For the most part, The Wonder Years has maintained good pacing in its episodes. Even with the filler episodes, I never felt anything lacking or overdone. I was therefore surprised at how short this episode “Rock n Roll “ felt. The episode focused on Kevin’s dream to be in a rock band, a theme consistent with the show’s focus on how we behave and as a kid. Despite a relatable plot line, I didn’t feel the same emotional connection and empathy for Kevin’s desires and thoughts as I normally do.
Perhaps it was due to the episode didn’t have the normal build-up to the conflict that the show normally has. The episode starts with Kevin watching the Beatles on TV as a young kid, and adult Kevin narrating how fascinated he was by rock bands. The next scene then shoots towards teenage Kevin meeting new student (Larry Beeman)who plays a guitar. After Kevin prevents Larry from getting in trouble for playing the guitar at school, Larry asks Kevin if he wants to join a band. The transition between the two stages of Kevin’s life seemed a bit choppy. The episode could have benefitted from having a scene in between, where we see Kevin really invested in playing in a band (considering that we didn’t see signs of it before in previous episodes).
That being said, I did like the intent of the storyline, which was to show how as kids, the reality of our capabilities doesn’t prevent us from having big dreams about what we can be which, for many of us, was to be renowned performers. I miss having that feeling of daydreaming and thinking anything is possible. The unfortunate reality is that as you get older, realism and awareness of internal and external restrictions, so it is harder to imagine as freely as you did as a kid.
Despite a proper build-up, I liked that once we see Kevin immerse himself into his dream and join the band we understand his reasons for liking it. He first asks his parents for a guitar, who scoff at the idea. With the encouragement of his friend, he circumvents his parents and uses his own money to buy the guitar. The purchasing itself captures why Kevin wants to be in a band: it’s a symbol of rebelling and stepping out of the comfort zone.
The other members in Kevin’s band are also beginners. As a result, when the group plays together, the instruments are not in sync with one another. However, that issue doesn’t ultimately manner to Kevin. The band has practices and plays its incoherent sounds. For Kevin, these practices in itself give him same feeling as being a rock star. He can imagine himself to be on the way to stardom. His justification is that after all, the Beatles and other rock bands also started from garages.
However, when Larry lands the band a gig at a backyard party, Kevin balks at the idea. He’s able to enjoy the thrills of being a “rock-star in-training” so long as it is not open to having the outside world hear the sound. He knows the band sounds bad, and having others hear and criticize it will effectively crush the dream. Kevin’s premonition of what would happen is in line with adults’ daily experiences. The difficulty in being an adult is in having to put your dreams to a test and face rejection.
After initially pulling out, Kevin later decides to go to the gig. He realizes he wants to take a chance and fully live the dream of a rock-star playing. Part of him also thinks that there is a chance the sound will come together. When he gets to the party and joins the group, it takes a few minutes to start as Larry is suddenly nervous. Right as the band is about to play, parents come with cops saying that neighbors are complaining about backyard party, and the band can’t play. The disappointed party attendees start chanting “Let them play.” The band representing a problem and the kids rebelling against restrictions allows Kevin to feel the “high” that rock bands get from being different and having their fans cheer them… and all without playing a single note.
As usual, I’m pleased that The Wonder Years went a different route than I expected. I’ve been conditioned- by watching multiple shows that follow the same format- to think that Kevin’s band would either magically (but unrealistically) sound good or that they would bomb and Kevin would throw out his rock star dreams forever. I’m glad that the episode ended on an optimistic note and allowed Kevin to retain the thrilling feeling.
Image Source: ABC Family