In appreciation of a small detail

Late last night, I was engaging in that basic pursuit of modern life: gchatting with someone while flipping channels in the background each time I had to wait for him to type out a response. To my delight, on a channel I’d never heard of (“The Hub”—eh?) I came across what I quickly described as “the Holy Grail of random stuff to come across on cable”: an episode of The Wonder Years. One of my favorite shows since seeing the reruns when I was in junior high, and one that helped form my deep appreciation for serialized television, The Wonder Years is of course famous for being one of the most acclaimed television shows to be unavailable on DVD. (Netflix teased us that it would be coming to streaming way back in March; it remains unavailable.) This is because of the prohibitive cost of the rights to all of the period music used. Other shows have reacted to this problem in different ways—Freaks & Geeks kept its music, but the set was quite pricey (and they only had 18 episodes to deal with; The Wonder Years has 115); Daria let go of its music, which for the most part doesn’t take away from the show’s enjoyment, except in a few bits where a visual joke references a song that would have been playing in the background.

The particular Wonder Years episode I came across last night is one that contains one of the purest examples of why the music in that show cannot be so much as tinkered with to facilitate a DVD release. In “Denial” (season four, episode twelve), Kevin is facing the aftermath of hearing Winnie—now attending a different school after her family moved across town—say to him in the previous episode those dreaded three words: “I’ve met someone.” Determined to view this as only a small hurdle to overcome and win her back, Kevin convinces Paul to have a party and invite Winnie. Unfortunately, Winnie also brings the new boy, Roger, and by the end of the night, Kevin and Winnie have a rather heartbreaking fight in the laundry room (forgive the poor sound quality):

It’s obvious that it’s really over. The song playing: “You Are Everything” by The Stylistics.

Over a year later, in season five, episode sixteen, “Double Double Date,” Kevin and Winnie are both attending the same high school, but have each been playing the field (despite having re-acknowledged their feelings for each other at the end of season four). In a rather dumb move, they decide to help set each other up with dates for a dance, and end up going in a foursome. A predictably disastrous night ensues, and the dates end up hitting it off with each other, leaving Winnie and Kevin to be awkward amongst themselves. Then, something strange happens:

The song playing: “You Are Everything” by The Stylistics.

This is one of my favorite subtle callbacks of all time. This is the mark of a project made with incredible care. This is shit you don’t mess with.

A tangent: I am such an incredible nerd for this show and for its use of music that years ago I made a mix CD consisting of nothing but songs from key scenes in the series. I still listen to it often. That playlist:

1. Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends
2. The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn!
3. The Beatles – Blackbird
4. The Temptations – Just My Imagination
5. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Ooh Baby Baby
6. The Supremes – Someday We’ll Be Together
7. The Temptations – My Girl
8. The Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes For You
9. The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice
10. The Supremes – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
11. Jimmy Ruffin – What Becomes of the Brokenhearted
12. The Turtles – Happy Together
13. Lovin’ Spoonful – Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind
14. The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
15. The Stylistics – You Are Everything
16. Sam & Dave – Soul Man
17. The Platters – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
18. Four Seasons – Walk Like a Man
19. Ben E. King – Stand by Me
20. Judy Collins – In My Life


3 Responses to “In appreciation of a small detail”

  1. 1 maliaann August 31, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Love this show! It would be great to watch it from beginning to end without commercial interruptions. And you’re right. It just wouldn’t be the same without the music.

  2. 2 patty October 31, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    how could i have missed this post! what a great ode, nice work, brandi.

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