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The Wonder Years – The Complete Series (DVD Review)

Wonder-YearsSince the advent of television on DVD, one series has had a vocal push to get it out and available for purchase.  The Wonder Years, the 1960s/early 70s coming of age television show was beloved and still cherished to this day.  Many years went by and there were never any plans for it.  Then it was discovered in the early/mid 2000s that the reason was because of music licensing rights.  Contracts were different when The Wonder Years aired, and selling home video rights with the music was covered back then.  The task to get all those rights together and taken care of would be an expensive and exhaustive process.  Some shows, like Dawson’s Creek and Married With Children said to hell with it and released theirs with new temp track music and songs that take a way a little bit of the lust from which you remembered it.  Well, time and patience has finally paid off for The Wonder Years as StarVista has put together the complete series with all the original music intact.

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Series 

The Wonder Years follows 12 year old Kevin Arnold as he grows up in a typical American suburb from 1968-1973.  Its narrated by his older self as he looks back on his family life, high school life and romances.  In particular there’s the story of Kevin and his love growing up Winnie Cooper.  Its a comedy/drama for all ages, bringing nostalgia for some, and relatable circumstances for all ages, whether you lived in the era or you’re coming through some similar rite of passage in your own youth growing up.

Right out the gate, following the Super Bowl in 1988, The Wonder Years became a big time success.  The show was both a critical, awards and rating darling right away.  Fred Savage became the youngest person to ever be nominated for the Best Actor Emmy.  The show also received 26 awards on a total of 54 nominations in its run.  The show placed safely in at least the Top 30 in the ratings department for 4 of its 6 seasons when it aired.  According to this box set, ABC was eager for a Season 7 of the show, but the producers and writers felt it had run its course and the time had come to end it.  And thus, it was able to end on its own terms even if the cast was unsure whether what they were filming was it or not.

The little period show sort of changed the landscape a little bit for sitcoms as well.  For the most part the show played in the humor department, but the character work and writing was done with such great depth you could honestly take it as a drama.  But, it ran in a half hour slot, normally reserved for sitcoms.  But, it film as if it was a regular show, foregoing the multicam, audience laughter sitcom that was always used for comedy.  In a way though, The Wonder Years truly held at being its own thing, a coming of age movie told in a long form episodic television series.  And in that regard, its one of the greatest ever, movies included.

Back to the music.  Yes, its just THAT important to the show.  Its perfectly timed and absolutely effective in its execution.  There are moments, scenes, dialogue, events that occur in the show that you remember because of how perfectly the song chosen was orchestrated into the show.  The show is almost a musical in the regard of its notable time and place with the music.  The time and persistence to do it with the correct music was the correct choice as the show honestly woud not have been worth it without it.  It would be the equivalent of removing a major character from the show entirely.  That’s just how much of a factor it is in everything.

One of American television’s finest hours, The Wonder Years, is finally here on DVD.  Yeah, its not Blu-ray, but this is the best its going to get.  I personally haven’t gone back to the show in a long while, but it was quite the treat to go through and remember.  It was one of my favorite shows growing up, but due to the lack of a home video collecting method on the episodes, I think it fell away.  The show holds up tremendously and I hope that generations to come will find this set, enjoy it and keep the love and appreciation for the show going for years to come.

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Episodes

This set features every episode of the entire series.  For a full episode listing of the series CLICK HERE.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-2

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Clarity/Detail:  I wish I could tell you these episodes were all cleaned up, restored and look better than ever.  But, I’d be telling you a huge lie.  The pilot is in pretty rough shape.  The rest of the episodes appear to look just like a broadcast rip from the clearest pair of bunny ears in 1988.  Its pretty grainy and there isn’t much in the way of detail.  Its watchable, but is a rather major disappointment in its appearance.  As goes, the more recent the episode, the better the picture quality on it.

Depth:  Flat flat flat

Black Levels:  Blacks are really grainy, hide what detail there is and have a lot of crushing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty flat and standard.  They pop as much as they can.  The 60s vibrant colors do their best to shine through.

Flesh Tones:  They’re all right.  Some flickering here and there, not much detail.

Noise/Artifacts:  Super grainy.  Features plenty of macroblocking, interlacing and halo’ing throughout the series.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  Like the video, the audio doesn’t seem to have been fully remastered either, but fares much better.  Its a loud track and is pretty clear.  There is some balance issues here an there with blending effect, voice and music together as they don’t sound saturated and sound as if they’re playing as one.  Its not that bad, but its present.  Some light peaking and distortion in light intervals occurs as well.  This is a fully listenable track and many won’t care or notice these things, but they are present.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean clear.  Volumes on voices can be a little random as Stern’s narration sometime jumps in much louder than the character audio is.

