‘The Wonder Years’: The Show’s 6-Season Run Ended Because Fred Savage and the Other Kids Weren’t Kids Anymore

When you look back at TV today, you’ll notice a whole host of shows that ran a long time, covering a range of ages as the series goes on. This wouldn’t be the case for The Wonder Years, however. The wholesome, family-friendly show stopped just short of the main character turning 18 (legally an adult).

The reason for this — the kids weren’t kids anymore, and that was a significant part of the show. Producers wanted to continue in another direction, but this idea was tossed aside by the network for fear that it wouldn’t resonate the same way with audiences.

The Wonder Years cast
(L-R) Jason Hervey, Olivia d’Abo, Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Josh Saviano, Danica McKellar | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

ABC’s ‘The Wonder Years’

Giving primary focus to a young boy named Kevin Arnold, the show’s storyline followed him through his ‘wonder years’ while living in a traditional suburban middle-class family in the ’60s and ’70s (actual air dates were from 1988 to 1993).

Each season brought on a new year of Kevin’s teenage years, making him 12 in the first season and 17 by the end of the last. It was narrated by an adult Kevin, who tells viewers about his coming-of-story filled with love, loss, and friendship, among other adolescent struggles many people can relate to.

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It was also very different from other popular shows of its time, which would only add to its success despite being such a risk. “The Wonder Years production was revolutionary,” Facts Verse reported. “[It] was different from most shows. They had a single camera set up, they used a narrator, and there was no laugh track. Their producers took a huge risk with these changes, but it was worth the risk.” 

As the kids matured, the producers wanted the content to mature

Growing up is inevitable, and sometimes that can be a good thing for shows looking to bring in new content to freshen up storylines, but this would not be the case for The Wonder Years because its viewers were more accustomed to its light-hearted nature. 

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“As the kids were developing and getting older, there were, of course, new stories to tell, but the tension and constraints of the deadline of the concept of the wonder years were beginning to press on us,” Mental Floss reports writer Bob Brush saying. “We felt it was inappropriate to present Kevin’s awakening because of the setting in the 1960s, the gentle tone of the series, and most importantly, the 8 p.m. time period.”

The comedy series writer added for more explanation, “When [Fred Savage] became 16 and 17, there were really things he needed to get to that we couldn’t do at 8 p.m., especially with the kind of venerable cachet that the show had obtained with its audience. We would get notes from the network saying, ‘You could do this on any show besides The Wonder Years.‘”

Growing up wasn’t the only reason — even if it was the main

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While there was certainly a significant amount of tension between producers and the network over the children growing up and exploring more explicit storylines, it turns out The Wonder Years was also seeing an unfortunate dip in viewer ratings and an increase in production and salary costs at the same time.

No matter the reasons behind its cancellation, it was an unfortunate shock for fans who were open to watch Kevin Arnold grow into a man. However, sometimes it’s a good thing when a great show stops while it’s still great — after all, it was only ever meant to be a coming-of-age story anyway.