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Reboot of The Wonder Years reflects a positive direction of change across the network television industry
The Wonder Years, the 1980s television show evoking nostalgia in many Americans for decades, is finally back on television screens, but this time with greater impact. The 2021 reboot of the class show features a Black family, the Williams, set in Alabama circa 1968. The show reflects the reality of the Black experience in Civil Rights era America, a plotline which is long overdue given the original version of the show, which was predominantly White in an era of non-diverse ‘80s to ‘90s television.
The Wonder Years reboot also demonstrates the shifting landscape of network television, which pays greater attention to rebooting classic shows in a modern and socially relevant way. After the death of George Floyd in 2020 and the outcry of protests heard across the nation, it is essential for modern day TV executive to pay attention to the experiences of Black Americans today and throughout history.
If you need a third-party expert to comment on the show or the landscape of Black America on television, J. Christopher Hamilton is an expert on the television industry and worked as an executive producer. Hamilton is an assistant professor of television, radio and film in the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. You can see examples of his expertise here, and you can always reach out to him directly at email@example.com.
“The reboot of The Wonder Years is a refreshing look at mainstream television programming, featuring a predominately Black cast, that doesn’t play on the typical tropes and stereotypes that have been all too common in this type of content. The series takes universal themes that most all can relate to from our childhood and interweaves them with aspects of Black culture and Black struggle that are accessible to outsiders of the community,” Hamilton says. “Granted, the show is able to achieve this by avoiding deep dives into heart wrenching or emotionally triggering content like its superficial coverage of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in the second episode. But I’m not sure if we should expect anything more than that.”
Hamilton says, “this series, like most entertaining content, is a commercial enterprise aimed at aggregating the most eyeballs possible while being truthful and accurate about the historical events within the time period of the series.” Hamilton believes it is especially impactful that the show does not tiptoe around the history of the Civil Rights movement. “The fact that the show doesn’t seek to ignore pivotal events within history that had a disproportionate impact on the Black community but rather cast them through the eyes of 12 year old Dean Williams to sanitize it for prime time consumption is okay with me. If I was 12 living in the suburbs when Martin was killed, I’d probably be more concerned with painful breakup with my lifelong crush than the fate of Black existence in this country. However, I’d have a much higher expectation if this was a drama or comedy on a Black-owned network. In the latter instance, the moral obligation to give us the full truth (no matter how ugly that may be,) would be a lot higher.”
Ultimately, Hamilton believes the show reflects a greater effort by television networks to represent the experiences of Black Americans. “Network television has come a long way from the days that they used Black programming as their basis for building audiences before dumping us in pursuit of the larger, well-heeled, ever evasive, demographic of white men — as you may recall from the extremely successful Black programming on Fox, UPN, the WB in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Not to say that there isn’t still work to be done when it comes to the representation of Black content on mainstream programming networks/services and Black creators being empowered to tell our stories. However, it’s good to see that things are trending in a positive direction for a change (call it “Our Wonder Years”), however fleeting that may be,” Hamilton says.
To arrange an interview with Professor Hamilton, please contact Lily Datz, media relations intern, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315.730.3996, or Keith Kobland, media relations manager, at email@example.com or 315.443.9038.