It’s rare that I get really excited – the “I’m five years old and everybody’s coming to my birthday party tomorrow!” kind of excited – waiting for a new show to premiere. But that’s how I’ve been feeling since ABC started airing promos for The Wonder Years reboot.
The original coming-of-age comedy ran from 1988 to 1993 and focused on a pre-teen boy and his family in the turbulent late sixties to early seventies. It starred Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills and Olivia d’Abo. And its weekly storylines were a master class in balancing the comedy of growing up and the tragedies of that era.
The show garnered a devoted and respectful fan following. In fact, decades later Fred Savage and Danica McKellar are still immediately – and fondly – recognized as “Kevin and Winnie.”
But given the growing demand for equal representation on television, even the fans must recognize that the show was extremely “white” in characters and it’s perspective. And knowing the extend of the civil unrest that still existed at that time, it’s no surprise that someone decided to explore the African American experience during that period.
The new team is a mix of the old and the new. Executive producers (the people who make the show happen) include Empire co-creator Lee Daniels, the president of Lee Daniels Entertainment, Marc Velez, and Fred Savage, himself. One of the creators of the original series, Neal Marlens, will also be consulting to guarantee the reboot has the same magic and heart.
Of course, it doesn’t matter who’s behind the scenes if viewers don’t fall in love with the new characters. But how could they not?
Like the original, the series plucked a new face for its titular role. Elisha “EJ” Williams will play Dean, a 12-year-old in Montgomery, Alabama. Also like the original, each week the story will be narrated by a grown-up version of Dean. This time, the voice resonating with understanding and sometimes, adult amusement, will come from none other than my personal secret crush, Don Cheadle (Hotel Rowanda, Ocean’s 11/12/13, House of Lies, Avengers).
If Cheadle isn’t enough incentive to tune in – which, of course, is ridiculous – another fan favourite, Dulé Hill (The West Wing, Psych, Suits, Ballers, Black Monday, need I say more?) will play Dean’s father with a whole lot of style and attitude. Then again, how could he not?
The rest of the cast is rounded out by numerous rising stars – including one Tony-award nominee – from hits shows including Black-ish, Black Lightning, Heels, and the Jennifer Hudson-led Aretha Franklin movie, Respect.
But beyond the impressive names behind the show, this reboot has life-changing potential. People need to listen to each other more. Really hear each other – their experiences, perspectives, and the “why’s” behind their actions.
While a lot of white folks tout their knowledge of MLK and Malcolm X, there’s much more everyday black history that is unknown to viewers. And The Wonder of it, is that this fall, we can explore those Years together.