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”If you don’t have any real feeling for the suburban middle-class life, and if you didn’t have any sense of that time, (The Wonder Years) wouldn’t make sense.”‘
Neal Marlens
Co-creator of The Wonder Years (set in the late 60s/early 70s)

I’ve finally decided what I’d like for my birthday this year—a complete Blu-Ray set of the TV program The Wonder Years. There’s one problem, it doesn’t exist. I have no idea why, but that’s what my research tells me. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) I image it has to do with ancillary music rights which weren’t covered when the show was created in the 80s. Couldn’t find much online  either about the co-creators of the program, husband and wife writing team, Neal Marlens & Carol Black.

Marlens and Black not only created The Wonder Years but Growing Pains and Ellen so it’s surprising there isn’t more about them online. The quote below is from  The New York Times and is just about the only thing I could find about the show from one of the creators.

”We’re caught inside the sensibilities that we grew up in, so we come by it honestly and without judgment as to whether it’s good, or it’s bad, or it’s yuppie, whatever. To write from our experience and to write our experience is to write to the audience that’s out there…. we’re writing what we enjoy and what’s interesting to us, and that’s what the audience is liable to like.”
Neal Marlens
NY Times interview in 1988 with Peter J. Boyer

Marlens’ predication came true. The first show aired right after the 1988 Super Bowl. After only six shows it found its way into the top ten. It won an Emmy for Best Comedy that season. For whatever reason Black and Marlens left the program after writing 19 programs. But The Wonder Years held on to its audience and ended up running for six years and lived in TV’s top ten programs the entire time.

Here’s the last voiceover of the older Kevin (Daniel Stern) from the final episode of The Wonder Years;

“Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next you’re gone, but the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years I still look back in wonder.”

I’m not sure who wrote those words, but I always believed that the producers, directors, writers on The Wonder Years always did an excellent job of capturing an era. Of a sense of time and place. A time of dreams fulfilled and opportunities missed. They captured simply growing up, which resonates even if you didn’t grow up in a the suburbs.They captured what one of my producers friends says is the most important thing to capture in a movie, documentary, or TV program; “Life.”

I image half the writers out there have at least written a coming-of-age story, I know I have. It was actually the first (and only) script I ever wrote where someone told me it made them cry. An interesting side note to that is an agent once told me that script would never get made because I didn’t have an adult lead. I had never thought about that, but I did realize that similar  stories all had some adult leads (Stand by Me, Sandlot, Bad News Bears, Big, My Dog Skip). Maybe the next re-write I’ll include a role for a now grown-up Fred Savage and tap into the whole Wonder Years vibe—and audience.

P.S. If anybody has any links on how the producers/writers approached writing each show please send them my way.

Scott W. Smith


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