Warning! The following contains spoilers for The Wonder Years‘ Season 2 premiere “One Small Step.” Read at your own risk!
The Wonder Years finally made its grand return to television after being bumped to June in lieu of other midseason ABC programming. The Peabody Award-winning series came back with lots of energy and excitement though, and it rolled right into Season 2 with a fun story about Bill and Dean spending the summer in New York City. Bill was struggling to try to write music for Marvin Gaye, and he ended up getting help from their neighbor Lonnie, who performed in The Village as a drag queen. Dulé Hill was a big fan of the episode and this storyline featuring drag as he spoke about its relevance to the show as well as today’s culture.
Lonnie, who was played by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actor Tituss Burgess, ultimately helped Bill translate his southern talent to a New York audience, which won him favor with Gaye in the end. Meanwhile, The Wonder Years tackled Bill’s clear discomfort in associating with a gay man, while Dean blissfully remained unaware of the tension between his father and Lonnie. Star Dulé Hill spoke to The Wrap about the episode, and he applauded the show for showing the impact of drag culture long before it became part of the mainstream. He said:
The three men were able to make conversation in The Wonder Years based on the fact that they all were from Montgomery, Alabama. Lonnie stayed with Dean after he was jumped and locked out of the apartment, and he was able to coax Bill up to his flat after showing him he could prepare a great southern-style meal.
It takes some time, but slowly Bill is able to let his guard down and allow Lonnie to help him adapt to New York City. By the final moments of the episode, they’d gotten to the end of the summer, and it seemed like there was a pretty good relationship between them. However, when Bill opened a letter to find Lonnie had sent him a boudoir photo, he packed up, got Dean, and made a fast trip back to Montgomery.
Bill had his limits, but Dulé Hill felt The Wonder Years made its point well. Once Bill and Dean were able to see Lonnie as more than the man who lives near them who wears a dress, they grew from the experience. It’s Hill’s hope that others can take that lesson from the premiere:
The Wonder Years delivered a big message that synched up perfectly with Pride month and all the programming available for that, making it a perfect time for this episode to air. Of course, the fun and lessons, plus the continued spirit of the original series have only just begun as there’s still plenty of Season 2 for fans to get through either by watching on ABC or with a Hulu subscription.
Those without access to streaming can catch new episodes of The Wonder Years on ABC on Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET. Unfortunately, the two-episode premiere was a one-time deal, but on the bright side, that makes for more episodes to watch weekly over the next couple of months.