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The Definitive Ranking Of Every Episode Of "The Wonder Years"

"What would you do if I sang out of tune?"

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113. "Kevin Delivers" (Season 6, Episode 8)

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"Kevin Arnold: delivery boy" is a storyline no one asked for, but by Season 6 of The Wonder Years, the writers were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. And so we watch Kevin (Fred Savage) square off against an angry dog, get forced into conversation with a lonely old woman, and contemplate drag racing. The conclusion, in which Winnie (Danica McKellar) tricks Kevin into delivering food for their late-night date, might be sweet if it weren't such a slog getting there.

112. "Of Mastodons and Men" (Season 5, Episode 15)

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The not-so-subtle subtext of this episode is that high school boys are boorish, sex-crazed cavemen, a theme that gets reiterated throughout Kevin Arnold's pubescence. But aside from being repetitive, the real problem with "Of Mastodons and Men" is the way it treats the female characters — Kevin's single-episode girlfriend Julie (Sandy Faison) is controlling, overbearing, and obsessed with the color pink. The backwards gender politics at play are straight out of the Stone Age.

111. "Who's Aunt Rose?" (Season 4, Episode 13)

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Who is Aunt Rose? That question is never given a satisfying answer. It doesn't really matter, anyway: She's a distant relative who has died, and when a distant relative dies, the family gets together to mourn her. The problem is that because we've never heard of any of these characters, it all feels a little inconsequential. The Wonder Years is good at confronting mortality, as it did with Brian Cooper and Mr. Collins, but this particular morbid excursion is a thoughtless detour.

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110. "Day One" (Season 5, Episode 2)

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Of course Kevin would feel unsettled on his first day of 10th grade — especially with Paul (Josh Saviano) now at boarding school instead of by his side. But it's all a little too much, from Wayne (Jason Hervey) and Wart (Scott Menville) dipping Kev's head in the toilet to comically evil new teacher Mr. Bottner (Scott Jaeck). In trying to show how Kevin feels unsettled, the episode abandons any restraint. Even Kevin's triumphant rebellion at the end is too forced to take seriously.

109. "Eclipse" (Season 6, Episode 17)

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This late in the game, we've seen Kevin and Winnie fight over just about everything, which makes their silly Truth or Dare-inspired conflict all the more mind-numbing. More to the point, "Eclipse" is tonally all over the place, with weird slapstick moments — Chuck (Andy Berman) escaping from a homicidal truck driver is particularly egregious — that take away from any emotional resonance that might have come from Kevin and WInnie's fight and inevitable resolution.

108. "Hiroshima, Mon Frere" (Season 2, Episode 8)

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There are surely those who appreciate "Hiroshima, Mon Frere" for the insight it offers into the psyche of Wayne, who until now has just been the jerk older brother. But whatever sympathy we're supposed to feel flies out the window when Wayne torments and accidentally kills Kevin and Paul's hamster. That's not annoying teenage behavior — it's sociopathic, serial-killer-in-training behavior. Accident or not, it's distressing and does nothing to change Kevin and Wayne's dynamic.

107. "Ninth Grade Man" (Season 4, Episode 2)

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Another school year, another episode about Kevin adjusting to the ch-ch-changes. The biggest crime "Ninth Grade Man" commits is making Becky Slater (Crystal McKellar) boring — at this point, her hatred of Kevin is tiresome. But the episode also introduces Madeline (Julie Condra), a transparent attempt at injecting some drama into Kevin and Winnie's relationship. Madeline's role as seductress is so on-the-nose it's absurd, as is grown-up Kevin's voiceover literally moaning over her. Gross.

106. "Sex and Economics" (Season 6, Episode 4)

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The central plot of "Sex and Economics" — Kevin gets manipulated by his gorgeous teacher Miss Farmer (Rebecca Staab) into painting her house for little pay — is fine. The problem is the odd moral the episode seems to offer. "When it came to beautiful women and money," Kevin concludes, "it would always end like this." The idea that Kev is kind of an idiot about working and the opposite sex is valid (and well represented throughout the series), but the vague condemnation of women is sexist drivel.

