Courtesy: Time Life/ABC
Television has come a long way since its golden age. That isn’t a good thing either. During television’s infancy audiences were provided with so much variety in their programming options. Now however, those options are far fewer. Most of what audiences are being offered are either soulless “reality shows,” rebooted game shows, or any number of crime and medical procedurals, none of which even have any heart in themselves. Thankfully, the variety once offered during television’s golden age have been resurrected by the increasing number of retro TV networks out there and home entertainment companies such as Shout! Factory, MPI Home Video, and the focus of today’s review, Time Life Entertainment. Time Life and its subsidiary StarVista Entertainment have proven in recent years to be among the leading names in home entertainment thanks to the release of classics such as: Hee Haw, The Carol Burnett Show, and of course The Wonder Years just to name a few of those classic series. Speaking of The Wonder Years, Time Life and StarVista released the fifth season of that series this past May. The series’ penultimate season, it proves in its new home release why Time Life and StarVista are among the leading names in home entertainment beginning with the season’s writing; more specifically its stories. The work of the series’ cast is just as important to note as the show’s writing. The companion booklet that comes with the set is yet another important element to consider in the set’s presentation. Each element plays its own part in Season Five’s overall presentation. They are hardly the set’s only notable elements, too. There is also the set’s collective bonus material and even the very listing of the episodes to consider in the set’s presentation. All things considered Time Life and StarVista have once again proven with this release why they are among the leading names in the home entertainment arena.
Time Life and StarVista are among the very few leading names in the home entertainment arena today. That has been proven time and again with every one of the companies’ previous home releases. The recently released fifth season of ABC’s classic family drama The Wonder Years is just the latest title to prove that reputation. The series is one of television’s best classic dramas. That has already been proven over the course of the series’ first four seasons. Now in its penultimate season it has proven this once again in large part through its writing. More specifically that writing applies to the stories at the heart of each episode. While this season’s stories take place in the 1970s their scenarios are just as relevant today as they were in their given age. “Road Test” is just one key example of that continued relevance. Kevin faces his driving test in this episode. And it isn’t easy. While everyone else is having an easy go of it, he can’t get over his issues with parallel parking. That is until he finally faces his fears. It also leads to a heartwarming father-son bonding moment between Kevin and Jack in the end. This smaller element of the writing will be discussed later. Of course driving tests have changed a lot since the days of Kevin’s test. But that fear and uncertainty that new drivers feel is still very much the same, again proving its relevance to the world today.
The Story within “Day One” is another key example of The Wonder Years’ continued relevance to the world today. This stories finds Kevin starting high school, which means a whole new environment including a new teacher who makes Kevin his personal target. This comes about due to one joke that Kevin makes; a joke that Kevin finds harmless but the teacher in question doesn’t, thanks to his personal background. In the process, Kevin learns a very important lesson not only about civics and government but about right and wrong. It is an important story that progresses Kevin’s continuing coming-of-age that is just as relevant today as it was in its original broadcast. Sure, there might not be protests along the line of what Kevin and his classmates did. But it directly echoes that personal emotional growth that every teen goes through, even today. So it proves, again, to be just as relevant to the world today as “Road Test.”
“Soccer” is one more example of what makes The Wonder Years so relevant to the world even today. This time Kevin joins a band of misfit students to form his school’s new soccer team. Of course the result is a classic underdog story that will put a smile on any viewer’s face. Despite the differences exhibited by the team and its general lack of talent, it still comes together in the end to inspire both each other and its coach, a one-time soccer legend himself. The coach had signed on very reluctantly and didn’t even show any real interest in the team throughout most of the story. But the team’s determination inspired him even just a little bit. So many stories along the lines on this one have been crafted by so many television and movie writers through the ages. But they have all been so over the top that they are hardly believable. This story is the polar opposite of those presentations. It completely pulls in audiences and in turn makes itself entirely believable. It is just one more way in which The Wonder Years maintains its relevance even today. It is hardly the last story presented in this season that proves the series’ continued relevance. “Private Butthead,” “The Lost Weekend,” and “Wedding” could just as easily be used to exhibit that continued relevance as could any of the season’s other episodes, too. All things considered, the stories that are presented throughout The Wonder Years’ fifth season show from beginning to end the series’ continued relevance and the overall importance of the season’s writing. The stories alone are just a portion of what makes the writing so important. The life lessons that are presented within each episode are just as important to note as the stories themselves.
