Paleyfest Fall TV Preview: “The Wonder Years” Panel

This week, I sat down and watched the Paleyfest Fall TV Preview panel with the cast and producers behind the new ABC show The Wonder Years. This was a great watch that really gives some more insight to what they want to do with the series as well as why they are doing it at all. The panel consisted of the three executive producers of the show — Lee Daniels, Saladin K. Patterson, and Fred Savage — as well as the main cast of the show.

Right out of the gates, Daniels was asked the question that is on everyone’s mind: “Why?” He gives a great response, saying, “Why not?” I personally questioned why remake The Wonder Years? Why put it in the perspective of a black family in the 60s when we all know what that was like? Lee’s answer explains that we know about the bad things that happened to black people in the 60s but we’ve never seen the good side. That’s absolutely true. I couldn’t think of a single show or movie that focused on a middle class black family in the late 60s. There are shows following middle class families in the 70s, 80s, all the way up to present day, and most of those are comedies. But we’ve never seen a comedy drama focused on a black family in this time period told like this.

Obviously the two main topics of this panel were “Why do this at all?” and “Is this a remake?” The producers wanted to make it very clear that this was not a remake. This show is not nor will it try to replace the original Wonder Years in any way. All of them answered and continued to reiterate that they want the audience to watch this series as a new show altogether. If you loved the original, great! — watch this show and see it through someone else’s eyes. The producers also wanted to be clear that this was a show for everyone. Of course, the series will follow a black family, but everyone had a first crush, some people might have had a bully, we all went to school, and can relate to that in some way. This show just wants us to sit, watch, and enjoy.

When it came time to talk to the cast, they were also made sure to let the audience know that this is new and fresh. They also made it clear that they loved the outfits. Saycon Sengbloh (Lillian Williams) said she loved to see all the period clothing, hairstyles, and decor featured on the show. When they got to Laura Kariuki (Kim Williams), she mentioned all the subtle nods in which direction her character is going — something to absolutely pay attention to. Dulé Hill (Bill Williams) explains how he has worked with Saladin Patterson before on Psych. However, Lee Daniels points out that we’ve never seen Dulé like this before. Finally, we get to Elisha Williams (Dean Williams) who is basically the new Kevin Arnold. He mentioned that when he received the call he felt a lot of things but worried or concerned wasn’t one of them. He mentioned how he has two great grandmothers who lived though this era, so the role meant more to him than any other he’s tackled. Personally, I think that’s what makes this show really special is that most of the cast and producers, whether it’s them themselves or someone they are related to, has lived through this time period, so they all have something awesome to bring to the show.

If you read my article reviewing the pilot, then you know that I enjoyed this show. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes and what they end up doing with some of the characters. It’s nice to know that this won’t be “Jim Crow this” or “Civil Rights that” like I initially thought. It’s clear they don’t want us to think that. That being said, race issues are absolutely going to be a big part of this show — yet I don’t think it will be overwhelming like other subject material taking place in this era usually are.

The Wonder Years debuts on Wednesday, September 22nd on ABC and next day Hulu.