We’re seven episodes into the reboot of The Wonder Years, inspired by the series that starred a young Fred Savage and originally aired back in the late 1980s. With the new series, Savage serves as executive producer and director, and with he and creator/head writer Saladin K. Patterson in charge, the series has been able to maintain its original charm while adding a necessary twist showing America from a Black family’s purview. The original had Savage as the show’s protagonist, with everything happening from the point of view of his older self (voiced by Daniel Stern). The 2021 version uses the same plot device, this time with Elisha Williams, who plays young Dean Williams, serving as our eyes into his family situation, with his older self (voiced by Don Cheadle) narrating the stories describing what it was like navigating America in 1968. The first seven episodes have been a bit up and down, with a few standout performances balancing out a storyline or two that seemed to go nowhere.
What I’ve loved about the show so far is Williams as Dean, who nails all of the angst and confusion that must’ve been bottled up inside a pre-teen during that era. Seeing him figure things out through facial expressions and well-placed questions, even when the writing at times fails him, has been a pleasure. Dulé Hill is solid as always as Dean’s father Bill. However, the real standout for me has been the very nuanced performance by Saycon Sengbloh as Dean’s mom. The Broadway-trained actress has been flawless in the role of the all-knowing, ahead-of-her-time Lillian, giving the series a moral compass where her character is its North star.
The thing that’s given me pause thus far has been the writing, with some episodes seemingly set up to deliver a precise message yet failing to bring it home. However, instead of dwelling on the negative, I’d rather highlight the episodes I considered strong, including the pilot that took us to the specific moment Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated (April 4, 1968) and how it affected the Williams family.
Sengbloh’s performance in “The Workplace” was stellar, showing how women had to juggle work and home before it ever became a hot button issue, and “Independence Day,”–the series’ strongest outing to-date–featuring Richard Gant as Dean’s grandfather, brilliantly portraying what it’s like to age not so gracefully while also making a case for why independence, even just a little bit, still matters.
If you haven’t already, take some time to binge the first seven before this week’s new episode. It’s definitely worth your time watching Dean, and the series, grow up before our eyes.
The Wonder Years airs Wednesdays on ABC.
While this season of OWN’s Ready to Love will likely give us no matches (as has been the case with previous seasons), it will give us catch phrases that will serve as earworms going forward. I mean, where else on television will you hear “White toes get you chose” or have someone… named Shawn… describe himSELF as a… sigh… “Shawn-trepreneur”? Somebody make it stop.
Speaking of Ready to Love, yes, Kamil might be must-see TV, but she also must seek help to resolve some of her issues once her 15 minutes in the spotlight are done. No, seriously. Please.
It was great seeing Jonathan Majors hosting SNL this week since I’m all for artists, and Black artists in particular, trying new things. However, it said a lot about his comedic chops (or lack thereof) that Kenan Thompson was charged with being his comedy safety net for most of the night.
This season of CBS’ Bull has been outstanding, with terrific performances from Michael Weatherly and Christopher Jackson in particular. Also, I’m absolutely loving the guest turn by Sharon Washington as Olivia, Dr. Bull’s lawyer. So good.
If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of ABC’s Station 19, I won’t spoil it for you. I promise. What I will do is say I wasn’t OK when it ended. Not even a little bit. And probably won’t be for a while.
I wanted to give Apple TV Plus’ The Shrink Next Door a fair shot. Especially with Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd in lead roles. I just couldn’t get past the second episode. It’s just really weird to me and not something I want to subject myself to long term. I already to that to myself weekly with The Morning Show. That’s more than enough.
I don’t believe I have enough words to describe how much I love the performance of Natasha Rothwell as Kelli on HBO’s Insecure. I promise, just when you think you’ve seen the best of her antics, she raises the bar and commands the screen in every episode in which she appears. She’s a star, and the writers love her.
What are you watching? Please leave a comment and let me know.