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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Drama > Teens > The Wonder Years - The Complete Series (1988 - 1993/Time Life/Star Vista DVD Box set/Metal Locker replica)

The Wonder Years - The Complete Series (1988 - 1993/Time Life/Star Vista DVD Box set/Metal Locker replica)

Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: A Episodes: A-

WOW! After decades of fans clamoring for the chance to own The Wonder Years on DVD, Time Life/Star Vista Home Video has finally delivered one of the most demanded series in a stunning ultimate DVD collection.

The Wonder Years premiered on ABC in 1988 and ran until 1993; running for six seasons and airing 115 episodes. The series was a hit from the very beginning, garnering both critical and popular acclaim. In its lifetime The Wonder Years was nominated for over 50 awards including but not limited to Golden Globes, Emmy awards, and Peabody Awards. Writers Carol Black and Neil Marlens set out to create a series with wide appeal to the baby boomer generation; setting The Wonder Years in the late 1960s, a time of change, happiness, and strife. Whereas they strived for success, the creative duo also toyed with unconventional manners of storytelling; in particular using a voiceover (inner monologue) track to add a layer of depth and insight to the characters. Daniel Stern (Home Alone) providing the voice for Kevin Arnold's inner monologue. A fine balance of comedy and drama, The Wonder Years managed to capture a generation of viewers; one group pleasantly overwhelmed with nostalgia and another experiencing the 1960s for the first time. Now on DVD, Time Life/Star Vista is once again giving audiences across the world the opportunity to go back to happy, though not always simpler time.

Each season is approximately a year, focusing mostly on the main character Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as he goes through life in the years 1968 to 1973. With a supporting family cast of Dab Lauria (Kevin's father Jack Arnold), Alley Mills (Kevin's mother Norma Arnold), Olivia d'Abo (Kevin's sister older Karen), and Jason Hervey (Kevin's older brother) audiences were treated to the classic baby boomer family; warts and all. To round of the cast Josh Saviano played Kevin's best friend Paul Pfeiffer and Danica McKellar played Kevin's friend/love interest Winnie Cooper. The chemistry between the cast was undeniable from the very beginning, as it felt dynamic and real; only furthering the emotional and entertainment impact of the series.

Season One is a strong introduction to varying group of personalities; most in particular Kevin Arnold as he awkwardly enters his teenage years. Kevin and friend Paul prepare for the start of Junior High, as they quickly realize life will never be the same. Concurrently Winnie Cooper is mourning the death of her brother (a casualty of Vietnam), while Kevin helplessly looks on searching for the perfect words to calm her pain; ultimately leading to the pairs first kiss. Keeping up the pace Season One goes onto to having many funny and endearing moments as Kevin experiences Sex-Ed, gains a deeper understanding of his father, plays defensive little brother, and learns the trials and tribulations of trying to understand women. Season One is only 6 episodes long (originally premiering after the 1988 Super Bowl), but established a foundation for which the entire series would build upon.

Season Two is composed of 17 episodes and is one of the most memorable of 6 seasons. Kevin is cast in a play by teacher Miss White as Senator Robert F. Kennedy, only (awkwardly) leading him to develop a crush on the older woman. Hormones rage onward as Paul begins to date and Kevin gets lost in his teenage obsession with Winnie. Kevin clumsily fights for Winnie's affection, causing him to stand up to the school bully, scramble for the perfect Christmas gift, and much more. Other coming of age events have Kevin struggling as he is subjected to bullying by his big brother, color TV, learns consequences of talking about others behind their back, and is subjected to a variety of lessons on 'healthy competition.' The series manages to also infuse more serious topics such as divorce, war protest, and running away from home; keeping the topics light hearted, but impactful.

Seasons Three and Four solidified that The Wonder Years was not going anywhere as the 23 episodes seasons delivered some of the best moments in television history. Pimples, French kissing, cheating on tests, and best friend battles have Kevin pushed to the brink; as he dredges onward through another year. By Season Three the actors had settled into their roles and writers were delivering stellar scripts that finely balanced comedy, drama, and nostalgia like no other. Unlike other sitcoms and dramas of the time The Wonder Years had a storyline that was constantly moving forward; growing with the characters and expanding upon the idea of the 'American Dream,' suggesting that it wasn't as easy as others would have us believe. Life gets further complicated as Kevin and his pals enter their final year of Junior High in Season Four; the season picking up after the 'world changing' events at the end of Season Three. Girls, girls, girls; an overwhelming theme throughout the series, but Season Four has Kevin at odds with a variety of temptations and unwanted advances. Season Four is seemingly more lighthearted than the previous season, as comedic elements shine through. Kevin begins to have more insight into those around him; including his father, Coach Cutlip, his mother, and (of course) facing his own personal demons. Whereas the season is overall thematically fun, there are moments like those in the heart wrenching episode 'The Accident' that hit close to home and again solidify the depth The Wonder Years had. In 'The Accident', Winnie is involved in a serious car accident that has Kevin frantically attempting to see her, while simultaneously being at a loss for words. The last three episodes of the season are the most powerful as the truly explore the inner workings of a variety of characters and once again throw a life changing moment at Kevin Arnold.

