Last night we watched the first two episodes of the reboot, The Wonder Years with the girls in an attempt to find our next family show. Full disclosure, it was my idea- both the particular show we watched and the habit of having a “family show”. I grew up sitting around the TV watching The Cosby Show, Different World, Fresh Prince, then later Family Matters, Martin, Living Single, and New York Undercover (when I was finally able to stay up past 9!) all with my family. I can recite line for line even to this day, certain Cosby show reruns that we recorded on VHS. I’ve even introduced the girls to reruns of some of my childhood favorites (thus far A Different World and Proud Family are the girl’s favorites). What can I say, your boy is heavy on the nostalgia. That’s why when the chance came to introduce the girls to a reboot of another one of my favorites, I jumped at the opportunity.
First though, an explanation about what I loved about The Wonder Years. It wasn’t so much the show itself, so much as the idea that it combined a few of the things I loved: history and storytelling. Also there’s the title, I mean, who wouldn’t love a show about wondering? I feel like I’ve spent my entire life wondering about life’s big questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do things not always turn out the way you want them? And of course, how do I get my favorite crush to like me back? (I finally figured that one out!). The original explored these questions and more, but through the lens of a white kid growing up in the late 60s. While the questions may have been universal, his experience wasn’t, that part always bugged me because clearly there was something lacking.
But when I saw that there was going to be a reboot, told through the lens of a black kid (about the same age as my oldest daughter), growing up in the mid-60s in black America…well, I couldn’t resist taking a look. Truth be told, I’m constantly on the lookout for stories that the girls can identify with, as an entry point for connection and dialogue. Last night’s viewing didn’t disappoint. Olivia (ever our observant empath) noticed phrases she’s heard time after time like, stay out of grown folks business. We even discovered a new phrase that I’m definitely going to bite, be cool (the dad’s catchphrase on the show).
One of my favorite scenes was the son Dean’s explanation about his dad’s choices, “A lot of black folks like my dad felt like didn’t think we need to mix with white folks to be better off. But my dad put his money where his mouth was, hiring the black doctor, accountant, and the black plumber. And often he’d have something we called black regret… “. This telling line led to a pretty interesting discussion with the girls about some of our choices (like where we live, where we choose to shop, etc). Riley confessed she didn’t understand the sarcasm, what’s black regret? That was a proud moment for me because it was like, she’s experienced such a standard of black excellence in her life, the concept of anything less than is foreign to her.
Like the precocious Kevin in the original series, the main character in the reboot is also a boy, 12 year old Dean who is just trying to figure out where he fits in in a world where he feels different and out of place everywhere. It’s like taking a trip back through my childhood. But it’s also like having a front row seat to some of the feelings my oldest two daughters, approaching their tweens are starting to experience. Here’s to hoping that perhaps our new show will keep the conversation going about how they’re changing as the world changes around them.