‘The Wonder Years’ boss always knew how he wanted the reimagining to connect to the original series – Deadline

SPOILER ALERT: The following reveals major plot points from Wednesday night’s episode of The good years.

ABC The good years has a connection to the original 90s series, which was revealed in tonight’s episode called “Love & War” and it was poignant. The scene can be seen above.

Anthony Jenkins, Yvonne Orji, Spence Moore II, Saycon Sengbloh, Dulé Hill
Mathew Miller/ABC

In the episode, Dean’s (EJ Williams) older brother, Bruce (Spence Moore II), returned from Vietnam injured and with a secret: he has a girlfriend and she’s an older woman. While recovering at home, the family wanted to know all about Tammy (Yvonne Orji), who later turns out to be a divorced single mother.

Things change quickly between Bruce and Tammy, much to her mother Lilian’s (Saycon Sengbloh) chagrin and Dean’s chagrin. Dean isn’t ready to share his brother with Tammy’s son Joey, and he’s even less keen on being her babysitter.

Bruce, a former sports star, is trying to put his life in order and is faced with few options. As a black veteran in 1960s Alabama, his best job opportunity is a job as a janitor, leaving Bruce feeling frustrated.

During dinner, it was casually revealed that Bruce had been awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in battle, a fact he preferred to keep hidden in a drawer. In the present day, his challenges and survivor’s guilt have convinced him that he must rush back to work to support his own family with Tammy.

The good years

Saycon Sengbloh, Yvonne Orji, Spence Moore II
Erika Doss/ABC

When Bruce proposes, Tammy graciously declines but they agree to continue dating.

When he returns home, Bruce finally finds the courage to tell his family about what happened in Vietnam that earned him the medal. He and his men found themselves under enemy fire, three were already on the ground. He and his friend Brian returned to save them, leaving Bruce injured and Brian dead.

Bruce revealed that they promised each other that if anything happened they would write to each other’s family. When he finally sits down to correspond with Brian’s family, it is revealed that Brian is the older brother of Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) who died in Vietnam in the original series.

Series creator and executive producer Saladin K. Patterson spoke to Deadline about the big reveal, what executive producer Fred Savage thought about it, and whether or not McKellar knew about his character’s story expansion. Winnie.

DEADLINE: What insight can you share on the decision to give Bruce this hard-hitting story?

SALADIN K. PATTERSON: When Lee Daniels, Mark Velez and I first talked about who we wanted the Williams family to be and how we wanted them to be different from the Arnold family, we decided we really wanted to shed some light. which would have impacted black families in a unique way.

We knew we wanted to tackle things like civil rights and the Vietnam War. We decided early on that Bruce would return, but we wanted to show how hard it was for the black soldiers and all the extra baggage they were carrying. Bruce says he felt more racism here at home than when he was in the military overseas, which is why he re-enlisted.

But we also wanted to talk about the sacrifices all soldiers make, to their minds and bodies.

Danika McKeller

Danica McKeller

DEADLINE: And there’s the element of survivor’s guilt for Bruce that leads to a powerful revelation.

Patterson: Yes, the episode’s big reveal is when Bruce shares with his family that he’s been dealing with survivor’s guilt. It helps the family understand why he is making what seems like a drastic decision at first glance, like getting into a relationship.

The connection to the original with Brian Cooper’s character is something I offered to ABC when we originally pitched the show for the pilot. It’s something I said I’d like to have as part of Bruce’s character backstory and as an homage to the original series in a very respectful way.

If there was going to be an overlap or an easter egg between our two series, I thought that was a very respectful way of tipping my hat to the original. It also makes a statement for the characters in our world because Vietnam was the first war where black soldiers served as white troop leaders.

DEADLINE: Do you have any plans to continue Brian’s story?

Patterson: For now, the plan is to have it just as a snap. We don’t have any plans for the overlap, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. We want that to live in itself for now.

DEADLINE: What does Fred Savage think of the way you tie the two shows together?

Patterson: He thought it was a very powerful and respectful way to overlap the bloodline. Fred and I were both very protective of making sure that this reimagining of The good years has its own story and can stand on its own two feet. Fred also didn’t want to feel like we were seeing things he had done before. But we both recognize that we inherited a lot of the tone and feel and what was great in the original and we wanted to pay homage to that.

We decided early on that there wouldn’t be crossover guest stars and things like that because it didn’t seem to be true to our world.

DEADLINE: Did you notify Danica?

Patterson: Yes. Danica has supported us since day one. She has already reached out to Milan Ray who plays Keisa to kind of pass the baton metaphorically.

So when we found out we were going to do this easter egg, we reached out to her to make sure she would be okay with it. She immediately said she thought it was a wonderful idea and was very supportive and was more than happy for us to use her photo.

DEADLINE: Yvonne Orji has done an amazing job as Bruce’s girlfriend, Tammy. Will we see more of her this season?

Patterson: It was great to have Yvonne on the show, she’s an amazing actress. She can handle both grounded reality, drama, and humor. We really wanted to give her the opportunity to show off all of these tools and skills that she brings to the table. We would like her to come back.

Tammy’s character is mentioned again later in the season, but due to schedules we weren’t able to get her back, but purposely left her open. They are still a couple. We would love to have Yvonne return to play with us in Season 2.

The interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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