The Wonder Years is making a comeback.
ABC is developing a reboot of the classic family television series, with the intention of debuting the series for the 2021-2022 season. But instead of following a suburban White family like the original series did, this reboot will center on a Black family. Empire co-creator Lee Daniels will executive produce the new version alongside Fred Savage, who starred in the original series. Original series co-creator Neal Marlens is on board as a consultant.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Wonder Years reboot “focuses on how a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama, in the turbulent late ’60s made sure it was ‘the wonder years’ for them, too.” The potential comedy series has received a significant pilot-production commitment and plans to open a mini-writers room once the network approves the script. Saladin K. Patterson, who wrote for The Big Bang Theory, Dave, and Two and a Half Men, will write the pilot script.
Savage, who played the teenaged Kevin Arnold in the original series, has transitioned from a child actor into a reliable comedy director. His feature film directing debut, Daddy Day Camp, was critically reviled, but he’s directed episodes of Boy Meets World, Even Stevens, Party Down, Modern Family, Happy Endings, The Connors, and nearly twenty episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, on which he’s also a producer. Should this version of The Wonder Years get a full greenlight, Savage will executive produce and direct episodes of this iteration.
This is the latest big TV project for Daniels, who is at least partially responsible for creating shows like Star and Empire, the latter of which just wrapped up its final season. He’s perhaps better known as the director of Precious: Based on the Novel “Push,” by Sapphire, the deranged Nicole Kidman/Zac Efron movie The Paperboy, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which starred Forest Whitaker as a butler who served eight presidents in the White House.
A Wonder Years reboot set around a Black family in the wildly unstable 1960s almost sounds like a joke – for many Black Americans, there was nothing “wondrous” about that time in our nation’s history. I’m curious how far a network like ABC might allow these storytellers to go when it comes to depicting some of the more disturbing elements of that era on prime time television, but perhaps a project with name recognition like this will be a way to get more eyes on a show that could shine a light on some issues that we clearly have not yet overcome in 2020.
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