Los Angeles Times

(c) 1994 Los Angeles Times. All rts. reserv.

Los Angeles Times (LT) - WEDNESDAY May 12, 1993

(Bob Brush, interviewed by Steve Weinstein for the LA Times issue of May 12, 1993.)

"The Wonder Years" was created by Neal Marlens and his wife Carol Black and based on Neal Marlens' childhood memories of growing up Huntington, a suburb of Long Island, New York.

In 1988, when "The Wonder Years" started, the network wouldn't let Marlens set the show in Long Island because they didn't think Middle America could relate to a show near New York. Later, one of the most important demandings to "The Wonder Years" was that the series could take place in any American suburb. Neither the name of Kevin's home town nor a clue to the location of a near town was given in the whole series. Not even the state was mentioned. (But there is actually a good bit of evidence that the show is set in California. Kevin does wear a Jets jacket, but Paul notes once that Kevin has never been to a game. They drive to the beach in the first episode of 8th grade, which could be either coast, but Teri is from Albuqerque, which would seem to put it on the West. But the most telling clue is when Wayne opens his letter with his driver's license, the letter says CA (California) on it, though Wayne's thumb covers the town.)

Finally, the show was designed to narrate of the life of the 12 year-old Kevin Arnold who begins Junior High in 1968 - the year Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assasinated. The American war against Vietnam splitted the nation, and the flower power was in full bloom.

Althought "The Wonder Years" is about the adolescent Kevin, the stories are commented and told via narration by the adult Kevin (voice of Daniel Stern), who never appears on the screen. Only the first run of the pilot featured the voice of Ayre Gross. Later, Gross' text was retaped with Daniel Stern's voice (to fit the following episodes of the series).

These suggestions were accepted by New World Entertainment Ltd., and the filming began on locations in Culver City and Burbank / California. (The school scenes were filmed at John Muir junior high [seasons 1 & 2], then at William Burroughs high school and later at Culver City high school.)

The pilot, directed by Steve Miner and produced by Jeffrey Silver, aired on January 31st, 1988 on ABC and was a gigantic success - partially because it was shown after a Superbowl match. After the first season (6 episodes), "The Wonder Years" captured the Golden Globe for the best comedy series and an Emmy Award for an outstanding comedy series. Nevertheless, after the first 13 episodes, Marlens and Black handed over the show to Bob Brush, the executive producer and, now, the "adoptive father." Marlens and Black wanted to develope other shows and feature films for Disney. They created "Growing Pains" as well as the hit Touchstone Television comedy series "Ellen." After the first three episodes of "Ellen", they handed over the show to other directors and producers, and it seems that they are currently out of production business.

When "The Wonder Years" aired ahead of "Roseanne" on Tuesdays, its ratings were blockbuster. But with the move to 8 p.m. Wednesdays after the third season, both the ratings and the accolades seemed to fade. This was also due to Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper) being written out of the episodes for virtually the entire first half of that season.

"The Wonder Years" ran the five years of its contract and was not picked up after the sixth season - exactly as Danica McKellar had predicted in an interview with the LA Times in May 1990. The episodes were too expensive. Especially after Kevin got his driver's license, ABC had to pay about $1.2 million per half-hour episode. Additionally, the tension and constraints of the deadline of the concept of "The Wonder Years" were beginning to press on the writers and producers.

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