Friendships On Set
While the cast of “The Wonder Years” has certainly kept in touch, it’s the mothers of the kids starring in the show who created a life-long friendship.
After spending all of that time on set together, Joanne Savage, Mahalia McKellar, Marsha Hervey, and Jane Saviano created a bond that has surpassed the length of the show. They still get together to this day!
In the first episode of "The Wonder Years", Kevin and his love interest Winnie Cooper share a kiss. Few people know that this was actually the first kiss for both of the actors involved. Savage was just 11-years-old while McKellar was 12-years-old when the scene was filmed.
When recalling the onscreen kiss years later Savage referred to it as “terrifying.” McKellar elaborated on the moment saying, “We were both really scared and nervous and didn't know what was gonna happen or if we were gonna do it right.” Fortunately, things worked out for the two of them!
McKellar would often be up against her sister, Crystal McKellar, for parts including the role of Winnie Cooper. It was down to the two sisters, but ultimately Danica was chosen just one day before filming began.
Crystal had lighter hair at the time, so her sister was given the role simply because her hair color better complimented Savage’s. Don’t feel sorry for Crystal though, as she was given the recurring role as Becky Slater.
Karen Wore Hair Extensions
The actress who played Kevin’s older sister Karen was as far from her character’s persona as one could be. Olivia D’Abo was born in London before her family ultimately moved to Los Angeles.
On the contrary, her character, Karen, is an anti-war feminist whose wardrobe could fit the hippies of the time. To keep up with the look, D’Abo wore extensions to make her hair appear long and unkempt.
After just one season, which consisted of only six episodes, "The Wonder Years" became a huge hit. The show won an Emmy for Most Outstanding Comedy Series in 1988.
Savage also went on to become the youngest actor nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category. He was only 13 at the time and went on to be nominated again in 1990.
Romance on Set
If you picked up on a flirtatious vibe between McKellar and Savage during the first few seasons, then you’d be right! The two kids have admitted to crushing on each other during the early days of filming.
Savage has said, “I was in love with her for the same reasons every other boy fell in love with her. You won’t meet a sweeter, nicer girl – and she’s gorgeous.” Over time, however, they developed more of a sibling-like relationship.
The Town Was a Mystery
No one actually knows where "The Wonder Years" took place. While it was written to be set in Burbank, California, the location is never confirmed in the series.
For this reason, many fans have tried to debunk the speculation by searching episodes for clues that could prove the show took place elsewhere. However, no one was able to find anything that narrowed down the setting to a city or even a general area.
Throughout the years it aired, many celebrities made appearances on "The Wonder Years". They were unknown at the time, but it helped boost their careers.
Some of the bigger names who’ve appeared in the series include Juliette Lewis, Jim Caviezel, David Schwimmer, Alicia Silverstone, Giovanni Ribisi, Robin Thicke, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and John Corbett. Even Savage’s younger brother, Ben Savage, made an appearance long before his days on "Boy Meets World".
Friendships On Set
While the cast of "The Wonder Years" has certainly kept in touch, it’s the mothers of the kids starring in the show who created a life-long friendship.
After spending all of that time on set together, Joanne Savage, Mahalia McKellar, Marsha Hervey, and Jane Saviano created a bond that has surpassed the length of the show. They still get together to this day!
Inspired By ‘A Christmas Story’
Few people know that "The Wonder Years" was inspired by the classic holiday film, "A Christmas Story". The show’s creators were inspired by the movie’s coming of age story and chose to create one of their own.
In addition to some other similarities, the series also uses a similar narration style that helped it become a cultural phenomenon. Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in "A Christmas Story", even makes an appearance in the last two episodes as Kevin’s roommate!
The Series Was Revolutionary
Not only is "The Wonder Years" a cult classic, but it was also a revolutionary addition to the television industry. Using a narrator rather than a laughing track was practically unheard of at the time.
Additionally, it was the first sitcom to film using a single-camera setup. Prior to the show, a three-camera setup was the standard.
