Buried Treasures in Sitcoms:

By Kenneth Baumbach
March 14, 2002

“The Wonder Years,” created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black, is a historical and dramatic sitcom that ran on T.V. from the years 1988 to 1993. The Emmy-winning series describes the problems, wishes, and life of a boy who was coming of age in the late 1960’s and ’70s.

The off-screen narrator of the show, a much older Kevin Arnold, reminisces about growing up in a typical suburban household during this period in American history. The people that make up Kevin’s world include his best friend, Paul, his first love, Winnie, his hard to reach father, Jack, big-bully brother, Wayne, his adolescent hippie sister, Karen, and his mother, Norma. The creators of the show wanted to create a show that would address the universal experience of growing up and childhood, rather than make a statement about the era in which the show is based.

What makes “The Wonder Years” so appealing is that many Americans can identify with what was happening in Kevin’s life. Those who lived throughout the ’60s and ’70s could relate to the various historical events that occurred during the show. Also, Kevin is the universal teenager, which everyone who remembers their years growing up may relate to. Most of us remember our first kiss, our driver’s license, and all of the other pivotal stages of young adulthood. This is what makes “The Wonder Years” such a great show, the fact that we all have a little bit of Kevin in each of us.

“Saved By The Bell” was another show that dealt with growing up, although not as realistic as “The Wonder Years.” “Saved By The Bell” debuted on NBC, way back in 1989. The show was originally planned for a prime-time slot on NBC, however, after only two episodes in prime-time, “Saved by the Bell” was moved to its Saturday morning time slot where it gained immense popularity and played out most of its existence. From grades nine through twelve, the show followed the adventures of Zack, Screech, Kelly, Slater, Jessie and Lisa in Bayside High, and in some other famous settings such as everybody’s favorite hangout, The Max, Palm Springs and even Hawaii.

“Saved By The Bell” spawned a college spin-off. “Saved By The Bell- The College Years,” was a short-lived series that lasted only one short season. In what was to be the final episode of the college years, producer Peter Engel decided to have the characters of Zack and Kelly plan their wedding to each other. However, the series was cancelled before the marriage could be finished. Engel, however, convinced NBC to let him film a 2-hour TV movie to tie up loose ends. In 1994, “Saved By the Bell: The Wedding” aired in prime-time, wrapping up the “Saved By The Bell” series. So ended the run of the Zack Morris based series after 5 years on the air and over 100 episodes.

Does anybody remember the show “Dinosaurs?” This comedy show revolves around the Sinclairs, a likeable prehistoric, working-class family of dinosaurs who faced modern worries. Earl Sinclair, the father of the family, was a blue-collar Megalosaurus, who worked for the Wesayso Development Corporation. He and his wife, Fran, had three children: Robbie, a 15-year-old who questions authority and has a mohawk, Charlene, a 13-year-old who was obsessed with shopping and guys, and the Baby, a toddler who was trapped in the terrible two’s. Remember the saying “not the mama?’ Yep, this was the show that it came from. The baby would constantly hit Earl over the head with whatever object he could find and yell this famous phrase while doing it.

The original idea for “Dinosaurs” came from Jim Henson. Henson envisioned using the animatronics technology from his Creature Shop, bringing to life a family of prehistoric dinosaurs in an otherwise normal situational comedy. He liked the idea of creating worlds where none existed before and making them into a reality.

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Kenneth Baumbach

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