The “The Wonder Years,” starring Fred Savage as the likable Kevin Arnold coming of age in the late ’60s, aired from 1988-1993 on ABC. Though it had some less than stellar episodes, the show did manage to blend pathos, humour, and deeper mediations on the meaning of family into something original. Part of its appeal was the soundtrack (vintage music from the original artists), and the off and on relationship between Kevin and his first love, Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar).
Many TV shows from the ’90s, especially those as popular as “The Wonder Years,” have already been released on DVD and Blu-ray, but this show is absent from that list. The good news is fans of the series can catch the reruns on The Hub network, and for those partial to an on demand viewing experience there’s Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The entire library is there to enjoy.
Following is five essential “Wonder Years” episodes about love.
Pilot (Season 1)
We’re introduced to a very young Kevin Arnold, Winnie Cooper, and Kevin’s best friend, Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano). There’s a funeral for Winnie’s brother (a Vietnam connection) and the Arnold family dynamics are in full swing. Everything that occurs in the series can be traced back to this episode as it lays the groundwork. The warm photography, optimistic acoustic guitar music, and the intrusion of adult issues such as death, resonate strongly here.
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Season 3)
This Valentine’s Day themed episode manages to be cute, humorous, and fun, a classic in the series. Never will the characters ever be this innocent again, as they begin the true struggle of childhood to adolescence by Season 4. A special guest appearance by Savage’s brother, Ben Savage (as Cupid) and the use of the 1966 Motown song “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” makes this one truly stand out.
Frank and Denise (Season 5)
Think of this episode as a 30 minute excursion into the lives of a mythic high school couple. To Kevin and his classmates, Frank and Denise are legendary, and their stories have the ebb and sweep of a daytime drama, or work of literature. Kevin serves as the viewpoint character, and we watch as he is stuck in the middle of this sometimes toxic relationship.
New Years (Season 6)
One of the most heart-wrenching episodes of “The Wonder Years” because it turns, if for but a moment, Kevin’s brother, Wayne — a character generally played for laughs — into a tragic figure. Wayne’s new found love, Bonnie, a recently divorced single mom, has made him into (in some ways at least) a more mature man, as well as a stand-in father for Bonnie’s son. The Arnold clan had pretty much accepted that Bonnie and the baby would be a permanent part of their lives, which makes this episode’s denouement so potent. You see it coming, but you still feel for Wayne. This episode shows that love can be sweet and cruel simultaneously.
Independence Day (Season 6)
The swan song of the series. By the final episode, these characters had come such a long way from the pilot, the wonder years of their youth has technically faded, and it’s time to embark upon a new adventure. The touching scene between Winnie and Kevin in a barn with the rain lashing down on the rooftop is probably one of the most tender breakup scenes in television history.