Casting the lead role of Kevin proved to be easier than expected. While casting a child is never easy, producers Carol Black and Neal Marlens sought the assistance of several casting directors.
Of the five directors consulted, all recommended Savage for the part. At the time he was best known for his role in "The Princess Bride".
It Premiered After the Super Bowl
The first episode of "The Wonder Years" premiered after the 1988 Super Bowl between the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos.
With over 80 million viewers tuning in to the game, the premier’s timing likely contributed to the show’s inevitable success. After the Redskins were crushed 42 to 10, Americans got their first glimpse into Kevin and Winnie’s epic love story.
Dialogue Was Taken From Life
It wasn’t uncommon for writers of "The Wonder Years" to add tidbits to the script that they’d overheard the kids saying on set. They even used Savage’s friendship with McKellar to better develop Kevin and Winnie’s onscreen relationship. This added authenticity to the show as they used phrases kids were using at the time.
One example McKellar gave in an interview was a conversation she had with Savage about a boy she was crushing on. It seems that Savage asked if she "liked him" or if she "liked him, liked him". Their conversation ended up inspiring a scene on the show!
Reason for a Lengthy Split
Kevin and Winnie’s on-and-off relationship was essential to the show’s storyline. But their lengthy split between season 3 and 4 was written in for a specific reason.
See, McKellar had a growth spurt that left Savage in her shadow on set. The couple was separated just long enough for Savage to have his own growth spurt and catch up to McKellar.
How Jack Arnold Became a Veteran
It was actor Dan Lauria’s idea to present his character, Jack Arnold, as a Korean War veteran. As a vet himself, he was able to bring a realistic edge to the role and give it more overall dimension.
His time in the war mentioned several times throughout the series, and Karen went off to college, he presented her with his old duffle bag from the service. Additionally, there are often scenes from the war being played on the television in the background while the family eats dinner.
The Narrator Is a Famous Bandit
Actor Daniel Stern may be best known for being part of the infamous Wet Bandits in the "Home Alone" franchise. However, he also made a significant contribution to "The Wonder Years".
As the narrator of the show, Stern portrayed the adult Kevin Arnold. He wasn’t the narrator originally chosen for the job, however. Actor Arye Gross was originally chosen and narrated the pilot episode. It was later re-recorded with Stern’s voice for the premiere.
Over the years, Stern contributed to the show in other ways as well. In addition to directing several episodes, he also allowed his son to make a heartwarming appearance.
During the final scene of the series, Stern offers updates on all of the show’s stars in his narration. A boy playing Kevin’s son asks him to go outside to play catch. This was Stern’s son in real life!
Josh Saviano Ends up Like His Character
Josh Saviano, who plays Kevin’s best friend Paul Pfeiffer, winds up taking a path in life similar to his character’s. At the end of the series, we learn that Pfeiffer goes to Harvard and ultimately becomes a lawyer.
Saviano ended up going to Yale and became a lawyer too! Today he offers legal protection and consulting services to celebrities and corporate brands.
Delayed DVD Release
Due to the show’s incredible soundtrack, it wasn’t until recent years that "The Wonder Years" made it to DVD. Star Vista worked tirelessly to get the rights to all of the music, but it was a task that proved to be overwhelming.
While they were able to get the rights to most of the songs used originally, 14 had to be changed for the DVD release. Season one was ultimately released in 2014 with the rest following suit over the next two years.
Scenes Were Often Filmed Separate
Since most of the show’s main characters were children, they were often in school. To work around their hectic schedules, they would often film shared scenes separately.
One famous scene that fans were shocked to learn was shot individually was the first time Kevin and Winnie express their feelings to each other. The actors revealed that after Kevin climbs into Winnie’s window and they say “I love you” for the first time, they’re each speaking to the air!
This Star Was the Opposite of His Character
Even though Saviano played a stereotypical nerd on the show, he was actually a varsity athlete in real life. With a room full of trophies and awards, the actor was even called out while filming a scene playing basketball for being too coordinated!
