An all-new version of the nostalgia-tinged series “The Wonder Years” is in the works ― this time, with a Black family at its center.
On Wednesday, ABC announced plans to produce a pilot rebooting the dramedy, which ran from 1988 to 1993. “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels and Fred Savage, who starred in the original series, have signed on to executive produce the show with Saladin K. Patterson.
According to press notes, the new version will take place in Montgomery, Alabama, in the late 1960s and will explore “how a Black middle-class family ... made sure it was ‘The Wonder Years’ for them, too.” Casting has yet to be announced.
The show’s new setting will no doubt provide ample material for dramatization, given Alabama’s historic ties to major events of the civil rights movement.
In 1955, Rosa Parks became an iconic catalyst of the movement when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, the state’s capital. A decade later, Martin Luther King Jr. led a five-day march from Selma to Montgomery, helping to push Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in election laws and practices.
The original “Wonder Years” spanned the years 1968 to 1973 and was filmed in Los Angeles, though its setting was intentionally never specified on-screen. In addition to Savage, the show starred Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Jason Hervey, Olivia d’Abo and Danica McKellar. It nabbed four Emmy Awards.
“I would say that one of the things that makes ‘The Wonder Years’ special was that time in your life it refers to, which is something you really can’t go back to,” he told the New York Post last year. “That’s what makes that time in your life so bittersweet and so special and why people look back on it with such joy and heartbreak and longing. With each passing year, that time of your life, those years in adolescence … another layer of patina is added to it — and I think to revisit it kind of defeats the purpose of the show.”
Still, that mix of dreamy sentimentality and true-to-life drama that made “The Wonder Years” great has never been satisfyingly replicated in later shows. So a progressive take on the coming-of-age milestones it so lovingly captured ― with the blessing of its original star, no less ― seems like an all-around win.