The Wonder Years S01E05 – The Phone Call

Five episodes in, and The Wonder Years is batting a thousand. The Phone Call is not the best episode of the series yet — that’s either Swingers or Angel — but it again takes a small issue, packs it with significance and stakes, and brings it home with a poignant ending. If this is The Wonder Years formula, I’d be pleased.

Can we talk for a second about how well directed and edited this episode (and series in general) is? The writing is what I keep praising in these repsonses, but this show is also very strong technically and visually. This was the best-directed episode yet, full of well-framed shots and funny cuts from one scene to the next. My favorite technique this episode was the diagetic audio fading into background music whenever Kevin was overcome with a particular emotion.

I had been worried after the first episode that the show would be too melodramatic and too focused on cliffhangers. Perhaps the show will ultimately end up there (it’s hard to be great for six seasons), but for now I love its concentration on tiny battles that can seem massive in the moment for an adolescent.

Kevin’s love life has proven to be a potent vein for comedy, in part because romance has an inherent tension and in part because The Wonder Years has such solid writing for its fringe characters as well as its protagonists. I continue to love every second Paul is on screen, and Wayne’s delivery of “Hello, Buttface” was perfect.

But the biggest key to the show’s success has been tying each smaller battle into some larger war. The idea that adolescent drama, even something as small as a friendly phone call, can seem mammoth-sized is taken seriously, and a timely reference to Apollo 8 orbiting the moon gives Kevin a symbol to help him gain some perspective.

Another enjoyable episode in what is shaping to a be a fantastic first season of The Wonder Years. The first season finale is up next.

A few more thoughts on The Phone Call:

  • Most episodes of The Wonder Years have been unpredictable, but here it wasn’t. Did any seasoned TV viewer really think Kevin would successfully make the call by 8:00?
  • The brief fantasy sequence of Lisa taking Kevin’s phone call worked so well because it seemed real at first. By the time reporters were calling in, though, I was cracking up.
  • What does Winnie think about Kevin’s infatuation with Lisa? We know that Kevin and Winnie have decided to take it slow after their special moment in the pilot, but does that mean both are okay with the other pursuing romance elsewhere?

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