He’s not the only star who didn’t share many similarities with their character though. While Winnie was portrayed as being quite athletic, McKellar was always more of a bookworm. She even went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics!
Mr. And Mrs. Arnold Never Had Kids
Neither of the actors who played Kevin’s parents had children of their own.
For this reason, Lauria and Alley Mills (who played Norma Arnold) were seen as parental figures for many of the kids on set. They created a tight family unit unlike the cast of any other sitcom!
The Bar Mitzvah Episode
In season 2 of "The Wonder Years", Paul turns 13-years-old, making him a man according to Judaism. The episode, “Birthday Boy”, follows the boys as Paul prepares for his Bar Mitzvah.
With their birthdays just two days apart, Kevin is conflicted with the fact that they won’t be celebrating their birthdays together as they always had in the past. To make matters worse, Paul’s big celebration is being held on Kevin’s birthday. The episode is renowned as one of the first depictions of Judaism on mainstream television.
Kevin’s On-Screen Reactions
If you’ve seen a few episodes of the show, then you know a large part of Savage’s role is to react to the voiceover.
To make this easier on the young actor, someone was on set reading the narrator’s part. This allowed Savage to react to the narration on cue and with a more natural response.
Savage Still Works in the Industry
It has been a while since Savage has been seen on screen, but he hasn’t abandoned the industry.
After graduating from Stanford, he began working behind the camera directing both TV movies and shows. Most recently he has directed "2 Broke Girls", "Modern Family", and "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia".
McKellar Continues To Act
If you’re a fan of the Hallmark channel, then you’ve likely noticed McKellar in several movies. On top of maintaining an acting career, she’s also a UCLA graduate with a degree in mathematics.
While she has seriously considered a career in the field, she maintained working in front of the camera. However, she has written several mathematics books over the years, even making the New York Times Best Seller List!
Visiting the Arnold Home
While "The Wonder Years" was filmed on a set, the exterior of the Arnold home was filmed in Burbank, California.
You can even visit the house, located at 516 University Avenue. Upon arrival, you will see why the show’s creators chose the area to create a world for Kevin and his friends. Frozen in time, the homes that were built in the ‘40s were the ideal setting for a show meant to take place in the ‘60s.
Kevin’s New York Jets Jacket
The infamous green New York Jets jacket that Kevin wore throughout the first few seasons of the show wound up going home with Savage’s mother.
In anticipation of the release of the first season on DVD, Savage donated the jacket to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Savage wore the jacket during many monumental scenes including Kevin’s first day of school as well as he and Winnie’s first kiss.
Connections to ‘Boy Meets World’
Several of the actors from "The Wonder Years" later went on to appear in a modern-day coming of age sitcom, "Boy Meets World".
The most obvious connection is that Fred Savage’s younger brother, Ben Savage, stars in the show as Cory Matthews. His big brother made an appearance later on in the college years, but he wasn’t the only one to appear on both shows. Dan Lauria played a judge when Cory gets his driver’s license and Blake Soper, who made small appearances on "The Wonder Years," played Joey The Rat.
Savage Was in Every Episode
Fred Savage was the only cast member to appear in all 115 episodes of the show. Alley Mills, Josh Saviano, and Jason Hervey who played Kevin’s older brother, Wayne, have the second-highest number of episodes under their belt at 113.
Surprisingly, Danica McKellar only appeared in 85 episodes even though she was consistently an essential part of the storyline.
The Show Was Almost a Film
The creators of "The Wonder Years" originally planned to write this story as a screenplay.
As a narrator’s perspective was never used in a sitcom before, it only made sense for their idea to be transformed into a movie. Fortunately, they took the risk and created the show we all know and love today!
Hervey’s Real-Life Brother Inspired His Character
Jason Hervey has said that his character, Wayne Arnold, was largely inspired by his real-life brother. He has even called his brother the true Wayne Arnold.
