ABC’s latest series, “The Wonder Years”, is coming to Disney+ internationally this winter as a Star Original and is inspired by the classic 1980s TV series of the same name.  However, this series has gone through some changes from the original 1980s show and follows a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama, in the late 1960s.

The main focus is on 12-year-old Dean, with Don Cheadle (Marvel’s War Machine) providing the voice of the grown-up Dean, reminiscing about the past and providing commentary throughout the series.

I remember watching “The Wonder Years” as a kid, when Channel 4 used to air it before the news (before Hollyoaks existed!), but it’s been a long time since I last watched it.  Making the story about a Black family completely shifts the show’s tone and makes it very different from the original.  Though the star of the original series, Fred Savage, is an executive producer on the show and also directed the first episode.


In the first episode, we are introduced to who Dean is, who his family are and giving us a general insight into their lives.  With this series being set in the late 1960s, not only does the series deal with the shift in attitudes that the 1960s introduced, but it’s also dealing with the aftermath of the end of segregation, but through the eyes of a 12-year-old, so it’s much more simplistic in how it approaches the subject.

The tone is generally upbeat and deals with some exciting adult topics, including the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, pornography, the Black Panther movement, periods, and jealously.  But because we are seeing it from Dean’s perspective, it’s all handled beautifully.    Seeing Dean use the death of Martin Luther King Jr to get out of doing homework and getting caught at school with his dad’s magazines, brings the tone down to his level.  His innocence makes the show more compelling because most of us can relate a little to how he feels.    There are some hard-hitting topics being discussed, but it’s done in a way that younger audiences can handle, while also providing entertainment to adults.


I really enjoyed the first three episodes I’ve seen and will be continuing on with the rest of the season, when new episodes are released.  It’s a fun, easy-going family sitcom.  I like that it’s a twist on the original series, because it feels completely fresh. However, it’s still similar to another Star Original, “Mixed-ish”, about a family growing up in the 1980s from a mixed families point of view, which I’ve been watching every week and enjoying.  But “The Wonder Years” feels a little bit more drama-led, whereas “Mixed-ish” leans in more on the comedy side and comparing to today.

I honestly think it’s best to think of this series as a completely new series, forget about the original series and try not to compare the two.  They might have the same premise, but they are very different.   It’s barely like the original at all, which is both good and bad.  Had this show been called something else, I don’t think it would have got the criticism that it has had.

Each episode is just over 20 minutes, so each story is wrapped up pretty quickly, with a few subplots going on at the same time, but that’s the good thing about your usual sitcom, you can just drop in, watch and an episode, without having to worry about what came before it or after it.  You can just enjoy it for a quick bite of family fun.


Overall, “The Wonder Years” is an enjoyable sitcom set in the late 1960s, that just happens to have the same name as another series set in the same era.  Because of the shift to the stories coming from a Black families perspective in the 1960s, it has a different tone, but it’s delightful.  It’s lovely, charming and fun to watch.

 

Rating – 4 out of 5

 

The first episode of “The Wonder Years” is coming to Disney+ in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Wednesday 22nd December 2021, with new episodes dropping weekly afterwards.












Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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