ABC’s reboot of “The Marvel Years” affords an fascinating, although not groundbreaking, various to its forerunner.

It’s been 28 years since we watched Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) come of age as a suburban, middle-class, whitebread teenager beginning in 1968: love, loss, discovery, life classes, the works — aided by his goofy finest pal, Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and his unrequited love, Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), with Daniel Stern offering the voiceover narration as an grownup Kevin to as Kevin to place all of it into 20/20 context.

On this new model it’s, as soon as once more, 1968. Twelve-year-old Dean Williams (Elisha “EJ” Williams) is a middle-class child with a nerdy faculty pal, Brad Hitman (Julian Lerner), and an unrequited love, Keisa Clemmons (Milan Ray). However that’s the place the similarities finish. Identical yr, world’s aside. Laborious cease.

Right here, Dean lives in racially charged Montgomery, Ala. and attends the desegregated Jefferson Davis Junior Excessive, the place he doesn’t really feel at all times really feel comfy with some classmates and academics. The opening traces of the collection discuss with Dean getting the “police discuss” from his mother and father “about the way to deal with your self round cops”; the presidential election “that created a racial divide” within the nation and the present flu pandemic “that they mentioned would kill one million individuals all over the world.” Wink, wink.

Photo showing the cast of "The Wonder Years": Dule Hill, Seycon Sengbloh, Elisha Williams and Laura Kariuki.
The solid of “The Marvel Years” (from left): Dule Hill, Seycon Sengbloh, Elisha Williams and Laura Kariuki.
AP

Dean’s father, Invoice (Dule Hill), is a school music professor and “funk musician” with a music getting radio airplay (his mantra for any event: “Be cool”); his mom, Lillian (Seycon Sengbloh), is robust and supportive. Dean’s older sister, Kim (Laura Kariuki), is a budding activist who drops references to Black Panther Bobby Seale and H. Rap Brown. (Invoice: “You’re going to varsity — I’m positive the revolution’s going to wish a superb dentist or accountant.”) Dean’s older brother, Bruce, is serving in Vietnam (he’s “away,” Lillian says euphemistically). Oscar winner Don Cheadle narrates every episode as Dean’s older alter-ego, a la Daniel Stern.

As its coronary heart, “The Marvel Years” is your standard-issue community sitcom however with a little bit of an edge and it’s all-about variety right here — there was none within the unique — which is the purpose. There’s fixed pressure boiling beneath the floor (some issues by no means change) and, however, there are the sitcom-y tropes, together with the exasperated baseball coach (the at all times dependable Allen Maldonado) and the category bully who has it out for Dean. The opener depends a bit an excessive amount of on topical late-’60s reference factors (together with mentions of “I Spy” and Eldridge Cleaver) in its rush to verify we all know that it’s 1968 within the deep South. We all know. The collection premiere ends with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo showing Milan Ray as Dean's love interest, Keisa Clemmons.
Milan Ray performs Dean’s love curiosity, Keisa Clemmons.
ABC

“The Marvel Years” was shot on location in Montgomery, in order that’s a plus (the unique collection occurred in a anonymous suburb, although Kevin wore a Jets jacket); this model was created by TV vet Saladin Ok. Patterson (“The Massive Bang Idea,” “Dave,” “The Final OG,” “Two and a Half Males,” “Psych”) who is aware of his method round a 22-minute sitcom vis-a-vis pacing, each for comedic and dramatic impact. ABC offered solely Wednesday evening’s collection opener for evaluate, so it stays to be seen how the collection will evolve going ahead as Dean Williams navigates his life and the world round him.

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