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105. "Odd Man Out" (Season 3, Episode 6)

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Kevin treating Paul like crap is nothing new, so their big blow-up fight in "Odd Man Out" is a little sudden. The whole episode has a rushed feel to it, including Kev's instant bond (however forced) with poor Doug Porter (Brandon Crane). You know Paul will end up forgiving Kevin — and that Kevin won't learn anything from the fight, even though Paul is in the right. Other than making Kevin look even worse — he's truly awful to Doug — this is more meaningless conflict that quickly passes.

104. "Rock 'n' Roll" (Season 3, Episode 10)

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As far as one-off characters go, there's something to be said for unassuming badass Larry Beaman (Joshua John Miller). But like so many of Kevin's episodic adventures, the rock band storyline doesn't go anywhere. They sound terrible, they never really get any better, and their classmates still rally behind them because supporting The Electric Shoes (seriously) means going against authority. It's not a particularly original sitcom plotline, but at least it's short-lived.

103. "Lunch Stories" (Season 5, Episode 18)

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Bottle episodes — in which the action is restricted to one location to save on production costs — can produce interesting results. "Lunch Stories" is intriguing, but it's mostly a failure. Sure, it's funny that Kevin, Paul, Chuck, and Ricky (Scott Nemes) view the small dramas in their lives as major catastrophes, but none of their individual stories are all that exciting. When contrasted with Watergate, admittedly for ironic effect, the trials and tribulations of lunch end up even more forgettable.

102. "Alice in Autoland" (Season 6, Episode 12)

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Few characters on The Wonder Years are as simultaneously grating and lovable as Alice Pedermeir (Lindsay Sloan), Chuck's on-again, off-agailn girlfriend who's harboring a major crush on Kevin. But as fun as it is to see Alice's neuroticism battle with Chuck's for prominence, her awkward seduction of her recent ex's best friend is a whole lot of cringe. For once, Kevin does the right thing and rejects her advances — but he still gets punched in the face. No good deed goes unpunished after all.

101. "Hulk Arnold" (Season 6, Episode 15)

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Once again, Kevin is randomly into a sport he showed no interest in prior to this episode — and will never mention again. On the plus side, James Tolkan is great as this week's tough love authority figure Coach SIlva, but he can't rid the episode of the stench of Season 6 desperation. There are a couple bright spots in "Hulk Arnold," namely Kevin's freak-out over the possibility that he's carrying a little baby fat, and his triumphant performance in the final match. He loses, with dignity.

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100. "Ladies and Gentlemen... The Rolling Stones" (Season 6, Episode 13)

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So many of the Season 6 plots are recycled from lesser sitcoms. They're not bad, really — it's just that The Wonder Years can do so much better. This episode, in which Kevin gets pressured into taking his friends to a Rolling Stones concert that may or may not be happening, has a few good moments, at least: namely, Chuck eating a page out of the phone book, and the ending, where Kevin is spared punishment for a minor accident in Jack's (Dan Lauria) car by sheer dumb luck.

99. "Fishing" (Season 6, Episode 2)

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"Fishing" is a decent episode, but it would work a lot better a few seasons earlier in The Wonder Years run. By this point, Wayne has grown into an almost mature adult — his relationship with Kevin here is a little regressive. Beyond that, the whole theme of the episode has a "been there, done that" feel: Jack wants a family trip the way things were when Kevin and Wayne were kids, but they're all too old for that. Thankfully there are enough funny and charming moments to salvage this.

98. "Scenes From a Wedding" (Season 6, Episode 3)

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The one where Kevin gets shitfaced. There's a lot more to "Scenes From a Wedding" than that, but the highlight is definitely Kevin downing an entire bottle of champagne and making an ass of himself. Otherwise it's a typical Season 6 episode: slight but with some nice moments. One note: It's weird that Norma (Alley Mills) cries more here than she did at the wedding of her own daughter (Olivia D'Abo), especially given that Karen's wedding was worth crying over. Who cares about Candy Jensen?