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Extras 

The Wonder Years’ discs come packaged in two separate binder-like books.  Each book contains a little book with an episode guide featuring a description and factoid tid bits.  There is also a year book that comes with the set featuring a focus on each cast member.  Even more, there’s magnets.  And those magnets can go on the big locker that this all fits in.  Let’s take a look at the packaging, shall we?

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As for the discs, this series is LOADED!  Even that might be an understatement.  StarVista did not screw around or go easy putting the supplemental material together.  Every person that came back also gets their full interviews posted as well over the course of all the discs.  And these aren’t short interviews either.  Hell, they got David Schwimmer for a 40 minute interview alone.  The only problem here with the bonus material is that the way its labeled on the menus is inconsistent between discs.  For instance, on some discs its labeled as “Interviews With” and others its “Interviews”.  The first disc also doesn’t label the title of the people in the Interviews portion, but the subsequent discs all do.  A minor quib that is a nit pick in the grand scheme of things, but its worth noting the inconsistency.

Season 1: Disc 2

Highlights From The Wonder Years Cast Reunion – May 28, 2014 (SD, 20:24) – Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Alley Mills, Olivia d’Abo, Josh Saviano and Jason Hervey sit together in a white room and reminisce, sharing stories and such for the first time in 16 years they claim.  They also change pace and have an Arnold family conversation in a mock of the old kitchen with Dan Lauria joining in.

With A Little Help From My Friends: The Early Days Of The Wonder Years (SD, 24:36) – A very nice retrospective piece on the origins of the show, finding locations and casting the parts of the main players.  Features interviews with creators, composer, production designers and cast.

Interviews With – Full interviews from the sessions used in the “Early Days’ featurette”

  • Creators Neal Marlens & Carol Black (SD, 33;55)
  • Fred Savage (SD, 29:26)
  • Danica McKellar (SD, 12:18)
  • Josh Saviano (SD, 21:35)

Season 2: Disc 4

School Days: Roundtable With Danica McKellar, Fred Savage And Josh Saviano (SD, 7:52) – The three discuss the school sets for the show, and their make-shift high school education and experience during their shooting of the show.

The Times They Are A-Chaingin’: The Era (SD, 28:47) – A retrospective piece on the era the characters are growing up in and how it affected some of the events and narratives on the show.

Interviews:

  • Daniel Stern – Narrator (SD, 31:00)
  • Dan Lauria – Jack Arnold (SD, 20:45)
  • Alley Mills – Norma Arnold (SD, 33:36)

Season 3: Disc 4

Hall Pass: Roundtable With Danica McKellar, Fred Savage And Josh Saviano (SD, 7:54) – More from this roundtable that started on Season 2: Disc 4.  This time they discuss the magic of the show and why its resonated so well and held on for people for so long.  Also discussed is the episode “Carnal Knowledge” and how happy they are that the show is finally on DVD.

A Family Affair: At Home With The Arnolds (SD, 26:35) – A retrospective featurette on the family dynamic on the show and the great chemistry of the cast to deliver a genuine, lifelike feel.

Interviews:

  • Olivia d’Abo – Karen Arnold (SD, 33:36)
  • Jason Hervey – Wayne Arnold (SD, 23:32)
  • Danica McKellar – Winnie Cooper (SD, 16:00)
  • Crystal McKellar – Becky Slater (SD, 20:55)

Bonus Disc 1

16 Years Later: The Wonder Years Cast Reunion, May 28, 2014, In Los Angeles, California (SD, 51:56) – A much lengthier video from the reunion portion featuring Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Olivia d’Abo, Alley Mills, Jason Hervey and Paul Saviano.

Pilot Episode Outtakes: The First Kiss – With Commentary By Danica McKellar & Fred Savage (SD, 19:44) – The actors give commentary over dailies from the first kiss scene.

When A Man Loves A Woman: Kevin & Winnie Forever (SD, 29:55) – A retrospective featurette with cast and crew interviews focusing on the relationship of Kevin and Winnie throughout the series’ run.

Interviews:

  • Neal Marlens And Carol Black, Creators (SD, 30:37)
  • Dan Lauria – Jack Arnold (SD, 22:18)
  • Alley Mills – Norma Arnold (SD, 23:31)

Season 4: Disc 4

ABC: Teachers That Made A Difference (SD, 36:22) – This retrospective piece focuses on the teacher characters on the show and the guest stars that played them.  It goes over how they’re presented and how they interacted and impacted the characters on the show.

