The pimple story is probably the default coming-of-age story (assuming you exclude boyfriend-girlfriend troubles). I can’t count how many times I’ve seen some iteration of this story.
In many ways, it’s also the most idiotic, because teens on TV and in the movies almost never have acne unless it’s the focus of a plot. It’s actually comedic to me when TV characters flip out over a single zit. But The Wonder Years took it one step further: It made the zit nearly invisible. Seriously, look at that minor bump. It could pass as a mole. I couldn’t buy that anyone would single him out and taunt him for such a harmless pimple.
If you can swallow that level of absurdity, then this episode proved amusing enough. A bunch of scenes made me laugh out loud, other people’s reactions moreso than Kevin’s increasing desperation. Winnie’s line about how much it must have hurt getting hit right in the pimple and Paul’s “icckk” come to mind. (I watched the latter about ten times, and laughed at every one of them.) I also dug Tony Barbella as the bully who speaks about himself in the third person.
And then there’s Ben Stein, who is always the funniest part of the episodes he’s in. His dry presentation of horribly dark, apocalyptic material always works, no matter how many times the show uses it.
It was pretty clear from the start that Gina was going to have acne of her own, but I actually would have appreciated the episode spending more time in its denouement, recognizing that pimples happen to everyone and that he and Gina got along just fine in spite of it, at the expense of some of Kevin’s desperation at being seen, which grew pretty tired by the end.
I really liked the opening of the episode and I appreciated the horror movie comparisons. I’m always impressed when the show can manage to tie together a bunch of parallels, but it didn’t prevent The Pimple from being a shallow and predictable if amusing affair. This far in the run, The Wonder Years has been exemplary more often when it’s focusing on its dramatic elements than its comedic elements. Still, the show has had some truly great lighter outings, which makes it more disappointing when they feel routine.