97. "Soccer" (Season 5, Episode 7)

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Like wrestling, soccer is a sport that Kevin picks up for a single episode (because he excels at it, naturally) and then never mentions again. This is the better episode, though, largely because it features the great Paul Dooley as Pops "The Bear" McIntyre. And Kevin really shines here, when he's not taken in by his own athletic prowess: He actually cares enough to motivate his team — not to victory, but to a dignified defeat. "Let's lose one for Pops," indeed.

96. "The Yearbook" (Season 4, Episode 19)

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Kevin being a dick is a recurring plot point in The Wonder Years. And that's as it should be! Boys in high school are, generally speaking, total assholes. What's interesting about "The Yearbook" is that it explores the conflict between Kevin's attempts at coolness with his conscience — he can't bring himself to mock poor Peter "Pig" Armbruster (Michael Ray Bower) just to fit in. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to learn much of a lesson in the end, but hey, baby steps.

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95. "The Candidate" (Season 4, Episode 10)

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Once again, let's lament the character of Becky Slater, whose legitimate hatred of Kevin morphed into a much duller rivalry. That aside, at least she has more to do here than just punch him in the stomach again. Kevin is not at his best here, ignoring the support he gets from Paul and Winnie in order to focus on how much he wants to beat Becky. But of course, he comes around in the end and resigns from the race after a genuinely touching speech from Paul, who is, frankly, too good of a friend.

94. "Buster" (Season 4, Episode 15)

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The central conflict in "Buster" is that Buster needs to get neutered and no one in the Arnold family can deal with that. It's actually kind of bizarre. Yes, thinking too much about the act of neutering will make anyone cringe, but it's a standard aspect of dog ownership. The episode works when Kevin callously lets Buster run away, leading the entire family on a search to find him. Even if you don't buy what comes before it, you'll cry at the resolution, because, let's face it, you're a human being.

93. "The Phone Call" (Season 1, Episode 5)

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Ah, Lisa Berlini (Kathy Wagner). Her most defining characteristic is that she's not Winnie Cooper, but way back in Season 1, that was enough. "The Phone Call" isn't the most dynamic episode of The Wonder Years — it's largely just Kevin working up the courage to make a phone call — but it sets the tone for much of the show, in which the relatively minor dilemmas of youth are treated as high-stakes problems. It works pretty well here, and much better down the road.

92. "The Heart of Darkness" (Season 2, Episode 1)

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If you think smoking and drinking make you look cool, marvel at how astoundingly stupid Kevin and Paul look. It makes sense that these two would try to switch things up, especially with Winnie suddenly joining the popular crowd and leaving them behind. While rebel Gary (Breckin Meyer) is a convincingly bad influence, the relentless cave metaphor is heavy-handed. The episode is an interesting enough diversion until Winnie rejoins the group and the status quo is restored.

91. "Reunion" (Season 6, Episode 20)

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It's not until the series is almost over that we meet Norma's parents, Karl (Macon McCalman) and Jane Gustavson (Jean Speegle Howard). It's an interesting dynamic — they hate Jack and repeatedly push Norma into the arms of her high school beau Roger (Edward Edwards), all of which Jack has come to passively accept. What's less interesting is everything else that happens in "Reunion," including Kevin getting chased through the neighborhood by a dog named Princess.

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90. "The Lost Weekend" (Season 5, Episode 20)

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High school guys are gross. Yes, The Wonder Years realistically depicts how girl-obsessed teenage boys are, but it's honestly pretty tiresome. That having been said, "The Lost Weekend" is a fairly standard entry into a familiar genre: Parents go out of town, kids try to throw a small party, party gets out of hand. The saving grace is that Wayne ends up covering for Kevin, reflecting how far he's come. And Kevin waxes Wayne's car as a thank-you — it's a satisfying conclusion.

89. "Road Test" (Season 5, Episode 11)

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More classic teen series material: Kevin is anxious about getting his license because he wants to take a classmate out on a date. It's also classic Wonder Years, in that when Kevin excels at driving — as when he excels at anything — he's a condescending dick about it. The best part about "Road Test" is the ending, in which Kevin tries to "borrow" Jack's car in the middle of the night to practice driving. Rather than do the expected thing and yell at him, Jack offers to help.

