The Wonder Years TV Poster Image

The Wonder Years



Nostalgic coming-of-age sitcom still charms.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series captures what it was like to grow up in middle-class America during the turbulent late '60s/early '70s. Themes include gratitude and integrity. It underscores some of the clashing values of the time, and highlights some of the major historic moments of those years. The importance of family is also highlighted.

Positive role models

The Arnolds and most of their friends and neighbors are typical white, middle class folks of the era who live generally productive and socially acceptable lives. Karen's hippie lifestyle often clashes with her parents' middle-class values. Wayne likes to harass Kevin. African-American and Asian characters are occasionally visible, but references to diverse populations are made within the context of the time (e.g. African-Americans are referred to as "negroes").


Occasional pushing and shoving, usually between Kevin and Wayne.


The focus is primarily on teenage crushes and includes hugging and kissing. Later episodes include more sexualized content. These references aren't explicit but do include discussion of virginity, pregnancy, and living together without being married. In one specific episode, Kevin touches a girl's breast while making out with her. When two main characters do have sex at the end of the series' run, nothing graphic is visible.


Wayne calls Kevin "butthead" on a regular basis. Other words include "damn," "hell," and "jackass."


Brand-name references to products like Pepsi and Fresca. News clips and scenes from popular TV shows of the time, such as I Dream of Jeannie, are visible. Music from the era is also featured, ranging from Motown to classic rock (including the show's theme song, "With a Little Help from My Friends").

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Beer and other alcoholic beverages are occasionally visible, as are cigarette and cigar smoking. In one episode, Kevin gets drunk -- and sick as a result. Later episodes also contain occasional references to marijuana.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Wonder Years is a hit '80s sitcom series that tells the story of main character Kevin Arnold's childhood, beginning with his tween years in the late 1960s. The events are told from both his adult and childhood perspectives, thanks to the show's trademark narration. The series focuses on Kevin's relationships with family, friends, dates, and so on -- many of which are impacted by the tumultuous political, social, and economic factors of the era. While early episodes are mostly pretty tame, later seasons do include some drug references (marijuana) and stronger sexual innuendo/scenarios.

What's the story?

Set in the late 1960s and early '70s, THE WONDER YEARS offers a funny, nostalgic look at a boy coming of age during of one of the most tumultuous times in American history. Narrated in voice-over by adult baby boomer Kevin Arnold (Daniel Stern), the show is structured as a flashback to Kevin's day-to-day life from 1968, when he's 11, until his junior year of high school in 1973. His story is told from his point of view both as an adolescent (as portrayed by Fred Savage) and as an adult. Kevin's youth is spent in middle-class suburban America with his family, including his Korean War veteran dad Jack (Dan Lauria), homemaker mom Norma (Alley Mills), hippie older sister Karen (Olivia d'Abo), and annoying older brother Wayne (Jason Hervey). Along with best friend Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), Kevin faces the trials and tribulations of growing up -- including braving a first kiss, starting (and surviving) high school, and getting a driver's license.

Is it any good?


Overall, the series is lighthearted, but it also contains its fair share of both thoughtful and dramatic moments. These moments usually present themselves when the events in Kevin's life are touched by the social, political, and economic upheavals of the era. Conflicts between Mr. Arnold and Kevin's older sister Karen are frequent, as the elder Arnold's traditional middle class values collide with Karen's hippie counterculture ideals. This tension in The Wonder Years -- in addition to concerns about the draft, losing neighborhood children in Vietnam, and putting a man on the moon -- create the backdrop for a world that Kevin and his friends must try to make sense of while growing into adulthood.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about nostalgia in the media, especially in shows like The Wonder Years. How accurate do you think TV shows and movies that look back on the past -- particularly the recent past -- are? Do people in general have a tendency to idealize certain parts of history?

  • Families can also talk specifically about life in America during the 1960s and '70s. What was it like growing up in that era? How have events like the Vietnam War and the hippie counterculture movement impacted American life today? Which of today's events do you think will have as lasting an effect on future generations?

  • How do the characters in The Wonder Years demonstrate gratitude and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Premiere date:January 31, 1988
Cast:Dan Lauria, Danica McKellar, Fred Savage
Networks:Syndicated, Discovery Family Channel
Character strengths:Gratitude, Integrity
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byfashionguru12 January 20, 2013

Ok for mature children

The wonder years is a good show but later on when the main character gets older, there is some older content that is okay for a sturdy 13 yr old. In the begining of the show there was some talk about these two boys getting a book about sex and intercourse and how it works. There is also some mild fighting between the two brothers calling each other constantly butt head many times. But other than that it' s a good show and there are some positive messages and the female character is a good role model for teen girls by being respectful, soft spoken and later on when she turns 16 being a virgin which is also good. The wonder years is an awesome show for mature 13 year olds that wont laugh at some content in between the show that is inappropriate.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 16 years old Written byWebCriticGirl76 January 5, 2011

Successful, Wonderful, All-Age Material

I love the Wonder Years, I watch it every day. But Kevin's dad Jack uses d***, he**, and d*** it a lot. It is sweet and teaches you many valuable lessons, and sometimes makes you cry. In one episode during Jack's Christmas party, he only served alcohol and wine. At the end, they caught an old friend smoking Marijuana in the basement in secret. It is a favorite of mine. Sometimes Wayne talks about sex, and Hobson talks about "men look at women", how his dad looks at dirty magazines. Wayne is a bad role model, and Jack is too, but Kevin, Winnie, Paul, Norma and Karen are good.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byKmfan97 May 30, 2015

This show is fantastic but not for young audiences.

I started watching this show last year and it is currently one of my favorite tv shows. The show is about a kid named Kevin Arnold growing up between the years 1968 and 1973 and from age 12 to 17. He also learns about a few lessons in life throughout the show as well as the importance of family. I'm currently on season 3 and the show has 6 seasons total. However I only watch the show occasionally due to me currently watching another show on Netflix that I think is better than this but when I do watch it I really enjoy it. As far as I know there is really no references to drinking in this show but there is a brief amount of swearing and it's fairly heavy on sexual innuendo. Da** and he** are the only cuss words used on this show and it's fairly heavy on sexual innuendo like I said. Examples of sexual references include a episode where Kevin's big brother Wayne who bullies him a lot tells him and his best friend Paul that they won't become men until they lose their virginity, the second episode of the show where the boys get all excited when their pe coach says that he's going to draw female organs, and in a later episode Kevin stares at the girl he has a crush on named Winnie as she spreads her leg on a school picnic table. I do think that 12+ can watch this show as long as there educated really well on sex, if not 13+