Thursday, June 26, 2008


I’m back with 4!!!

Oh, how it's been so long,
We're so sorry we've been gone,
We were busy writing songs for you.

I've had a hectic time of things recently. We moved into a new house, bought a Prius because we're white, and just had in-laws in town for the entire weekend. Combine that with my addictions to alcohol, Rock Band, and largely mediocre (or worse) Bay Area sports teams, and it's been a busy time. One week I was only able to squeeze in two naps after work.

I doubt many of you missed me much, as I still managed to mock or tear down others' posts. But it really wasn't fair to start a list like that and leave all my loyal readers hanging. Let's see what pops up after a two hour date with dreamtime this afternoon.

4: The Wonder Years

The only half-hour show on my list, and I'm sure some would consider it a comedy. However, it had no laugh track, and it sure had its share of tender moments.

This one holds a special place in my heart because its main character, Kevin Arnold, was the exact same age as I was. The show started in the summer after Kevin's last year of elementary school, where everything made sense and the only girl that mattered was the one right across the street. During the first few episodes, Kevin was exposed to the horrors of junior high school and all the confusing and exclusionary politics of that toxic environment.

If you're getting the sense that junior high was an unpleasant time for me, that's not just the gin talking. I really hated it. Not wanna-kill-myself hate it, but I did come up with a mysterious stomach ailment that ultimately required an ultrasound (which showed nothing- I wasn't pregnant...nor was I within years of threatening a woman's womb) just to stay out of school for a couple weeks. One of the few things that made the fourth circle of hell known as Stanley Intermediate bearable was The Wonder Years on Wednesday nights. At least I saw that someone else was going through the same things.

Even though the story took place in the late 60s (the pilot focused on Winnie's brother being killed in Vietnam and Kevin's subsequent first kiss with his neighbor), I felt like Kevin and I were living parallel lives. I'm sure lots of other people did as well. I had dorky friends, I worshipped sports heroes, and I was obsessed with girls. He did much better than I did with them, although I could never figure out why he didn't go for the exoticly tempting Madeline from his French class over frowny sad sack Winnie. It probably didn't hurt that I thought Madeline looked like one of my high school crushes.

I remember one episode in particular about Kevin's monster pimple, and the way he cleansed, ointmented, buffed, and polished it, only to end up with...a shinier, cleaner pimple. I can't begin to count the hours spent in front of the mirror obsessing over the latest blemish.

Then there was the music. I'm still woefully uninformed on lots of that era's tunes, but most of what I know came from watching The Wonder Years. From that outstanding Joe Cocker opener to the songs that seemed to match every situation perfectly, whoever was picking songs for that show knew their shit. Unfortunately, this is the aspect of the show that prevents it from coming out on dvd. It wouldn't be the same without the music, and the rights to six seasons of gold don't come cheap. If you're of the younger generation and have never seen the show, it did run in syndication for awhile, so search your network (do they still have Nic at Nite?).

The Wonder Years lost a bit of momentum toward the end of its run, which is too bad because the last episode was fantastic. Kevin finally seals the deal with Winnie (in a barn!), but it's actually goodbye sex. I can't remember exactly why, but they are headed in different directions. The kicker was the narration, as usual delivered with gentle, sincere grace by Daniel Stern. Kevin informs us that his dad dies a few years later, and big bro Wayne takes over the family company.

I remember watching that as a junior in high school, alone in my bedroom, and fighting back the tears. There was something very sad about leaving this family I'd come of age with. But there was also something fitting about Kevin and Wayne growing up and moving on, just as I would do a year later.

To this day, I can't hear "With a Little Help From My Friends" without getting a tad nostalgic for that opening home movie montage where Kevin waves at the camera at the end. There's a beautiful simplicity to it, like coming home.

No comments: