The Wonder Years’: Fred Savage’s 1989 Emmy Nomination Broke a Major Record

Unlike other TV shows of its time, The Wonder Years still stands up.

Set against the backdrop of the turbulent 1960s, the series features the coming of age story of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as told by his adult self. Right from the start, the show was a critical success. Brought to life by the talented young actors with just the right amount of nostalgia, audiences couldn’t get enough.

With all the attention, Savage and his counterparts were praised for their acting skills and soon started breaking Hollywood records.

What was ‘The Wonder Years’ about?

The show follows a teenage Kevin Arnold as he navigates his way through the perils of school and family life in the 1960s. Featuring his best friend Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and neighbor and crush Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), Kevin reflects on his childhood through the eyes of his now mid-thirties self. 

What made The Wonder Years so unique was that it showed typical family dynamics, like Kevin’s relationship with his annoying brother Wayne. But because it was set in the 1960s, the undercurrent of unrest and turmoil the county faced trickled down to regular families like the Arnolds.

Watching the relationship between Kevin’s dad Jack, a Korean War Veteran, and his sister Karen, a free-spirited, anti-war hippie, showcased what families went through during that difficult time.

The show appealed to both kids and adults. Kids could connect with what Kevin, Paul, and Winnie were going through, while adults who lived through the 1960s understood how turbulent the era was. 

A critical darling

Josh Saviano, Extra, Fred Savage
Josh Saviano, Extra, Fred Savage | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

The first season of The Wonder Years, debuting in 1988, featured only six episodes but those six episodes were so wonderfully crafted and heartfelt that it won Outstanding Comedy Series at the Emmy Awards, according to AV Club. Over the next several years, the show would go on to be nominated for a slew of awards. 

It wasn’t just the show finding success either. Fred Savage’s portrayal of Kevin Arnold blew fans and critics away. His ability to handle a range of scenes — from the deeply emotional to comical, showcased just how talented Savage was.

The industry took note. According to Mental Floss, in 1989, when Savage was only 13 years old, he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. He was the youngest actor ever to receive such an honor, and he was nominated again in 1990.

What is the cast up to these days?

RELATED: ‘The Wonder Years’: Fred Savage and Danica McKellar’s Real-Life Conversations Made It Into the Show

The show wrapped in 1993. Since then — what’s the cast been up to? For starters, Savage stayed active in the industry but mostly behind the scenes. He produces and directs these days, although he’ll occasionally take a role in front of the camera. Most recently, he starred in the Netflix series Friends From College.

Saviano put acting aside and attended Yale. Today, he works as a lawyer but did make an appearance on Law & Order: SVU portraying…….a lawyer.

McKellar went on to UCLA, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. She continues to act — working on several Hallmark movies. She also put her math degree to work, writing six math books geared towards young girls.

Dan Lauria portrayed the gruff Jack Arnold, and after the show ended, he continued to work. He most recently played Wally in the 2020 romantic comedy Holidate.

Alley Mills played Kevin’s sweet mom on The Wonder Years. Since the show, she’s had recurring roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and the CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful.

While the cast continues their successful careers, they’ll always remain known for their iconic work on The Wonder Years