100 Greatest Television Series

95. The Wonder Years

Posted in 1980s,Dramas,Greatest TV Series,Sitcoms by Kirsten on July 31, 2009
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A groundbreaking single camera dramedy that mixed nostalgia, coming of age, politics, and family drama, The Wonder Years  remains a show I must watch whenever I come across it on TV.  A lot of it is probably because I was ten when it debuted after Superbowl XXII, and the things that Kevin Arnold and his friends were going through were things I was going through ( or about to go through).

It certainly was completely different than anything else I had seen on TV at that time. It could be sweetly funny and heartbreakingly sad with in seconds.  Due to it’s 1968 to 1973 time line, the Vietnam War was never far from the story ( Winnie’s older brother was killed in Vietnam in the pilot). The show also made good use of the generation gap, as the constant head butting between conservative father Jack and hippie sister Karen helped illustrate the turbulence of the culture of the time.

Mostly, I just loved how the show felt real. It never was wildly over the top with it’s ideas or it’s feelings. And it was grounded by the brilliant performance of Fred Savage, who was simultaneously awkward and sweet as Kevin.

And any show with that series soundtrack- that alone gets my vote.

97: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show!

It seems to me that the definition of a cult classic is pretty vague. Low viewership seems to be a requirement. Usually this tag is applied to series in the sci-fi realm or whackadoodle comedies.

This show falls into the last category.

I vaguely remember watching it in real time back in the late 80s and laughing at the broken conventions used. There was no fourth wall for any of the characters. Garry essentially played himself, with monologues to bookend the show.  The show was anarchic in comedy style, with a star that would manipulate the storytelling to serve his ultimate interests ( Dukakis winning, anyone?)

Ultimately, the show, which aired on cable’s Showtime for four seasons and 72 episodes in the late 80s. It petered out and Garry went on to bigger and better things.  It languished on TV Critics ” DVDs we want” list, and we’re getting our wish in October.  Until then, we must satisfy ourselves with what footage we have on ragged VHS and various websites. But if you want to be a great series completest, buy it when it comes out. Now all we need is Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.