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Why Gen Xers love “The Wonder Years” — and everyone else should too

In the spring of 1988, when I was in the fifth grade, and Ronald Reagan was still president, and people wore acid-washed jeans without irony, there was much I did not yet know of life. But what I did know was where I would be on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m., 7 central — because that is when "The Wonder Years" was on.

The 1960s-set show had me hooked ever since my parents and I had watched the pilot episode, in which the 12-year-old protagonist Kevin (Fred Savage) experiences the dizzying highs and lows of life in one week: His neighborhood idol is killed in Vietnam, but soon afterward Kevin has his first kiss. At the end of the episode, as Percy Sledge’s 1966 ballad “When a Man Loves a Woman” plays tenderly over a shot of Kevin and his love, Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), in the woods at dusk, my parents (who had lived through the '60s) and I (who had not) all simultaneously got verklempt. Hmm, I thought to myself. This doesn’t happen when we watch “Full House.”

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