88. "Politics As Usual" (Season 6, Episode 5)

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Despite the fact that it's often steeped in the politics of era, The Wonder Years is usually not all that interested in the specifics of politics. "Politics As Usual" is an odd exception, with Winnie going to work for the McGovern campaign and Kevin reluctantly tagging along. There are good moments — Norma praising McGovern's position on women's rights, Kevin breaking into the McGovern headquarters in a nod to Watergate — but too much time is spent on Kevin's jealousy.

87. "Christmas" (Season 2, Episode 3)

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Christmas episodes of family series tend to get a little hokey, so the biggest surprise about "Christmas" is that the Arnolds are actually pretty miserable for most of it. Kevin, Wayne, and Karen are trying to convince Jack to buy a color TV — even Norma's onboard — but Jack insists they can't afford it. The frequent money problems the family faces keep The Wonder Years grounded, and the rain and laughter at the end of the episode gives it heart.

86. "Back to the Lake" (Season 5, Episode 23)

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After Cara's (Lisa Gerber) great introduction in "The Lake," her return in "Back to the Lake" is somewhat disappointing — and maybe that's the point. As Kevin learns, sometimes a brief summer fling is just that. Regardless of whatever connection he felt with Cara, she's moved on. Cara aside, Kevin is at his worst here, essentially kidnapping Paul and putting both of their jobs at risk. As he eventually opines, "I felt like a stupid, selfish adolescent, which I guess I was." You think?

85. "Dance With Me" (Season 1, Episode 6)

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The finale of Season 1 isn't all that memorable, but it offers plenty of hints of what's to come. And it's sweet, from Kevin's jealousy over Winnie's new boyfriend Kirk McCray (Michael Landes) to Paul's allergic reaction to his future girlfriend Carla Healy (Krista Murphy). If the conflict of the episode feels a little trite, that's because it is — these are, after all, seventh graders. But even if Kevin doesn't understand it, his bond with Winnie plays out through the entire series — and deepens along the way.

84. "The Family Car" (Season 3, Episode 7)

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Once again, Jack doesn't want to spend money even when it becomes apparent that he's going to have to. It's a familiar story, heightened by the audacity of Karen calling Jack cheap to his face. What's more interesting is the bigger issue at play: Jack doesn't want to let go of the family car because of all the memories that go with it. We see the Arnolds washing the car as a family, and it is one of the rare times that they're all getting along, making Jack's hesitance to let go more understandable.

83. "Full Moon Rising" (Season 5, Episode 5)

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Kevin's friend group shifts throughout The Wonder Years, but one thing remains constant — with the exception of Paul, these guys are total idiots. And that makes sense, if only because they're realistic depictions of high school boys. "Full Moon Rising" is another exercise in stupidity for Kevin and his friends, though at least it contrasts the reality of getting a new car (responsibility) with the expectation (cruising around to get women). And Kevin admits 15-year-olds are the worst.

82. "Frank and Denise" (Season 5, Episode 4)

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Who are Frank (Noah Blake) and Denise (Amy Hathaway)? It doesn't really matter, as they're never heard from again. But as inconsequential as the episode is in terms of the larger story, it's still a mostly interesting look at a relationship that's even more contentious and dramatic than Kevin and Winnie's. If there is a point here, it's that Frank and Denise are so much more than the images they project, something Kevin becomes all too aware of when he finds himself in the middle of their conflict.

81. "Whose Woods Are These?" (Season 2, Episode 16)

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Kevin's horror that they're tearing down Harper's Woods is met by his parents' apathy — and as a viewer, it's hard not to feel a little like Jack and Norma. As important as Harper's Woods are to Kevin, Winnie, and Paul, we haven't traveled back there since the pilot. While the nostalgia's a little shaky, the episode does a good job of capturing how scary change is even from a young age — Kevin isn't old enough to understand the chaos of the late '60s, but in his own small way, he's petrified.

