Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dispatches from The Wonder Years

While growing up in the hinterlands of Western New England, the rabbit ears would catch the signal from the nearest ABC affiliate often enough for me to see The Wonder Years on a pretty regular basis.

The story centered around the day-to-day exploits of adolescent Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage) and his family growing up in the suburbs- presumably in an unnamed California municipality- during the tumultuous late 1960s while his older self was often narrating events off screen with the benefit of some introspection and hindsight 20 years later.

And what TV or cinematic depiction of adolescent slice-of-life would be complete without a first crush? In the Wonder Years, that was the button-cute Winnie Cooper (played by Danica McKellar) who would have an on-again, off-again relationship with protagonist Kevin as the series progressed. Interestingly, the recurring role of Kevin Arnold's antagonistic classmate Becky Slater went to Danica's younger sister Crystal.

The series remained on the air until the 1990s and has since been airing in Syndication on the Nickelodeon networks. I'm not 100% sure what the appeal was for me at the time- while there were a few similarities, it wasn't as though the protagonist's life and mine followed similar trajectories [altho we both ended up working for a Chinese restaurant in high school; there was no Wonder Years episode that centered around heavy snowfall or moving out of state, things didn't go nearly as well with my 1st crush and I don't recall Kevin Arnold spending two weeks at Volleyball camp where he was the only male out of 20 or so people. I'm just sayin'- NANESB!].

After the Wonder Years run, Savage would go on to act in some films and other TV Series, including Working and direct episodes of Ugly Betty, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Modern Family and Two Broke Girls.

Danica McKellar, on the other hand, hasn't been quite as visible in TV or film since the Wonder Years wrapped up. 'Why is that?' you might be asking 'What has she been up to since then? Shoplifting? DUI? Drug Possession? Assault conviction? Rehab?'.

Worse than any of those.

She's on Twitter.

Wonder Years star McKellar (in yellow) on USO Tour with Salma Hayek, Garrett Morris and Johnny Grant in 1999- Life Magazine photo
Actually, before the advent of either Twitter or social networking, McKellar earned my gratitude as an infantryman in the United States Army when she toured with Salma Hayek, Saturday Night Live's Garrett Morris and radio personality (and USO ambassador) Johnny Grant with the USO in the late 1990s, visiting the troops in Kosovo.

Usually when I use the phrase MENSA, I typically do so in the snarkiest and most ironic manner possible, but McKellar has demonstrated a MENSA-caliber intellect when it comes to mathematics. While she has managed to land a few roles post Wonder Years, McKellar graduated from UCLA Summa Cum Laude in 1998 and its safe to say is the only child star out there who has a mathematical theorem bearing her name; the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem.

Danica has also gone on to write a pair of books designed to make mathematics studies more appealing to teenage girls- Math Doesn't Suck and Kiss My Math. She also was kind enough to strip down to her lingerie and do some photo shoots for Stuff and Maxim in 2005 and 2010.

While on Twitter the other night, somebody in my timeline had less-than-kind things to say about McKellar's Winnie Cooper character. I replied that she gets a pass as far as I'm concerned because A) She toured with the USO while I was still serving and B) when all is said and done, it's just a TV show.

While checking my account a few hours later, I was pleasantly surprised to receive this message from 'Winnie Cooper' herself.

I have to say, that made my evening. I wasn't really expecting to hear from her at all, and I'm glad to hear from Danica herself that touring with the USO left an impression on her.

These days, McKellar is keeping busy by raising a family, getting ready to release a 3rd math-centric book and has landed some leading roles in a few SyFy Network movies as well as some guest appearances on CBS's The Big Bang Theory [which given the premise of the show, would seem to be right up her alley. Not sure if they have her typecast as 'hot mathematician' yet- NANESB!]. Her son Draco, who just turned 1 in September, had already been to his first Dodgers game.

So just in case there was any question, yes- girl-next-door Winnie Cooper is all grown up.

Although she's spoken for, if that seemingly all-to-rare combination of beauty and brains holds any appeal to you, in addition to her twitter feed, you can also see what Danica's been up to lately at her official website as well as her Facebook page.

Just don't quiz her on the Wonder Years- she may not do as well as you'd expect.

Say- did I mention that McKellar was on the same USO tour as Salma Hayek? Ah, to be driving the Humvee carrying the both of them....

1 comment:

  1. I was there in 1999 with my first unit out of Vilsek, Germany