ABC has handed a pilot production commitment to The Wonder Years, a new iteration of the network’s 1980s family comedy-drama. It comes from Dave executive producer Saladin K. Patterson, Empire co-creator Lee Daniels, the original series’ breakout star Fred Savage and 20th Century Fox TV.
Written by Patterson inspired by his experiences growing up in Montgomery, AL, the new incarnation of Wonder Years chronicles how a middle-class Black family in Montgomery in the turbulent late-1960s — the same era as the original series — made sure it was the Wonder Years for them too.
The approach is reminiscent of the successful current reimagining of the classic family sitcom One Day at a Time with a Latinx family.
The Wonder Years has a pilot production commitment. If the pilot script is approved for pilot production by ABC, the signoff also would trigger the opening of a mini writers room in preparation for a possible series pickup.
Savage will direct the potential pilot. He and Patterson executive produce the half-hour project with Lee Daniels Entertainment’ Daniels and Marc Velez.
Neal Marlens, who co-created the original series with Carol Black, will be a consultant. 20th TV, which owns the rights to the 1988-93 series, is the studio. Part of Disney TV Studios, 20th TV has overall deals with Daniels, Patterson and Savage.
ABC has been actively pursuing reboots and revivals in the past couple of years, with Roseanne, which led to spinoff The Conners; NYPD Blue and New York Undercover, piloted last season; and thirtysomething(else) this season.
ABC just passed on the thirtysomething sequel, originally picked up to pilot. Thirtysomething and The Wonder Years aired on ABC at the same time in the late 1980s-early 1990s. In fact, the two won the Emmy Award for outstanding drama and comedy series, respectively, for their first seasons in 1988.
At ABC, the new Wonder Years is looking to join The Goldbergs, long considered a spiritual successor to The Wonder Years.
Created by Marlens and Black, the original Wonder Years ran for six seasons on ABC from 1988-93. The coming-of-age dramedy took place from 1968-73 and was narrated by Daniel Stern as an adult version of Kevin Arnold, played by Savage, a teenager in a middle-class suburban family who recalled growing up during the turbulent social times. Dan Lauria co-starred as his father Jack, Alley Mills as his mother Norma, Jason Hervey as his brother Wayne, Olivia d’Abo as his sister Karen, Josh Saviano as his best friend Paul Pfeiffer, and Danica McKellar as his girlfriend Winnie Cooper.
At age 13, Savage became the youngest actor ever nominated for an Emmy as Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The show also was awarded a Peabody Award in 1989 for “pushing the boundaries of the sitcom format and using new modes of storytelling.” In all, the series won 22 awards out of 76 nominations during its run.
Patterson is an executive producer on FX’s breakout new comedy series Dave. Prior to that, he was showrunner of TBS’ The Last O.G., starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish. He spent three seasons as co-executive producer of CBS’ mega hit, The Big Bang Theory, which he joined after serving as a consulting producer on another hit CBS/Chuck Lorre comedy, Two and a Half Men. His extensive credits also includes stints on USA Network’s Psych, Fox’s The Bernie Mac Show and NBC’s Frasier.
Daniels recently co-created and served as executive producer on the Fox/20th TV series Empire and Star. He has drama project Our Kind of People with Karin Gist, which is heating up for a pilot pickup at Fox.
Starting out as an actor, Savage has focused a lot of his attention on directing for the past couple of decades. His recent directing credits include the ABC comedy series Modern Family, The Conners and Single Parents.