Empire co-creator Lee Daniels reviving the classic series from a different perspective.

By James Hibberd
July 08, 2020 at 02:29 PM EDT
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Another beloved yesteryear TV series is being rebooted, and this time with a creative change that could lend an entirely new perspective.

ABC is making a pilot for an updated version of The Wonder Years the 1988 coming-of-age dramedy that ran for six seasons and starred Fred Savage as a middle-class suburban teenager growing up during the late 1960s and early '70s.

The revival will be set during the same time period, except it will focus on a Black family in Montgomery, Ala.

The show will be executive produced by Empire co-creator Lee Daniels, while Saladin K. Patterson (The Big Bang Theory) is the showrunner and original series co-creator Neal Marlens will be a consultant. Savage is on board as well, as a director and executive producer.

The official description for the show: "How a black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama in the turbulent late 1960’s, the same era as the original series, made sure it was The Wonder Years for them too."

Alabama was the site of many significant events during the American civil rights movement, such as Rosa Park's defiance of segregation on a public bus in 1955, a white supremacist church bombing in 1973, and the five-day march from Selma to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King that pushed the government to approve the Civil Rights Act in 1965.

Savage being on board is a bit ironic as the actor has repeatedly slammed the idea of reviving The Wonder Years, though the question was typically phrased as whether he'd want to continue the story with the original cast, not focusing on a different family. "My answer will remain the same — so I won’t get tired of people asking if everyone else doesn’t get tired of me saying, ‘No, it’s not going to happen,'" Savage told Vanity Fair. "You know, I’ve always said that The Wonder Years, it’s not just the name of the show — it’s a time in your life, a very special, finite time in your life. And the way the show was written, it’s about looking back with some longing. I think we all look back at that time in our lives and long for it and idealize it. One of the reasons it takes on this kind of mythic, almost haunting quality in our lives is because it’s something you can’t go back and can’t revisit. It only exists in our memories, in our shared experiences with people who went through it with us. That’s really what the show was all about. And I think that the idea of revisiting the show mirrors that. And I like that... I love all the reboots and revisitations and reimaginings of all these [other] shows, but I don’t think it works, conceptually, for The Wonder Years."

The premise of the ABC series arguably makes far more sense than most reboots, however, as focusing on a Black family during the same turbulent American time period lends an entirely new – and currently quite topical – viewpoint on the story.

ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

The original Wonder Years had 115 episodes and ran from 1988 to 1993. In addition to Savage as Kevin Arnold, the original starred Dan Lauria as Kevin's father, Alley Mills as his mother, Olivia d'Abo as his older sister, Jason Hervey as Kevin's older brother, Josh Saviano as his best friend, and Danica McKellar as his girl-next-door love interest.

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