This week, I’ll be writing about songs featured in some of my favorite musical moments from some of my favorite TV shows. Be warned that I don’t shy away from spoilers.
At its best moments, The Wonder Years was often philosophical in a way no show before or since has been. It thrived not on schmaltzy nostalgia, but a reckoning of the trauma of losing innocence: A trauma that is often harrowing and beautiful at the same time. (If you don’t believe me, watch the last few minutes of the pilot.)
Never did the show do it better than the closing of one of its best episodes, “Don’t You Know Anything About Women?,” from its third season. It’s one of my favorite TV scenes of all time. The Righteous Brothers’ song of lonesome longing syncs perfectly as Kevin finds himself dateless. The camera slows down as it follows the faces of dancing pre-teen couples, faces filled with joy in contrast to Kevin’s emptiness. Adult Kevin narrates the fickle, bipolar nature of romance with poetic gravity: “We choose partners. We change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope.”
As the song climaxes, we see Winnie Cooper (completely absent the rest of the episode) looking around in just the same way as Kevin. They miss each other by seconds. It’s a powerful moment, outlining in one shot not only the characters’ shared destinies, but putting a little bow on the episode’s thematic premise: That navigating the world of romance is lonely and tough, and finding the right person is difficult but profound.