Friday, January 18, 2013

The Problem With: "The Wonder Years"

Last week, I introduced a new series on my blog titled "The Problem With," in which I will analyze the inconsistencies I observe in TV shows and movies that I watch. Back to the Future was the subject of the first entry, which you can read here.

I should warn you that I've been on a bit of an '80s kick lately. Back to the Future is an obvious classic from that decade. The Karate Kid is another. I've watched The Karate Kid on cable, without exaggeration, at least seven times in the past three months. I just have an odd fascination with any mid- to late-1980s film in which Elisabeth Shue plays the girlfriend of the main character.

The Hub has become one of my favorite channels, because its lineup is brimming with '80s sitcoms: Family Ties, The Facts of Life, ALF. And until recently, it aired one of my personal favorites, The Wonder Years.

I was a fan of The Wonder Years during its original run from 1988 to 1993. I didn't know it at the time, but many of the story lines would parallel what I would soon experience in my teen years: the connections I made with my family, the bonds I shared with close friends, the loves I won and lost.

Boy, I wish I could have Daniel Stern repeat that last line to me. "I didn't know it at the time" is a quintessential Wonder Years phrase, isn't it? I'm fairly certain the narrator, the adult Kevin Arnold -- voiced by Stern -- used it at least five times over the course of the series.

There was another popular phrase that the older Kevin Arnold would say whenever he recalled a life-changing moment: "And happened." You knew the show had a compelling or entertaining twist in store for you whenever the narrator said that.

The Wonder Years had a great theme. I didn't know it at the time, but it's Joe Cocker's version of The Beatles song "With a Little Help from My Friends." The accompanying intro was fun, too -- it was "home video" of Kevin, his family, and his friends, playing, arguing, fighting, and generally being in one another's company. To this day, when I hear "With a Little Help from My Friends" -- the Joe Cocker version -- I have flashbacks to family barbecues, neighborhood football games and the time Jason Hervey punched me on the lawn. (No, that last part didn't happen.)

I watched The Wonder Years quite a bit when it was on The Hub. I remember one night in particular I tuned in to the network and caught the beginning of the show's intro. And happened.

I noticed a person I'd never seen on The Wonder Years before. Jump to the 44-second mark of the video above. Kevin accepts a football from a bespectacled Winnie. They're both smiling. It's a very cute moment.

But...who is that sitting on the curb next to Winnie? I haven't the slighest clue. I have no recollection of this person from any of the episodes. Obviously, this is someone who played a role in Kevin's life, someone who is at least an acquaintance of Winnie's and somehow managed to sneak onto the Arnold family home video collection.

How come older Kevin, the narrator, never addressed this? He had to have remembered this person 20 years later. He could easily describe every friend he ever had, every girlfriend, every teacher, every vacation, every game of one-on-one basketball he played with Paul. I can name you two of my high school teachers and maybe three or four other students who were in my graduating class. Kevin's memory was flawless.

And adult Kevin told so many stories. Six seasons' worth, as a matter of fact. And not one of them addressed the mystery person in the intro. This is a glaring oversight on his part.

Who is this person? Daniel Stern, help me out here.