In one particular episode, Wayne is forced to pick up Kevin from the mall. Every time Kevin reaches for the door handle, Wayne lurches the car forward. Hervey has said his brother did this to him on his first day of 7th grade, intentionally embarrassing him in front of his classmates. How Rude!
Growing up Led to the Show’s Demise
As the main cast grew older, creators knew that the show would have to come to an end. Since "The Wonder Years" was a family show that aired at 8 p.m., they simply couldn’t address the kinds of subject matter that other sitcoms could.
With the show’s actors becoming teenagers right in front of their eyes, writers felt constricted with which subject matters they could address.
David Chase Wrote an Episode
After some time on the air, "The Wonder Years" producer Ken Topolsky began to feel that the show was losing steam. To maintain viewer interest, he asked "Sopranos" creator David Chase to lend his skills to the show and write a script.
While it was said to be phenomenal and one of the best scripts ever written for the series, the content was found too mature for viewers. Little is known about the episode other than the fact that it included illegal substance abuse and was never used.
The Marilyn Manson Theory
There has been a long-time conspiracy theory that Josh Saviano grew up to become Marilyn Manson. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Likely Saviano’s disappearance from the limelight helped to contribute to these rumors, but they have long since been disproved. The conspiracy is so widely known that when Savage met Manson, the two joked about it!
Fans Were Disappointed With the Ending
Many fans were disappointed with the series ending, specifically with the fact that Kevin and Winnie didn’t end up together. However, this was done intentionally to mirror real life as few people end up with their first love!
As we all do, the characters have fond memories from their adolescence, but it’s only natural for people to grow apart as they discover who they are.
They Aired The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Appearance
"The Wonder Years" was the first sitcom to show footage from The Beatles’ appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show".
Unfortunately, the footage wasn’t used in the show very well and the overall episode was considered mediocre at best. It was so bad that the head of New World Entertainment, Jon Feltheimer, demanded his money back from producer Bob Brush.
Set 20 Years Earlier
Each episode of "The Wonder Years" took place almost exactly 20 years prior to its release date.
For example, the first episode premiered on January 31, 1988, and was set in the summer of 1968. This practice continued throughout the entire series!
Wayne Arnold Was Labeled a Brat
In 2005, TV Guide released a list of “TV’s 10 Biggest Brats” and guess who made the list? Despite being off the air for over a decade, Wayne Arnold was voted into the number seven spot!
This is likely more of an insult to Hervey’s brother, as he largely based the character off of him.
The Arnolds Loved Their Potatoes
Many episodes throughout the series feature the family at the dinner table. Nearly all of these scenes show a potato dish on the table and is often mentioned by someone in the family.
Was this a running joke with the crew or did one of the show’s writers just really like potatoes? We may never know!
Kevin’s Teacher Was Psychic
Each time the cameras cut to Kevin’s teacher, he’s giving a speech. His words either directly or metaphorically relate to whatever predicament Kevin finds himself in during the episode.
Played by actor Ben Stein, if Kevin’s teacher isn’t a psychic then he certainly pays attention to his student’s personal lives. Stein is best known for the part he played in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off".
Winnie’s Real Name
While you might be inclined to think Winnie was named after a honey-loving bear, this is actually her nickname.
Winnie is short for Gwendolyn! That’s certainly not the name of a young teenager, so it makes sense that she would shorten it.
Daniel Stern Plays Fred Savage’s Father
On "The Wonder Years", Savage and Stern don’t appear on screen together in a physical sense.
As the narrator, Stern’s services aren’t needed until filming is over. However, the two did work together on another set. Stern plays Savage’s father in the 1989 kid’s movie "Little Monsters".
Producers Received a Lot of Fan Mail
It became clear how deeply kids related to the show after producers started receiving more and more fan mail. Things especially picked up during later episodes when Kevin got his driver’s license, causing him and Paul to drift apart.