Interviews:

  • Fred Savage – Kevin Arnold (SD, 21:22)
  • Robert Picardo – Coach Cutlip (SD, 37:39)
  • Ben Stein – Mr. Cantwell (SD, 15:10) 
  • Wendel Meldrum – Miss White/Mrs. Heimer (SD, 12:39)

Season 5: Disc 4

That’s A Wrap!: Mark B. Perry’s Farewell Set Tour Season 5 (SD, 3:56) – Home video from writer/producer Mark B. Perry’s last day on the show wandering through the sets.  He also provides commentary for the footage.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow: The Wonder Years’ Love Stories (SD, 26:05) – Retrospective featurette with cast and crew interviews discussing all the romantic relationships throughout the series.  Mainly Kevin and Winnie’s flames aside from each other.

Interviews With:

  • Olivia d’Abo – Karen Arnold (SD, 35:38)
  • David Schwimmer (SD, 40:09)

Season 6: Disc 4

One-Hour ABC Broadcast Of The Series Finale (SD, 47:52) – Pretty cool, this set carries both the one-hour episode that the series finale aired on and the syndicated 2 part version as well.  It TRULY is complete by having both versions.

At Last: The Final Episode (SD, 16:20) – Retrospective on the final episode of the series and how the cast wasn’t sure if it was the last episode or not.  It was later decided when the voiceover was recorded if it would be or not.

Interview

  • Bob Brush, Executive Producer (SD, 54:53)

From The Vault: Alley Mills And Bob Brush Letters (SD, 4:41) – The actress reads a letter she wrote the executive producer after she viewed the final episode.  She had apprehensions about it when filming but was moved when she saw it.

Bonus Disc 2

Have A Neat Summer: The Wonder Years Cast Reunion, May 28, 2014, In Los Angeles, California (SD, 18:27) – Even more from the reunion.  This one focuses on them catching up and sharing some anecdotes.

My Generation: The Kids Grow Up (SD, 29:47) – This retrospective focuses on some of the more well known actors that guested on the show when they were much younger.  It also talks about the parental actors on the show and how they felt like real parents on the set.  The crew talks about being protective of the kids and keeping it a great environment for them as they shot.

Interviews:

  • Josh Saviano – Paul Pfeiffer (SD, 49:19)
  • Jason Hervey – Wayne Arnold (SD, 26:38)
  • Daniel M. Stern, Writer/Producer (SD, 36:03)
  • Bruce Nachbar, Producer (SD, 30:06)

Bonus Disc 3

Bookends: Kevin & Paul (SD, 14:14) – Featurette on the character of Paul and he and Kevin’s friendship throughout the series.

Both Sides Now: The Music That Made The Moments (SD, 17:58) – Ah, yes, a featurette on one of the most important aspects of the show which is also the thing that held it getting put on DVD until now.

Interviews:

  • Seth Green – Jimmy Donnelly (SD, 9:37)
  • Ken Topolsky, Producer (SD, 32:46)
  • W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, Composer (SD, 18:05)
  • David Bianculli, TV Critic (SD, 28:37)
  • Michael Dinner, Director (SD, 34:36)

Bonus Disc 4

I Love You For Sentimental Reasons: Fan-Favorite Episodes (SD, 22:08) – A retrospective on some of the more popular episodes among the fans.

Interviews:

  • Daniel Stern – Narrator (SD, 26:43)
  • Mahaila McKellar, Danica And Crystal’s Mom (SD, 9:27)
  • Skip Cook, Key Grip (SD, 23:32)
  • Alicia Alexander, Location Manager (SD, 11:51)
  • Mark B. Perry, Writer/Producer (SD, 52:06)

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Summary 

This is it, I’m not sure you’re getting another series collection of The Wonder Years from here out.  While I’m disappointed in the presentation, the episodes are still very watchable and I think most will just be satisfied they can have them.  StarVista did not screw around at all when it came to bonus.  Yes, there isn’t much in the way of deleted scenes or onset footage, but HOLY HELL there are a ton of LONG interviews.  Also they have brought back an impressive array of cast, crew and guest stars.  It also comes in a pretty awesome packaging assortment.  I don’t think many a buyer is going to be truly disappointed in this set.  StarVista will also be offered the first season by itself in stores which you can order from the link below.  The full set is only available on their website currently.

Wonder Years DVD Set 1

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

3 Responses to “The Wonder Years – The Complete Series (DVD Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Hell of a review!

  2. Eric with Cheese

    I love this show! I hate the packaging, though! I don’t care for cutesy packaging that looks somewhat fragile and will fall apart over time and wear… plus those sliding slipsleeves for the discs just invite scratches. But it’s only my opinion, and I am sure the content on the discs themselves are great.

    Great review!

  3. Brandon Peters

    The packaging is actually pretty sturdy. I just have nowhere to naturally put it among my collection, that’s my only qualm there.

    I’m also pretty cautious and take care of my stuff, so those slipsleeves are really no danger for me. I’ve never understood the argument from collectors, the most ocd and careful of people on the planet to think that those things are some sort of incredible danger. I don’t handle my Blu-ray and DVD discs like a 3 years old and I imagine they don’t either.