Fred Savage is a national treasure, and we would all do well to remember that. His role on The Wonder Years will go down in history as one of the best on a sitcom, and the show itself will follow in the same footsteps.
The Wonder Years, set in the 1960s, gave us the coming of age story none of us knew we needed. Even the most dedicated fan may not know these things about the show, however!
1. Big-Screen Dreams
Though it’s hard to imagine The Wonder Years as anything other than a TV show, it was originally set to be a movie.
“We played around with writing a screenplay that used narration as a device,” series co-creator Carol Black told New York magazine in 1989. “We just started to think that there was a lot of potential fun in that ‘cause you can really play with the contrast between the narrator’s point of view and what the characters are doing.”
2. It was revolutionary
Up until the show aired, no other sitcom had filmed in a single camera setup. Everyone else used a three camera setup with a laugh track, but The Wonder Years chose to break away from that.
f“The Wonder Years [showed the television industry] that it’s OK to create a show like that—to take out the laugh track, to try different camera styles—to take a risk,” Josh Saviano, who played Paul Pfeiffer, told Salon in 2013.
3. Super Bowl Slot
The Wonder Years premiered right after the Super Bowl in 1988, with series creator Neal Marlens calling it “a bit of Americana after the quintessential example of Americana.”
4. Making History
Fred Savage, at just 13 years old, became the youngest actor to be nominated for an Emmy. He was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series, and would be nominated for the same award a year later, as well.
5. Sister, Sister
Though Danica McKellar seems like a natural fit for Winnie Cooper, she almost lost out on the role to her own sister.
“It was practically a tossup,” casting director Mary Buck said.
6. First Kiss Jitters
Both Savage and McKeller experienced their first kiss on the show, just like their characters. The final shot took six takes to achieve.
“The one good thing about getting your first kiss on camera is that you know for sure it’s going to happen,” McKellar said in 2014.
“We were both really scared and nervous and—and—didn’t know what was going to happen or … if we were going to do it right,” Savage recalled.
7. Age Matters
As the characters and actors grew up, it was clear that those beloved “wonder years” were coming to an end, at least for what the show could use.
“As the kids were developing and getting older, there were of course new stories to tell, but the tension and constraints of the deadline of the concept of the wonder years were beginning to press on us,” executive producer Bob Brush said. “When [Fred Savage] became 16 and 17, there were really things he needed to get to that we couldn’t do at 8 p.m.“
8. Kevin + Winnie = Heartbreak
Fans of the show were left disappointed and upset when Winnie and Kevin didn’t get the happy ending we all wanted for them. However, the cast and crew said that’ just the way things work sometimes.
“The message I wanted in there is that that’s part of the beauty of life,” Brush said. “It’s fine to say, ‘I’d like everything to be just the way it was when I was 15 and I was happy,’ but it seemed more nurturing to me to say that we leave these things behind and we go on to forge new lives for ourselves.”
As for Savage, he’s proud of the way the show ended.
“Your life doesn’t end up the way you thought it would. This felt more real” he said.
9. On-Set Crushes
Both Savage and McKellar admit to having crushes on each other while filming, but that ended up becoming a brother/sister relationship.
“I was in love with her for the same reasons every other boy fell in love with her,” Savage said. “You won’t meet a sweeter, nicer girl—and she’s gorgeous.”
“In the beginning we had a mutual crush,” added McKellar. “Then things went into the teasing stuff and then into a more comfortable, brother-sister thing.”
10. Dad’s Call
Dan Lauria, who played Jack, said the one piece of input he gave to the show was that his character be a veteran. He himself served in Vietnam and as a Marine, and he felt like it would bring a sort of authenticity to the role.
“Before we even finish the pilot, he said, ‘Well, if we go, Dan, we’re going to make you a Korean War vet to fit the frame.’ And so they did, and it paid off,” Lauria recalled. “There were a number of episodes where it was mentioned that I was a veteran and when my daughter left for college I gave her my old duffle bag from the service.”
11. Growth Spurts
Winnie and Kevin had a very on-and-off relationship, and at one point it was because Savage was too short! McKellar had a growth spurt between the show’s third and fourth season, and she stood much taller than Savage, who wasn’t even five feet tall yet. The couple was kept apart long enough for Savage to catch up.