One night during the summer of 2007, I was channel surfing and stumbled upon a TV series called The Wonder Years.
I’d never seen nor heard of the show before, but was drawn in to find out whether it possessed the corny qualities of Happy Days, or the biting social satire of All In The Family.
After watching one episode, I learned that The Wonder Years has neither; the show is in a category all its own. For while it touches upon family, school, and other personal problems, these issues are addressed in a humorous, poignant, and down-to-earth manner.
That said, the episode plots are not complicated or issue-oriented. In fact, they are quite the contrary. The storylines are simple, reflect day-to-day living, and are easy to relate to, with the dilemmas being the secondary focus or subplot. Even the premise of the series is wholesome and straightforward: The Wonder Years follows the trials and tribulations of a boy named Kevin Arnold growing up in a typical suburb during the late 60s and early 70s. Kevin narrates the show as an adult in his thirties, reflecting on the memorable moments of his life from ages 12 through 17.
What struck me immediately was the first person narrative. Never before or since have I discovered a television show that utilizes this form of expression. Allowing the viewer to listen to the maturation in Kevin’s perspicacity of his memories, and to be able to observe the lessons he later took away from his experiences, greatly accentuates his character development. Deducing how this unconventional character development method unfolded, inspired me to experiment with perspective in my own writing.
In junior high school, I always assumed that people were only interested in books, movies, and TV shows that involved multifarious plots (those containing breathtaking drama, fantasy, adventure, or predicaments). It’s not to say that people don’t indulge in entertainment for escapism (I’m thinking along the lines of Harry Potter or V for Vendetta), but The Wonder Years taught me that human interest stories, anecdotes, and real-life happenings are very popular and likeable amongst people, as some of us watch movies/TV and read books not to escape ourselves, but to identify with something about ourselves. Learning the aforesaid impacted the types of subjects that I tackle. Often, I write about past experiences and the way I perceive people and the world in order to learn more about myself, and to discern how my views have changed over time.
Also in middle school, I had the presupposition that I was the only person who felt isolated and mistreated by others (aside from constantly being harassed and made fun of, I was always that kid in gym class who dodged balls, ran in the wrong direction, and was the last one picked for teams). My theory was proven wrong, when, in multiple episodes, Kevin hi-lighted his own gym class troubles, embarrassing moments, flaws, and the uniqueness of those considered to be “outsiders.” In summary, I no longer felt alone.
Since the summer of 2007, The Wonder Years has not been shown in re-runs, is not on DVD, and the internet has very few episodes available for viewing. Even though I haven’t watched the show in years (but hope to resume watching it someday), the impact it had on me was tremendous.