ABC is rebooting “The Wonder Years” for a new generation. This version, which hails from Lee Daniels and counts O.G. star Fred Savage among its executive producers, follows a Black middle-class family in the late 1960s.
Thursday, at the reboot’s Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour, Daniels and showrunner Saladin K. Patterson explained why they didn’t push the plot up a few decades from the original series’s setting. It was definitely an option.
“We wanted to really take the opportunity to show a part of Black middle-class life that had not been seen before,” Patterson said. “Usually when you talk about the late ’60s, it’s talking about the struggle and the civil rights movement and things like that that are very valid and a part of our story as well, but the perspective of the Black middle class during that time specifically was something that I know stood out to Lee and then stood out to me as well when when we first started talking about doing a reimagining of the show.”
“The humorous side of that is for whatever reasons, maybe it’s because we’re getting older ourselves, but the difference between now and the late-90s/early-2000s does not seem to be as different as when the original came out and you were looking from ’88 back to ’68,” he continued. “It seemed like much more happened between those two gaps of time. And so we really gravitated towards sticking to the the universe, ‘The Wonder Years’ universe of the original, and really looking at this Black middle-class perspective during that time because we haven’t really seen that represented on TV, on film before.”
“Ever,” Daniels added.
“When you think of this time period in Black America, you don’t really think of middle-class Black people, you think impoverished. You think of what the media portrayed us to be,” he added. “But yeah, this is our story, a story that hasn’t been told to America.”
The original “Wonder Years” followed Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. The series aired from 1988 to 1993, meaning young adults, the key demo for advertisers, would have been watching their own childhood years. (Kevin was 12 in 1968, which means when the show debuted he would have been 32. He would have been approaching middle age when the series went off the air in 1993.)
This one also starts in the late 1960s, when lead character Dean Williams (E.J. Willams) is also 12. That makes a ton of sense as far as literal consistency goes, but it would also make that character in his mid-60s today. The key demo for advertisers cuts off at 49.
Last bit of math we’ll do for you: The other option for this “Wonder Years” would have been to start in the late 1980s and enter the early 1990s.
“The Wonder Years” reboot premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.