With Seasons Five and Six it is apparent that times are changing for Kevin and in turn The Wonder Years. The series remains as good as ever, but with Kevin getting older the topics are maturing as well. The series begins to lean more heavily on the comedic elements to get past the issues of maturing relationships and sexual situations. Strife between loved ones is almost always calmed by the lighthearted sensibilities of The Wonder Years, not going as far as to make a joke of the situation, but rather a means to break the tension. The Wonder Years was ABC's golden child, sitting at an 8 O'clock time slot with solid ratings; unfortunately this meant that dealing with more mature themes as the years progressed was a no, no. Executives at ABC unwilling to take any risks with the series essentially stagnated growth before its untimely end at the end of Season 6. There are many will they/won't they moments in Season 6 for Kevin and Winnie, as the floundering couple has many ups and downs. Kevin and his friends also have their moments as they come into their own; dealing with such topics as teen pregnancy, disobeying parents, and splitting off from the crowd.

Wonder Years it is felt by most never got a proper send off. The creators were unsure if they would be renewed for a 7th season (ultimately they were not) and decided to leave the season finale open ended. In the end, Daniel Stern's voice over for Kevin got to be the final word on how things ended up for Kevin, Winnie, and the Arnold family.

The Packaging:

The Wonder Years: The Complete Series is amazingly housed in a small, metal, replica of a Kennedy Junior High locker. Inside the locker viewers will find a host of collectible materials, including:

  • 2 Note Books with detailed information on all episodes

  • Production Photos

  • 26 individual DVDs resembling vinyl records

  • Yearbook containing behind the scenes photos

  • Custom Wonder Years magnets

Technical Features:

The 26-DVD set is wonderfully constructed with much time and effort put into making a quality set for long time fans/collectors. The picture/sound qualities are also well done; though would have been better served on Blu-ray with a High Definition treatment. The picture is presented in a 1.33 X 1 standard definition that gets the job done, but remains a mixed bag as it bounces around in terms of quality. The picture is mostly clean and clear, but retains an element of grain with fluctuating light/dark issues. The colors for the most part hold a bright palette, but again quality varies and at times colors are muted. The sound is a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo that comes heavily from the front, occasionally utilizing the sides and rears; mostly for the music. On the plus side most music rights were acquired for this release and fans can rest easy knowing that the series (with music) is being delivered as originally intended. I did not have much issue with sound as the dialogue comes through mostly crisp, clean, and clear; and for a dialogue driven series, a heavy front track was not distracting.

Bonus Features:

The Wonder Years set contains over 23 hours of bonus material, including:

  • Featurettes

    • With a Little Help From My Friends: The Early Days of The Wonder Years

    • The Times They are Changin: The Era

    • My Generation: The Kids Grow Up

    • When a Man Loves a Woman: Kevin and Winnie Forever

    • Bookends: Kevin and Paul

    • A Family Affair: At Home with the Arnolds

    • I Love You for Sentimental Reasons: Fan Favorite Episodes

    • Will you Love Me Tomorrow: Wonder Years Love Stories

    • ABC: Teachers that Made a Difference

    • Both Sides Now: Music that Made the Moments

  • Cast/Crew Interviews

    • Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Olivia d'Abo, Jason Hervey, series creators Neal Marlen & Carol Black, narrator Daniel Stern, and executive producer Bob Brush

    • Guest Star interviews with Seth Green, Ben Stein, David Schwimmer, and Bob Picardo

  • First Cast Reunion in over 16 years! (2014)

  • Deleted Scenes/Alternate takes

  • Commentary on all 6 takes of Kevin & Winnie's first kiss (Season 1; Episode 1)

  • That's a Wrap: Mark B. Perry's Farewell Set Tour Season 5 [Home Video Footage]

    • Now with Audio Commentary from writer/producer Mark B. Perry

  • From the Vault: Alley Mills and Bob Brush Letters

    • Alley Mills reads her letters to Executive Producer Bob Brush about her opinions on the series' finale

  • One Hour Series Finale as originally aired May 12, 1993 with deleted scene

The extras are as overwhelming as the series itself. As previously stated, much passion and time was put into pulling this set together. Wonderfully constructed, the bonus materials give that extra level of depth that most DVD sets do not contain. Here with The Wonder Years we get to see how invested all those involved truly were (and still are!) in the series. The interviews are candid and informative with the featurettes being equally entertaining.

The Wonder Years is a stunning set from Star Vista/Time Life that will be a treasured staple of any DVD collection. It excels at both style and content from beginning to end.

You can order this set exclusively at this link:


- Michael P. Dougherty II


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