80. "The Test" (Season 6, Episode 9)

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Spoiler alert to those still in high school: The SATs do not determine your future. (Are they still spreading that lie?) Either way, "The Test" is an accurate depiction of how much anxiety is associated with the SATs, which are hyped up as the sole determinant of the rest of your life. Less successful is the way the episode links Kevin's stress over the test with Jack's decision to start his own furniture business. Jack is taking a huge risk, while Kevin — well, he doesn't really have a choice.

79. "Birthday Boy" (Season 2, Episode 13)

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Part of growing up is realizing that birthdays don't really matter — a depressing revelation that many adults still refuse to acknowledge. But for a 13-year-old Jewish boy, a bar mitzvah is a very big deal, and not only because it's a very lucrative ceremony. (Well, that's a huge part of it.) Kevin's jealousy over all the attention Paul's getting is typical Kev, but he does finally come around and learn to celebrate someone who isn't him. (Even if he does claim Paul's bar mitzvah as his own.)

78. "Wayne on Wheels" (Season 3, Episode 3)

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Wayne thinks getting his license will help him escape his family, but as it turns out, it just forces him into spending more time with Kevin. The story of Kevin's star-crossed love at the mall — they fall for each other from a distance in a theater playing Romeo and Juliet — offers more depth than Wayne's typical asinine behavior. Although when Wayne takes things too far and almost gets Kevin and himself killed, he shows surprising humility. It doesn't last.

77. "Growing Up" (Season 4, Episode 1)

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The benefit of casting kids who are actually the ages they're supposed to be playing is that you get to really watch them grow up. Kevin, Paul, and Winnie all do some significant aging between Seasons 3 and 4, which underlines the theme of the episode, unsubtly called "Growing Up." Kevin's dalliance with Mimi (Soleil Moon Frye) is forgettable, but his fight with Jack — which leads Jack to apologize for once — is a great moment. As is Karen leaving for college.

76. "It's a Mad, Mad, Madeline World" (Season 4, Episode 5)

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It's never clear why Madeline is so into Kevin — that's not to say there's anything wrong with Kevin (other than his general spazziness), but Madeline is so underdeveloped that her repeated attempts at seducing Kevin away from Winnie feel forced. But it's nice to see Kevin choose his relationship over a crush and flee before licking chocolate mousse off Madeline's finger. There's also something endlessly funny about the mislabeled "Kevin Amold" ID bracelet.

75. "Road Trip" (Season 4, Episode 16)

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The Wonder Years frequently returns to the idea that Kevin and Jack have a hard time connecting with each other, and that's not a bad thing. It's a worthwhile area to explore, especially as their relationship develops over the years. There are few things more awkward than a teenage boy being forced into a long car ride with his dad, although watching them both try to flirt with a waitress is pretty cringeworthy. It's impressive that Kevin can now stand up to Jack, however immaturely.

74. "Coda" (Season 2, Episode 7)

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"Coda" is a quiet episode: Kevin learns piano from Mrs. Carples (Maxine Stuart), who stresses that perfection isn't everything, but feels he can't compete with kiss-ass student Ronald Hirschmuller (Joseph Dammann). There is something unbearably sad about the conclusion of the episode, which has Kevin give up on piano and skip his recital — a choice the adult Kevin admits he still regrets — but the episode drags a bit in getting to that point. The final scene, though, is a punch to the gut.

73. "Broken Hearts and Burgers" (Season 5, Episode 24)

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In all fairness, a clip show episode should be at the bottom of a ranking: It's a cheat, a relic of an era when you couldn't rewatch favorite episodes on DVD and actually might have appreciated this sort of thing. And yet, there's a lot of charm and heart to "Broken Hearts and Burgers" — it's not so much the wraparound story, which has Winnie mad at Kevin again, but the clips chosen along with the period music used. Yes, it's shameless, but a show about nostalgia is allowed a little nostalgia for itself.

