Kevin Arnold grew up in front of our very eyes on the surprise hit The Wonder Years. Along with his brother Arnold, parents Jack and Norma, and best friends Paul and Winnie, we were reminded exactly what it was like to grow up while experiencing the transition from childhood into grown adults.
The TV series debuted in 1988 and ran for 115 episodes before its big finale in 1993. The critically acclaimed series has remained in syndication, although some troubles with music licensing crept up in recent years.
Stick around to relive the childhood memories of Kevin, his friends, and family.
The Original Idea Was To Produce A Movie
Series co-creator Carol Block sat down for an interview with New York Magazine in 1989 and explained that the original screenplay was meant for the big screen. “We played around with writing a screenplay that used narration as a device. We just started to think that there was a lot of potential fun in that ‘cause you can really play with the contrast between the narrator’s point of view and what the characters are doing,” she revealed. Block created the show with her husband, Neal Marlens, after the couple previously worked together on Growing Pains.
The TV Show Was Inspired By A Christmas Story
The narrative part of the TV show was a no-brainer for Block and Marlens because they lifted the idea right from the popular movie A Christmas Story. In fact, Peter “Ralphie” Billingsley appeared in the final two episodes of the TV series where he played one of Kevin’s roommates.
The Shows Single Camera Setup and Missing Laugh Track Broke Down TV Barriers
When it was time to film the first season of The Wonder Years there was no laugh track present and a single camera setup was used along with a narrator. Audiences loved the fresh take on TV production and the show was soon being recognized as a trendsetter.
It Took Only Six Episodes To Win An Emmy
Despite a prime time debut after one of the biggest sporting events in the world, the show wasn’t an immediate rating star. However, critical acclaim allowed the show’s producers and cast to win the 1988 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series after only six episodes had been screened.
Fred Savage Was Also Really Young When Nominated For An Emmy
Savage wasn’t just young, he was the YOUNGEST actor to be nominated for an Emmy. At only 13-years-old he was nominated in 1989 for the prestigious award. Savage was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category. He was also nominated one year later. Look how young he looked (and was) in this photo from 1989!
A Super Bowl Premiere
Remember that “big” sporting event we said the show premiered after, it was the Super Bowl! The Washington Redskins annihilated the Denver Broncs 42 to 10 but millions of the sporting events 80 million viewers stuck around to watch the show’s debut.
The Show Ended Because The Cast Grew Up
The Wonder Years was a coming of age TV series and the main actors on the show came to age. In a 1993 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Executive Producer Bob Brush said the kids were developing and getting older. Eventually, the network realized that the concepts that could move forward would make The Wonder Years no different than any other adult-based series on TV.
Kevin and Winnie Shared Their First Kiss In Real-Life On Camera
Danica McKellar joked to ABC News years after the famous first kiss scene with Kevin that, “The one good thing about getting your first kiss on camera is that you know for sure it’s going to happen.” Savage said that seen was terrifying at the time of production. “We were both really scared and nervous and—and—didn’t know what was going to happen or … if we were going to do it right.” It works out and went down as one of the crowning moments for the TV show.
A Crush Developed Between The Show’s Stars
Savage and McKellar admitted to having crushes on each other during an interview with People. “I was in love with her for the same reasons every other boy fell in love with her,” said Savage. “You won’t meet a sweeter, nicer girl—and she’s gorgeous.” McKellar admitted to having a mutual crush on Savage but then it morphed into more of a brother-sister bond.
Kevin And Winnie Broke Up Because Of A Growth Spurt
Staging a TV romance is not an easy task because of all the variable that go into shooting each scene. When McKellar experienced a quick growth spurt between the show’s third and fourth seasons, a breakup was inevitable. Once Fred Savage hit his own growth stride, the show’s love interests were reunited.
Fans Really Wanted Kevin And Winnie To End Up Together
When The Wonder Years ended Kevin and Winnie didn’t end up getting married and raising a family together. Executive Producer Bob Brush explained why the show’s stars didn’t live out a happily ever after together. “Some viewers will be surprised that nothing works out the way your fondest wish would be,” Brush told the Los Angeles Times. “The message I wanted in there is that that’s part of the beauty of life. It’s fine to say, ‘I’d like everything to be just the way it was when I was 15 and I was happy,’ but it seemed more nurturing to me to say that we leave these things behind and we go on to forge new lives for ourselves.”