The stories at the center of The Wonder Years’ fifth season are in their own right hugely important to the writing within the season’s presentation. They are just part of what makes the writing so important. The life lessons that are presented within each episode are just as important to note as the stories themselves. Case in point the lesson presented in “Day One.” The lesson about standing up for one’s own beliefs is one that applies at any stage of life. While the tyrant here might have been the teacher Kevin still realized that he had to stand up for himself just as people in general must stand up against tyranny, bullies, and the like. It boasts a certain heart that few if any shows today can say they have.
“Grandpa’s Car” boasts just as much heart in its story and life lesson as that presented in “Day One.” This story sees Arnold’s grandfather having to come to terms with his age and his waning abilities. It presents yet another topic that is just as relevant today as it was in Kevin’s youth. While the story is powerful in its own right, so is the lesson presented here. The lesson centers on family. It presents that important message about looking after one’s family even when family might not agree with certain decisions and actions. It is one of those lessons (and stories) that will definitely touch audiences so deeply. And it is hardly the last example of the importance of the lessons to the series’ writing in this season. “The Wedding” provides one more example of the importance of the show’s lessons this season to its writing.
“Grandpa’s Car” and “Day One” both present lessons that are clearly important to the series’ writing. They are lessons that ring just as true today as they did during Kevin’s youth. They are not the only episodes to present such important lessons. The lesson at the heart of “The Wedding” (no pun intended here) is yet another example of the importance of the show’s lessons to its writing. It presents the message of social existence. Just because Karen’s wedding isn’t the traditional wedding does not make it wrong. It still allows her and her new husband to express their love to one another. Sadly there are a lot of people who to this day still think that a wedding should be a certain way thanks to social norms and values. Considering that, the lesson presented here is one from which so many audiences would benefit even today. Keeping that in mind, the lesson presented here is yet one more example of the importance of the show’s lessons to its writing. And as with the presented stories, it is hardly the last lesson that could be cited in exhibiting the importance of the show’s writing, too. There are plenty of other lessons that could be cited here. All in all they come together with the lessons noted here to show in full that the lessons presented within the episodes are just as important to the show’s writing as the presented episodes. Now having considered all of this, the stories and lessons that are presented across The Wonder Years’ fifth season show unquestionably the importance of the season’s writing to its presentation. As important as the writing proves to be to The Wonder Years’ fifth season it is not the only important part of its presentation. The work of the show’s cast is just as important to note as that of the show’s writers.
The work of The Wonder Years’ writers proves to be unquestionably important to the series even in its fifth season. That is because the writers have crafted stories that on one level are just as relevant today (yet again) as they were in their original broadcast. On another level the lessons that are presented throughout give each episode (and the season in whole) just as much heart as the series’ previous four seasons. While the writing proves to be so important to the series it is not the only important part of this season’s presentation. The work of the series’ cast is just as important to note as the writing. Their work shines through in every episode just as much as that of the writers. One prime example of this comes midway into the season in “Private Butthead.” When Wayne decides to join the Army, thinking he’s not smart enough to go to college, he and Jack butt heads over his decision. What is evident on both parts is the love that Jack has for his son. The emotion exhibited by Dan Lauria as he tries to persuade Wayne (Jason Hervey) to rethink his decision is so painful and heart-wrenching. Lauria really makes audiences feel for him. That is because he is not so much because Jack is mad at Wayne but rather because he is so scared for him and what might happen. He explains to Wayne that it was different when he went to Korea. He knows what happens in war. He just doesn’t want that for his son. It is a father’s love for his son. And it shines here so brightly. On the same note, Hervey is just as believable as Wayne butts heads with Jack. He makes audiences believe his performance just as much as Lauria does for Jack. It would have been so easy for the pair to go over the top here. But at no point does that happen. It makes their performance one of the season’s best hands down. It is just one example of how the cast’s work shines in this season. Olivia d’Abo is just as impressive when she takes center stage in “The Wedding.”
Dan Lauria and Jason Hervey both exemplify the importance of the cast’s work when the pair take the lead in ‘Private Butthead.” The duo expertly presents a situation that is just as prevalent today as it was so many decades ago. The emotion exhibited by both men as they play their respective part in the story makes the story so emotionally gripping. On another note, Kevin’s personal growth in “Day One” is another example of the importance of the cast’s work this season. Audiences will find themselves completely enthralled in Fred Savage’s performance as Kevin goes from being a nervous high school “newbie” to being a proud, confident leader of sorts as he eventually leads his classmates in a protest against their tyrannical teacher. It is so interesting to watch Kevin’s gradual personality change over the course of the episode. That is thanks, again, to Savage’s attention to the story and control of Kevin’s growth. It is yet another example of how the cast’s work shines here and most definitely not the last. On another note, Olivia d’Abo is impressive in her own right during her time at the fore in “Stormy Weather.”