72. "Courage" (Season 4, Episode 14)

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Another standard sitcom plot: Kevin is afraid of the dentist. But like so many Wonder Years episodes that mine familiar terrain, "Courage" ends up offering a lot more pathos than expected. The character of beautiful dental assistant Miss Hasenfuss (Whitney Kershaw) is so much more than the object of Kevin's fantasies. The heartbreak she feels when she overhears Kevin not wanting her to assist is devastating, and the joy over her decision to go back to school is equally powerful.

71. "The Powers That Be" (Season 3, Episode 12)

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Let's be clear about something: A puppy is the actual worst gift you can get someone. Let's be clear about something else: Buster is the cutest. But "The Powers That Be" is less about Kevin's new dog and more about Grandpa Arnold (David Huddleston) and his ongoing power struggle with his son Jack. The relationship between Jack and his father offers valuable insight into why Jack is the way he is — that frustrating stubbornness is the only way Jack knows how to assert himself.

70. "Loosiers" (Season 2, Episode 9)

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"It's hard to imagine being 12 years old and not having a friend like Paul Pfeiffer," Kevin narrates at the beginning of the episode. And he's right, even if his younger self doesn't realize it. "Loosiers" expands on the character of Paul, who is incredibly enthusiastic about playing basketball and completely terrible at it. But sometimes enthusiasm is enough, as Kevin and his teammates learn. They don't win the game, by a long shot, but they stop being so miserable about their defeat.

69. "Pfeiffer's Pfortune" (Season 5, Episode 10)

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Paul going to prep school was a big deal because it separated him and Kevin, but up until this point, The Wonder Years hadn't explored the major class difference at play. As we learn in "Pfeiffer's Pfortune," Paul's dad, Alvin (John C. Moskoff), earned a lot of money on a risky investment, and Paul's new lifestyle is starting to cause a rift in his friendship with Kevin. It's an interesting change to their dynamic, which is why it's a little disappointing that things return to normal by the end.

68. "Angel" (Season 1, Episode 4)

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The first Karen episode of The Wonder Years is not the best Karen episode, but it does highlight her role in the series as a representative of the freewheeling openness of the late '60s. That Kevin is jealous of Karen's relationship with Louis (John Corbett) isn't surprising, but the episode picks up in the awkward dinner scene, during which Louis asks Norma if she's satisfied being a housewife and then challenges Jack on Vietnam. Louis might be a jerk, but he makes some good points.

67. "The Sixth Man" (Season 4, Episode 8)

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. And so we find ourselves back in Coach Cutlip's (Robert Picardo) P.E. class. Kevin is, once again, kind of a monster here, repeatedly trying to talk Paul out of trying for the basketball team. He may think he has Paul's best interests at heart, but what he doesn't realize is how much he's holding Paul back. Paul ultimately proving Kevin wrong is satisfying, though not nearly as satisfying as the whole Arnold family rooting for him.

66. "Let Nothing You Dismay" (Season 6, Episode 10)

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There are a lot of changes documented in the Season 6 Christmas episode: namely, Norma graduating from community college and Jack transitioning into the furniture business. We get to see a whole new side of Jack, who is uncharacteristically generous as he nervously awaits the loan he needs to buy the factory. The emotional power of the episode comes when a newly assertive Norma is able to get the loan on Jack's behalf: "I told them they should believe in you the way I do."

65. "Math Class" (Season 3, Episode 2)

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"Math Class" is our first introduction to Mr. Collins (Steven Gilborn) — it's really just the first installment in a trilogy of episodes spaced out over the course of the season. While we do get some insight into Mr. Collins, a hard-ass who really just wants his students to apply themselves and succeed, "Math Class" is really more about Kevin's fear of failure and his inability to ask for help. Given how often Kevin pats himself on the back for his accomplishments, it's refreshing to see him flounder a bit.

64. "The Little Women" (Season 6, Episode 19)

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The title says it all: "The Little Women" reflects the fact that Kevin and Jack continue to treat Winnie and Norma as lesser than, even though they're two intelligent, accomplished women who often excel past their male counterparts. If it feels old-fashioned, that's because it is — this is the early '70s, after all. It's disappointing that the episode ends with both Arnold men mansplaining, but its clear where the episode's sympathies lie. If only Winnie and Norma had beat them at bowling.

