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‘The Wonder Years’ and the Emptiness of the Black Hollywood Recast

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23.09.2021

With many TV and film studios stuck in a ‘rona rut for the last two years, greenlighting new IP seems to have slowed to a crawl while the reboot, remake, revival cycle has kicked into high gear. The latest relic receiving a 2021 dust-off is ABC’s The Wonder Years, which remodels the 1988 sitcom of the same name. Back then, the baby boomer-courting show found a middle-class, white nuclear family, the Arnolds (and more prominently their son, Kevin, played by Fred Savage, who also serves as executive producer for the reboot) at the moral center of frivolous suburban shenanigans with the surreality of the Vietnam War as backdrop.

In the 21st-century redux, main character Dean Williams (Elisha “EJ” Williams) grows up in the eye of a civil rights storm as a middle-class Black kid living in Montgomery, Alabama, in the midst of social upheaval. With the always amiable Don Cheadle playing his adult version, the new Wonder Years adds a Black nostalgic gloss to a particularly fervent time in Black life. But a show like this on a network like ABC, which has a penchant for creating Black shows for white audiences, begs the question of whether or not a mainstream studio’s version of the civil rights era is a vision that Black people want to harken back to. Central to that question, too, is whether or not rebooting or........

© The Daily Beast


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