It’s not uncommon for newfound independence to have these kinds of results. Kids wrote letters about how they could relate to the storyline as they experienced it themselves.
Mills’ Look Was High-Maintenance
Alley Mills may be known for her squeaky clean look and bright blonde hair on "The Wonder Years", but it took a lot of effort to get there.
To get her hair the shade of blonde producers wanted, she had to dye it regularly. In fact, her hair had to be dyed three times at first just get it light enough.
The Kissing Scene Took Several Takes
It may be common knowledge that Savage and McKellar’s first on-screen kiss was also their first kiss in general, but few know that it took several takes to get the perfect shot.
As inexperienced kissers, it’s not surprising that it took them six takes to get it right. The fact that the actors had crushes on each other at the time likely didn’t make things easier.
Paul Inspired Hipsters
Known for his iconic thick-rimmed glasses, Paul’s appearance embodied that of a stereotypical nerd. However, his character held to alter how geeks were perceived.
It was long after the show became a cult classic that thick-rimmed glasses became trendy, especially among the hipster crowds.
Savage Was Intimidated by Guest Stars
When recalling his time on set, Savage has admitted that he was intimidated by female guest stars.
Considering they were beautiful actresses like Carla Gugino and Alicia Silverstone, it makes sense that a teenage boy would be nervous around them on set. On the other hand, Savage said he enjoyed having male guest stars on set as he felt he could look up to them.
Winnie Was Only Supposed to Be in the Pilot
McKellar’s character wasn’t supposed to appear throughout the series but was such a hit in the pilot that she was asked back.
It worked out perfectly for the young actress though, as her mom only allowed her to audition when she thought the role was for a single episode. Her mother wanted McKellar to grow up normally, so it may have taken some arm twisting to get her to agree to her becoming a series regular.
Growing in Popularity
"The Wonder Years" became such a fan favorite that reruns ran on five different networks in the United States! These included Nick at Nite, ABC Family, The New TNN, Ion Television, and The Hub.
Additionally, it aired on CTS Ontario in Canada and on Network Ten in Australia. The show continued to appeal to audiences decades after it first aired and continues to gain new fans to this day.
Even though he only appeared in 12 episodes, Ben Stein must have had an impact on the kids on set.
When Savage, McKellar, and Saviano were asked what their favorite episode to film was, they all had the same answer. Any episode filmed with Stein! Clearly, he’s not anything like the teacher he played on the show.
Lauria Pushed the Kids to Study Film
Lauria played more than just a father on the show, as he made sure to have a positive influence on the kids behind the scenes.
Savage has recalled times in between filming when Lauria would encourage him to watch classic films and read plays. He made sure to educate Savage and the other kids on set on the history of performance and working in entertainment.
Hervey Was the Opposite of His Character
He may be known as one of the biggest brats on television, but Jason Hervey was nothing like his character.
Despite their age difference, he would often drive Savage and Saviano around in his car and introduce them to his friends. He was the ideal older brother figure for the boys!
McKellar Disagrees With Fan Theories
While most fans of the show believe Winnie and Kevin were intimate in some of the show’s final scenes, McKellar disagrees. After getting caught in a storm during the final episode, Kevin and Winnie take shelter in a barn. They start kissing, but what happens next is left up to the viewer’s imagination.
While most fans believe Kevin and Winnie had intercourse, actress McKellar doesn’t agree. In a recent interview after seeing the clip, McKellar said, "We look like babies! No, they just cuddled!"
Saviano’s glasses worn throughout the series were actually fake! While the actor certainly doesn’t have 20/20 vision, he has been wearing contacts since he was a child and continued to do so while filming.
We do get to see Paul without his glasses on the show as he matures and grows as a character, leaving his nerdy persona in the past.
ABC has officially ordered a script for the reboot of "The Wonder Years" which is expected to be produced between 2021 and 2022.
The show will portray a middle-class black family living in Montgomery, Alabama in the ‘60s. Likely another coming of age story, Savage will produce and direct the series.