63. "Swingers" (Season 1, Episode 2)

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Let's talk about sex, Wonder Years. Well, let's talk about sex according to 12-year-olds — not a lot of details, just plenty of confused feelings. "Swingers" is the second episode, and the pitch-perfect Wonder Years pilot is a tough act to follow. Still, it does an admirable job of furthering Kevin's fixation on sex and death, brought on by his first kiss with Winnie and the death of Winnie's brother Brian. (The ghost of Brian giving Kevin a pep talk at his funeral is odd, admittedly.)

62. "The Cost of Living" (Season 4, Episode 4)

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Jack's stinginess comes up time and again, but "The Cost of Living" gives Kevin a real sense of why his dad is — to put it mildly — frugal. As Kevin and his friends get older, the same class issues that plagued the Arnold patriarch (why can't he just buy a new car?) begin to affect Kevin too, inspiring him to get a job at the golf course. There's a nice throwback to "My Father's Office," with Kevin understanding the importance of weighing one's dignity against a bulky paycheck.

61. "The Journey" (Season 4, Episode 3)

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It's about the journey, not the destination. Once you grasp that, you kind of know where this episode is going. Episodes about Kevin and his friends going on adventures are hit and miss, but this one mostly works. The stakes are higher — just the fact that they're procuring beer to go to a high school girl's slumber party is more adult — and they actually work together, even helping Doug out after he's injured. The resolution, or the lack thereof, is only disappointing if you didn't see it coming.

60. "Fate" (Season 2, Episode 12)

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Kevin defends Winnie's honor by going against bully Eddie Pinetti (Bobby Jacoby), only to learn that Winnie and Eddie have been secretly going out. "Fate" shows how limited Kevin's scope is — he's a typical "nice guy," incapable of understanding why anyone would choose Eddie over him. But the truth is, Kevin himself is a bully. Sure, he's subtler about it, but he's talked behind all of his friends' backs, which is why he's now alienated from Paul and Winnie. Seeing him get punched is a little satisfying.

59. "The Pimple" (Season 3, Episode 8)

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You have to appreciate the amount of time spent on a single pimple. But then, when you're in eighth grade, a pimple really is the end of the world. The Wonder Years has the rare ability to capture how significant these relatively minor setbacks are — by the end of the episode, you're equally convinced that Kevin's sole pimple is catastrophic. And for anyone who has ever struggled with acne, Kevin's misguided attempts to hide it are hilariously familiar.

58. "The Hardware Store" (Season 5, Episode 3)

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Kevin clearly has no idea how Jack feels about his job at NORCOM. How else would he have the audacity to complain about his own job, "It's boring, it's hard work, and it's no fun." As in "Coda," Kevin's frustration is understandable but also short-sighted. Even as he begins to thrive at his job, working for the curmudgeonly Mr. Harris (Al Ruscio), he looks for ways to escape. This is one of several episodes in which adult Kevin admits his 15-year-old stupidity — if only that insight came sooner.

57. "Triangle" (Season 5, Episode 6)

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Another instance of Kevin as the dreaded "nice guy": He can't understand why girls keep going out with "jerks" instead of him. And then, in the ultimate jerk move, he kisses his brother's girlfriend Sandy (Carla Gugino). Yes, Kevin and Sandy make more sense than Wayne and Sandy, but that doesn't excuse his behavior. What redeems Kevin is choosing his brother over his crush, as Wayne maturely admits, "Sandy makes me better than I am."

56. "Math Class Squared" (Season 3, Episode 9)

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By "Math Class Squared," Kevin has found a new level of respect for Mr. Collins. But he still has a lot to learn, as evidenced by his uncertainty of what to do when he learns his classmates are cheating. What Kevin doesn't realize — and what the viewers likely pick up on from the get-go — is that Mr. Collins is well aware of what's happening. He just wants Kevin to solve the problem on his own. It's nice to see a teacher who pushes Kevin to the best he can be with a subtler, hands-off approach.

