly to a camera for an extended period of time.
Recommendation: With our culture embarrassing the binge watching of shows, this is a great way to spend six hours, but save the bonus material for another time when you can’t sleep. The Wonder Years will remain wonderful for many seasons to come and all the reasons are illustrated in Season Two. A must-have for fans of the show, the era, the music, or to give to someone to introduce them to the life of Kevin and company.