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The Wonder Years was one of those magical shows that appealed to young and old alike. A funny and often poignant coming of age series set in the late ‘60s to early ‘70s, it strayed from stereotypes to embrace a more realistic portrait of what it was like to grow up in suburban America.
Though its characters may have been archetypal, they were also incredibly human and relatable. Perfectly cast and beautifully written, it left a little hole in our hearts when it went off the air.
To bring back a little back of the magic, let’s take a look back at the show and see what the cast is up to today. In these complicated times, you need a little help from your friends to get by even if they are television friends.
Fred Savage (Kevin Arnold)
At the center of The Wonder Years was the puppy dog eyed Kevin Arnold. His sweet and all too human portrayal of a typical junior high kid of the era is what made him and the show so relatable. And also so successful.
Through all his mishaps in school, fights with his brother Wayne and the ups and downs with Winnie, we rooted for him. And definitely missed him once the show wrapped. So where did Fred Savage go after the sitcom ended?
After getting his degree at Stanford, he continued to work in the entertainment industry.
But while he did some TV guest appearances and starred in shows like Grinder and Friends From College, he never became an A-list actor. He also did some voice work for shows like Family Guy and Kim Possible.
Where Savage has had more success is behind the camera.
His directing credits include The Wizards of Waverly Place, Boy Meets World, Modern Family, Two Broke Girls, Ugly Betty and Black-ish, just to name a few.
Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper)
The fresh-faced, innocent Winnie Cooper was the quintessential girl next door. And while she inspired a lot of crushes offscreen, her onscreen crush was Kevin Arnold. No, it didn’t work out between them in the end. But the bittersweet feeling she left in Kevin as the one that got away is something most people can relate to.
In real life, the adorable Danica McKellar turned out to be a math whiz.
Yep, when the series ended, she attended UCLA and became famous in the world of mathematics. She even had a theorem partially named after her! And to increase young people’s interest (especially girls) in her favorite subject, Danica also wrote a series of books.
Her works include: Math Doesn’t Suck: How To Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail, Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.
And while she’s been more focused on math than acting, she has also guest-starred on shows like Dancing With the Stars (she finished 6th), How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. So don’t quite count her out of the acting biz yet!
Josh Saviano (Paul Pfeiffer)
Middle school would be even harder than it is without a best friend. And Josh Saviano filled the role perfectly as Kevin’s geeky BFF and dedicated bookworm. As the show came to a close, the two buddies began to drift apart due to different interests. And eventually, the character of Paul went off to study law at Harvard.
Josh Saviano’s real-life imitated art as it turned out. Like his character, he went off to study law. But at Yale instead of Harvard.
While he was studying in the Ivy League bastion, a rumor started going around that he grew up to be shock rocker Marilyn Manson. Crazy right? And totally, untrue. Yes, there’s a resemblance, but Josh actually went on to become a lawyer and also has his own celebrity branding agency.
Fun Fact: Though not acting any longer, he did play an attorney on three episodes of Law and Order: SUV. Art imitating life. Life imitating art. That’s the circle of show biz life for Josh Saviano.
Jason Hervey (Wayne Arnold)
Wayne Arnold seemed to spend most of his time getting into trouble and torturing his younger sibling Kevin, aka Butthead. Hervey was cast perfectly as the archetypal bullying brother. Yep, he was the best at being the worst.
Post Wonder Years he got a few minor acting parts, but like Fred Savage, eventually moved behind the scenes.
After his guest appearance on World Championship Wrestling, he seemed to find his niche. He eventually went on to become an executive producer with the company until it closed in 2001.
After that, he continued to produce reality TV shows like Big Easy Bride, Scott Baio is 45….and Single and Confessions of a Teen Idol.
Olivia d’Abo (Karen Arnold)
British actress Olivia d’Abo was Kevin’s hippie sister and the oldest sibling of the Arnold clan. Though her free-spirited ways often clashed with her dad’s conservative point of view, she was always true to her independent spirit.
Through Karen we got a view into the political issues of the day, like women’s rights and the Vietnam war. On the show she eventually married her college boyfriend, who was played by no less than David Schwimmer! (pre-Friends, of course.) The two move off to Alaska while Karen is pregnant.
In real life, Olivia left the show in the fourth season but continued to act. Although she never became a major star, she has racked up over 100 acting credits—the most memorable being the role of Nicole Walker on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
She’s also done voice work and appeared in the Broadway play The Odd Couple with Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick back in 2005. She also plays the piano and guitar and sings.
It seems like she really does have a free, artistic spirit.
Dan Lauria (Jack Arnold)
The gruff and often monosyllabic Jack Arnold was the head of the Arnold Clan. And despite his toughness, he had a softer side underneath. An incredibly archetypal patriarch, Jack actually reminds me of my own dad. And I bet I’m not alone in that.
Dan Lauria was already an established character actor when he was cast in The Wonder Years and was a Marine Corps vet before that.
After the show ended, he continued to fight the good fight in Hollywood and as of today has over 180 credits on the big and small screen.
You may have caught him in episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Party of Five and This Is Us. He also starred in Sullivan and Son from 2012 to 2014.
Like a lot of great character actors, he also has stage experience. In 2010 he had the lead role in the Broadway production of Lombardi (as in Vince Lombardi), a role he seems pretty much born to play. Bravo, Dan!
Alley Mills (Norma Arnold)
Mrs. Jack Arnold. She was always there in her apron and perfectly styled hair keeping the peace and making sure everyone was fed. She was the yin to Jack’s yang, and the family would have been totally out of balance without her.
Alley Mills was already a working actress when she signed as the sweet and understanding Normal Arnold. Soon after The Wonder Years, she played Marjorie Quinn on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
But her most prominent role has been as Pamela Douglas on the Bold and the Beautiful since 2006. And by the way, her hair still looks perfectly coiffed.
Daniel Stern (The Voice of Kevin Arnold)
Although you never saw him, the narration by the grown-up Kevin Arnold was an integral part of The Wonder Years. The show truly wouldn’t have been the same without the funny and thoughtful commentary that was voiced by actor Daniel Stern.
Stern was already a presence in Hollywood before he became the narrator on the Wonder Years. His movie credits before the show included Diner, Breaking Away and Hannah and Her Sisters.
During the show he was in Home Alone I and 2 and City Slickers. Another fun fact: He directed 10 episodes of The Wonder Years.
His prolific career has continued to this day. Most recently, you may have caught him on the Netflix series Love as Mickey’s dad. Other credits include Drew Barrymore’s film Whip It, Monk and Family Guy.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Stern is also a sculptor, founded the Malibu Arts Commission and received an award from President Obama for his work with Military troops.
Yes, the voice of The Wonder Years is pretty much a renaissance man.
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