TV Review: The Wonder Years, 1×20 “Bill’s New Gig”

User Rating: 5

“Bill’s New Gig” Could have been an excellent television episode for The Wonder Years. Instead, it sheds light on the power dynamics between Bill and his wife, Lillian. The premise of the episode is pretty basic. Bill finally becomes a tenured professor at the college. The new free time with his long-term position means that the summer can be used to play venues with his band. The main issue with playing those venues is that he has been replaced as lead instrumentalist and vocalist. Because of being removed from the band, he decides it might finally be time for him to go solo. The rest of the family is shocked that he doesn’t actually do that but decides to become the musical director for a different female solo act. This infuses jealousy in his wife because the woman Bill is representing is younger and prettier than her. The artist also has a beautiful-sounding voice and uses compositions Bill wrote with Lillian to increase her star power.

This episode had every opportunity to succeed. Because Bill would be working to manage a new artist as a creative director, I thought that that would truly give him the push to be a solo artist and make his own music. The reality is he was more focused on someone else’s success so that he could make more money.

The only other major story within this episode involves Dean’s brother sneaking out to spend time with his girlfriend. There really wasn’t much story there. As I’ve said many times, I really like the character of Lillian because I think she is such a strong presence not only in the eyes of her daughter and sons but also her husband. To see her role in their lives diminished was incredibly upsetting.

I am thrilled that this week the episode did not focus on Dean. The show proves it can be strong without heavily relying on its lead. Dule Hill showcased some of his finest acting in this episode. He was also very well supported by Saycon Sengbloh as Lillian. I would love to see more episodes that just involve Dean‘s parents or the other adults in his life. This seems to be where the show is strongest because you’re talking about the struggles of adults in a still very racist society. How they navigate that racism is something young adults and children could be educated by.

The opposite is occurring. Most of the episodes have been syrupy sweet with a very mild lesson thrown in. Sometimes it’s the same lesson from a few weeks prior that the main character still hasn’t learned yet. When this show goes into a form of repetitiveness that shows the audience that the stories aren’t there.

The characters aren’t active participants in the stories being told. I’m glad the Dean’s parents got this solo treatment, but they didn’t get a strong enough story to showcase their personality traits. As much as I like the concept of this series, it’s poorly executed, and there’s nothing at this point that’s going to pull it back from being just mediocre. Audiences deserve better, and I hope it comes in the form of a show similar to blackish. I can only hope the rest of the season is stronger than this.

The Wonder Years is now airing on ABC.

Written by
Chike has been a film critic in Illinois for the last 10 years with Urbana Public Television. Most of his work can be found on their YouTube channel where his show Reel Reviews is posted. The films he enjoys most are the kind that surprise you with characters that are deeper than you could ever suspect. As much as he loves reviewing it’s the stories that are unexpected that bring him the most joy. He lives in Champaign with his parents surrounded by cornfields.

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