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Reboot of 'The Wonder Years' will Strive to tell a Different Coming-of-Age Story

Courtesy ABC
When times are tough people turn to the past for comfort.

So, it should come as no surprise that this fall’s upcoming primetime lineup is leaning on it to bring in viewers — and among the reboots and reimaginings slated to premier in 2021 is an effort to put a relevant racial spin on an all-time classic.

ABC’s “The Wonder Years” exchanges the white family from the original coming-of-age sitcom that ran from 1988 to 1993 with a black one in what the series creators call “a nostalgic look at a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama, through the point of view of imaginative 12-year-old Dean.”

Fred Savage who starred in the original series, set in the late 60s and early 70s, as its young protagonist Kevin (Danie Stern served as narrator/adult Kevin), serves as an executive producer on the project alongside creator Saladin K. Patterson, Lee Daniels and Marc Velez.

Saladin who wrote the pilot and grew up in Montgomery — Savage handles directing duties — told the Montgomery Advertiser the series will be “be a love letter to Montgomery, about Montgomery and the people of Montgomery.”

Up-and-comer Elisha “EJ” Williams anchors the cast as 12-year-old Dean Williams, with renowned actor Don Cheadle taking on the roles of narrator and adult Dean. Montgomery, a key location during the United States civil rights movement will also play an important role.

“We want to really take the opportunity to show a part of Black, middle-class life that had not been seen before. Usually, when you talk about the late ’60s, it’s talking about the struggle in the civil rights movement and things like that, that are very valid and a part of our story as well,” said Patterson during the show’s Television Critics Association press tour panel on Aug. 26. “The difference between now and the late ’90s, early 2000s does not seem to be as different as when the original came out and you were looking from ’88 to ’68. And so, we really gravitated towards sticking to the universe — ‘The Wonder Years’ universe — and sticking to that original time, really looking at this Black, middle-class perspective during that time because we haven’t really seen that represented on TV and film before,” he continued.

The show is set to debut on September 22nd, and as a lead-up to the premiere stars of the original, including Savage and Danica McKellar (who played his love interest Winnie Cooper) will make guest appearances across some of ABC’s biggest hits including “The Goldbergs” and “The Conners.”

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