Experienced critics know: sometimes it pays to be skeptical of TV show revivals that try to make an old series feel fresh by changing the race of the main characters.
But ABC's Black-centered reimagining of TV's classic exercise in nostalgia, The Wonder Years, avoids that pitfall for a simple reason. The year in which it is set, 1968, was one of the most pivotal times for Black America in recent history.
Think about it. Malcom X had already been assassinated. Riots over racial issues convulsed poor Black neighborhoods from New York City to Los Angeles. The Vietnam War was claiming more young brothers every year. And Black artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield were trying to shrug off their buttoned-down images and bring a grittier, street-level energy to their art.
That's why I was so excited to see that, in ABC's new version of The Wonder Years, 12-year-old Drew Williams' father was a too-cool R&B musician who also teaches at a local college in Birmingham, Alabama. Played by The West Wing and Psych alum Dulé Hill, Papa Williams has a hit record on the radio and a habit of telling his family to "be cool" whenever a tense moment approaches.