DVD Review: The Wonder Years (Season Two)

America felt a bit teased by the first season of The Wonder Years. The first episode aired right after the Super Bowl. Viewers quickly fell under the nostalgic spell of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) and his memories of life in the suburbs back in 1968. But the show took a hiatus after only six episodes aired. How could this be? Unlike many critical darlings that end up in the brilliant yet canceled shelf, The Wonder Years proved to be popular. The show was renewed. The next 17 episodes would prove to be a enriching as the first six. The Wonder Years: Season Two should be viewed as a continuation of year one.

Kevin still deals with the burdens of junior high and puberty. He still hangs with his nerdy pal Paul (Josh Saviano). He still lusts for his cute neighbor Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar). He still remains in fear of his jerkish older brother Wayne (Jason Hervey). He still has the ethereal sister Karen (Olivia d’Abo) who seems in tune with the Age of Aquarius that was dawning. He still lives with his gruff father (Dan Lauria) and doting mom (Alley Mills). Most importantly Kevin still reminisces about the times through the sweet voice of Daniel Stern (Home Alone). There’s no major change or retooling from the first season. ABC and the producers didn’t mess with the magic and viewers were given a classic time.

“The Heart of Darkness” opens up with Kevin getting into slight trouble in order to look cooler. He’s frustrated that Winnie’s now seeing an older boy at school. While in detention, he befriends troubled teen Breckin Meyer (Clueless). Arnold and Paul hang out after dark with their new friend. They smoke cigarettes and drink beer. This show seems bent on having Arnold turn into a juvenile delinquent. Maybe Daniel Stern is remembering this time while he’s walking the Green Mile? “Our Miss White” has Kevin fall hard for one of his teachers. Things get troubling when Kevin’s dad seems to get chummy with Miss White. It was the swinging sixties. “Christmas” is the tale of Wayne doing his annoying best to force the family to buy a color TV set. “Just Between Me and You and Kirk and Paul and Carla and Becky” gets Arnold dating Becky, a girl that isn’t Winnie. Oddly enough Becky was played by Danica’s sister Crystal McKellar). Kevin was a dangerous man for fooling around with sisters.

“Coda” tells the sad story of regret when Kevin quits playing the piano. “Nemesis” and “Fate” deals with the wrath of Becky. She’s back and ready to talk about her horrible relationship with the kid. This gets Kevin in the doghouse with Winnie. “The Birthday Boy” pits Arnold’s birthday against Paul’s Bar Mitzvah. “Whose Woods Are These” devastates the neighborhood when a new shopping mall comes to the neighborhood. Kevin, Winnie and Paul do their best to stop the project. The woods were their sacred space. “How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation” marks the end of seventh grade for Arnold, Paul and Winnie. There seems to be a lot of major changes on the horizon. But first they need to sign each other’s yearbooks.

The Wonder Years didn’t lose its luster when it was allowed to go a full season. The poignant nature of the memories are enhanced by the mix of comedy and heartbreak. The show tapped into the pure confusion of junior high. Kevin knows that the problems he has in seventh grade are just going to stick around for the rest of his adult life.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are the result of a show that was shot on 16mm to give a home movie quality and edited on standard definition video. The image is soft. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The mix is just right so Daniel Stern’s narration doesn’t step on Kevin’s dialogue. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

School Days (7:52) is a roundtable chat with Danica, Fred and Josh. They’ve grown up quite a bit. They joke about the lockers. Josh doesn’t look anything like Marilyn Manson – who was rumored to have been Paul on the show

The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Era (28:45) approaches what it was like being a kid in 1968 when things go from Leave It to Beaver to the Tet Offensive. The older cast talks of their real memories of that time. The younger actors recount their research.

Daniel Stern (30:59) mentions he grew up near co-creator Carol Black so he understood the script and the people. He had an amazing deal to be the narrator including a chance to direct episodes. There was a little trouble on the pilot episode when he was replaced. He holds no grudge.

Dan Lauria (20:43) recounts his time as Kevin’s dad. He got the gig after doing Growing Pains. His girlfriend got him the gig. ABC wanted Elliot Gould. But Dan got the part and was a perfect TV dad. He hints at what could have happened if there was a season seven.

Alley Mills (33:34) lets us know about the strange pilot script. She was confused, but everyone told her that it was the pilot to get that season. She remembers Jason doing something goofy on the red carpet that turned into the supermarket tabloids rumoring the two were having an affair.

The Wonder Years: Season Two is a sweet time in the confusion of junior high. The episodes continue to please. There is a package that offers the short Season One DVD set with the Season Two.

StarVista Entertainment presents The Wonder Years: Season Two. Starring: Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano and Daniel Stern. Boxset Contents: 17 episodes on 4 DVDs. Rated: Unrated. Released: February 3, 2015.

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