I love those episodes that focus on one character doing one specific task or facing one particular problem. They provide unique insights, and the narrow scope really makes for rewarding character development and, for the viewer, an opportunity for introspection right along with the one or two characters who do the same. These episodes are also a surprise because they are a departure from the typical episodes that involve all or most of the cast having their typical conversations, interactions, fights, and reconciliations.
All of this was the case when I was watching The Wonder Years (1988-1993) tonight. I am re-watching the series on Netflix and have arrived at the final season. The second of two episodes I watched back to back was “Kevin Delivers” (25 Nov. 1992 – wri. Frank Renzulli, dir. Arthur Albert). After a “typical” episode involving Kevin’s 18-year-old brother, Wayne, meeting and moving in with a woman, I had that pleasant surprise (and a reminder because I didn’t remember) of an episode that focuses exclusively on one of Kevin’s nights out on his job delivering Chinese food. We all order delivery, but only a few of us have actually had a job as a delivery person. I love this show because I love the way it tells stories, so I appreciate the opportunity to see a typical night from the delivery person’s perspective. And in this case it is from Kevin Arnold’s viewpoint. It is the typical night, and he encounters the typical people—and deals with his “difficult” boss—all while trying to get to the end of the night so that he can take his money and go be with Winnie.
But, of course, there are obstacles. Kevin Arnold is a magnet for frustrating (and hilarious) setbacks. Even he frequently laughs at himself. And then there is the ending—the moment that reminded me why I love this show and makes me feel optimism in spite of every obstacle. It made me smile and really appreciate these episodes—the ones what focus on one or two characters on some quest, in the span of a day or a night—because they are a much-needed departure—an opportunity to slow down and be introspective along with the characters—and to learn something.