Dan Lauria, Jason Hervey, and Fred Savage all show in their own ways the importance of the cast’s work in this season of The Wonder Years. Theirs isn’t the only notable work. Olivia d’Abo deserves her own share of praise for her work as Kevin and Wayne’s sister Karen. That is especially the case in ‘Stormy Weather.” Here in this story is d’Abo portraying Karen as a grown woman yet someone who is still so vulnerable. There is still that aspect of someone so young and inexperienced in life thanks to d’Abo’s performance. D’Abo’s performance presents Karen as a young woman who is realizing that while she is an adult, she still obviously hasn’t completely found her way or herself. And the moment at which she realizes this is one of the episode’s most powerful. It is a subtle moment. But those who pay close attention will catch it. In doing so, those audiences will be so moved. It is just one more way in which the cast’s work shines through in this season and shows its importance to the season’s presentation. There are so many other moments that could be cited in exhibiting the importance of the cast’s work. That would take far too much time, though. Keeping that in mind, it would be safe to examine one more of the season’s important elements, its companion booklet.
Both the writing and acting behind the The Wonder Years in its fifth season do so much to make the show just as solid this time out as in its previous seasons. They are not the season’s only important elements. The companion booklet that comes with the set is just as important to note as the writing and acting. Just as with the series’ previous seasons, this season’s companion booklet presents so much extra enjoyment for audiences. It presents short but concise summaries for each of the season’s 24 episodes. There are also some interesting tidbits included that range from behind-the-scenes information to some equally interesting history items. For instance, in “Hero” it is noted that a then much younger James Caviezel actually had NBA aspirations in real life. But an injury to Caviezel prevented those dreams from becoming reality, thus leading him to embark on an acting career. It also presents a note about actor Paul Dooley, who played Kevin’s soccer coach, Pops in relation to the episode “Soccer.” Audiences learn in watching this episode that Dooley was one of the creative forces behind PBS’ hit series The Electric Company. There is even a note about author Jonathan Swift in relation to “Frank and Denise.” It notes that Swift, who wrote Gulliver’s Travels, also wrote the 1,000 line poem “Cadenus and Vanessa,” that gets Denise so emotional in this episode. The liner notes go on to state here that the poem in question was actually aobut his 17-year affair with Esther Vanhomrigh, whose parents were also friends of Swift. It’s just one more interesting piece of information provided in the set’s companion booklet. There is so much more that could be discussed including a little “pop quiz” related to Wayne’s SAT prep in “Private Butthead,” a brief history of the movie Carnal Knowledge and its impact upon its release, and even a little bit about actor Lyman Ward’s guest star appearance in “Of Mastodons and Men” among so much more. Whether for these pieces of information, those more directly noted here or any of the others, it is clear that the companion booklet that comes with the fifth season of The Wonder Years is just as important to its presentation as the season’s writing and the work of the series’ cast. Each element is important in its own right. Heck, even the bonus material included on disc and the clear listing of episodes on the discs deserves being noted here, too. All things considered, Time Life Entertainment and StarVista have proven once again with this collection why they are among the leading names in the home entertainment arena today. It also shows why this recently released box set is one of the year’s top new box sets for grown ups.
The Wonder Years: Season 5 is yet another successful release from Time Life Entertainment and StarVista. It shows once more why these two companies are, along with Shout! Factory and MPI Home Video, among the leading names in the home entertainment arena. This is shown through the solid writing from the season premiere to the season finale. This includes both the stories presented in each episode and the lessons (the heart) presented in each story. The work of the series’ cast adds just as much enjoyment to each episode and the season in whole. The companion booklet that is included in Season Five’s box adds just as much enjoyment to the set as its writing and acting. The same can be said of the bonus material included on-disc and the clear listing of episodes on each disc. Each element is equally deserving of being mentioned. But there is just not enough time or space to do so. All things considered Time Life Entertainment and StarVista have proven once again through all of these elements why they are among the home entertainment arena’s leading names. Altogether they not only strengthen both companies’ reputations in the home entertainment arena but also show why this box set is one of the year’s top new box sets for grown ups. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Time Life Entertainment and StarVista is available online now at:
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