Jack Arnold Dated Maggie Seaver
Marlens and Black had created Growing Pains years before The Wonder Years and Dan Lauria appeared in a small row on that show. “I had done a part on Growing Pains, and I was going out with Joanna Kerns [who played mom Maggie Seaver on the show] at the time, so I heard about it through her,” Lauria told Paste. It was Joanna who told him to call Neal and an audition was scheduled. Lauria didn’t feel comfortable calling Neal so instead, Joanna made the request and Neal immediate said Lauria would be perfect for the role.
Marlens pulled part of the show’s aspects from their hometown of Huntington, Long Island and elements from Black’s hometown of Silver Spring, Maryland were also used. ABC executives didn’t want any specific town to be named so no city was ever mentioned. A few astute viewers believe the show took place in California because of license plates found on various vehicles throughout the show’s six season run.
Fred Savage Was Greenlit For The Role And There Was No Other Choice
Getting the role of Kevin Arnold right was paramount to the show’s success. Perhaps that’s why Marlens and Black interviews five casting directors for recommendations. All five of the top casting directors said Fred Savage was the only choice for the role. Savage had recently appeared in The Princess Bride where he won over audiences. Marlens told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1988 that it was immediate apparently that Savage was perfect for the role. “Knowing nothing about him, we arranged to screen some unedited footage of a film he was making at the time, Vice Versa … [We saw] a marvelous actor with a natural quality, which essentially means he has no quality at all except being a kid.”
Danica McKellar Competed Against Her Own Sister For The Role Of Winnie
Casting Winnie Cooper was a tough decision that came down to the show’s team picking between Danica McKellar and his sister, Crystal. “It was practically a tossup,” casting director Mary Buck told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. Crystal didn’t land the leading role but was hired for the recurring role of Becky Slater, Winnie’s rival in the fight to win over Kevin’s affection.
Real-Life Dialogue Was Used In The Show
Kevin and Winnie’s relationship was full of one-liners and serious conversations. “Kevin and Winnie’s relationship was, in some ways, defined by my friendship with Fred and some of the things that we would say,” McKellar told Collider. “The writers would actually take lines from things that we were saying to each other, off camera, and put it into the script. She joked that The Wonder Years had a lot of “blurred lines” when it came to real-life versus a TV series.
The Creator Of The Sopranos Tried To Help The Show
Producer Ken Topolsky realized the show needed to start focusing more on mature subject matters so he enlisted the help of Sopranos creator David Chase to write a script. The final script was called “phenomenal” and “one of the best” but it was not used because it involved hard drug use, something the family-friendly series decided to avoid.
The Original Pilot Had A Different Actor As Narrator
Daniel Stern is definitely the adult voice of Kevin Arnold but it was Arye Gross who narrated the original pilot. The series premiere was eventually re-recorded with help from Stern.
A Weird Rumor About Marilyn Manson Surfaced
Thanks to the internet, a few years ago it was rumored that Marily Manson played the role of Kevin’s BFF Paul Pfeiffer. Joking about that rumor, Savage told ABC News, I met [Marilyn Manson] once. He came up to me, and he goes, ‘You know, we worked together.’ I was like, ‘I do. I do know that.’” Well played Mason, well played indeed.
Daniel Stern’s Real Life Son Played The Little Boy’s Voice In The Series Finale
Just as the series is coming to an end the voice of Kevin’s little boy is heard asking his dad to come outside and play catch. That was the real life voice of Stern’s own son.
There Was A Lot Of Issues With Music Copyrights When The Show Was Ready For Syndication
When The Wonder Years came to Netflix and Amazon the original “With a Little Help From My Friends” was not present, that’s because the rights to the Joe Cocker cover of The Beatles original were not secured in perpetuity.
The show’s producers spent two years and “seven figures” to secure the rights to the theme song so it could be released on DVD and eventually Blu-Ray. “If we couldn’t clear that song, there was no reason to go onward,” Jeffrey Peisch, Head of Video at Time Life, told The Wall Street Journal.
The show’s producers ended up security 284 other songs, for DVD release. That is 96% of the show’s original music. However, The Doors music is not featured on the show because the music couldn’t be secured during negotiations.
Fred Savage Is Kevin Arnold Now And Forever
Fred Savage went on to become a highly successful director but he has never forgotten about his Kevin Arnold roots. Savage told GQ that “The persona of The Wonder Years is something that’s going to be with me forever. And I’m happy for that. It’s nothing that I’d ever shy away from, and it makes me feel so good that it’s something people still remember and talk about it and think of it so fondly. I think now I’ve established myself as a director, but starting out, I’d be foolish to think that every opportunity that came after The Wonder Years didn’t stem from The Wonder Years. So I owe so much of everything to that show.”
Fred Savage will always be Kevin Arnold to us too.