55. "Mom Wars" (Season 3, Episode 4)

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The growing distance between Kevin and Norma is always a little painful to explore. In "Mom Wars," Norma has to control her protective instincts as Kevin insists on playing football. This is one of many episodes that feel a lot different as an adult than as a kid. At one point, you likely sided with Kevin, but now it's hard not to feel the most sympathy for Norma. The end is particularly bittersweet, as Kevin gets injured and refuses to let his mom help, despite the fact that he craves her comfort.

54. "She, My Friend and I" (Season 3, Episode 13)

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One of the cringiest moments in all of The Wonder Years occurs at the end of "She, My Friend and I," in which Kevin shows up at Winnie's door and smugly informs her of what Paul told him: "He says you're crazy about me!" At which point Winnie slams the door in his face. It's a brutal bump on the road to Kevin and Winnie getting together, but it also reflects Kevin's utter lack of self-awareness and Winnie's refusal to put up with it. Poor Paul is just the pawn caught in the middle.

53. "Glee Club" (Season 3, Episode 16)

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On the surface, "Glee Club" is your classic episode about an optimistic teacher guiding unlikely students to glory. But in contrast to, say, Glee, "Glee Club" is a more cynical take on the truth of the situation. Poor Miss Haycock (Andrea Walters) has no idea what she's in for — these kids really can't sing, and they're not going to learn any time soon. The fact that they band together to try to make her dream come true is nice, but the depressing ending keeps the episode grounded in reality.

52. "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (Season 3, Episode 14)

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Yes, Kevin and Winnie end the episode holding hands, but it takes them a while to get there. And that's as it should be: Kevin needs to learn some humility after his disastrous attempt to win Winnie over in "She, My Friend and I." So we see Kevin putting a valentine for Winnie in the wrong locker (Becky Slater's, natch) and nearly getting run over by Becky (on a bike, but still) later in the episode. Winnie may forgive Kevin finally, but she also calls him a jerk, which he is.

51. "Little Debbie" (Season 4, Episode 6)

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Yes, Paul's little sister Debbie's (Torrey Anne Cook) crush on Kevin is annoying, but so is Kevin's condescension. But "Little Debbie" reflects a major step forward for Kevin, who comes around — only after he's reduced Debbie to tears, mind you — and gives her the dance she deserves. Plus, the episode has plenty of funny moments, none better than Al Pfeiffer doing all Jewish fathers proud and quoting "Sunrise, Sunset" in his speech to Kevin before the dance.

50. "Nose" (Season 6, Episode 16)

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Kids can be so cruel, and teenagers are even worse. "Nose" is hard to watch, as Kevin and his friends ridicule new student Hayley (Renee Humphrey) for her big nose. (They should really be making fun of whoever crafted the prosthetic, which looks too fake to take seriously.) But there is, of course, a valuable lesson at play. When Scott dumps Hayley thanks to peer pressure, she rebounds with hunky Brett (Eric Dane), who was drawn to her candid sense of self. Take that, Kevin.

49. "Graduation" (Season 4, Episode 22)

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"I never wanted it to end," Kevin narrates. It's not a particularly stunning insight, but it's incredibly poignant in the context of graduation — albeit from junior high. The episode itself has highs and lows, but it does a great job of summing up so much of what's come before it. As usual, Winnie offers the most insight, wondering if the good times they've cherished actually mean much in the long run. In the context of the era's constant social and political change, her concerns hit home.

48. "White Lies" (Season 6, Episode 6)

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To outsiders, Kevin and Winnie are the perfect couple, but there's always something else going on. In this case, it's Kevin's eagerness to have sex with Winnie and her complete lack of interest. That Kevin goes so far as to lie about his night with Winnie — a lie that naturally spreads across the school — is unforgivable. Even Jack refuses to feel sympathy for Kevin, sternly advising him to apologize immediately. It's a tough episode but a smart look at the complexities of sex in high school.

47. "Steady As She Goes" (Season 2, Episode 4)

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Kevin's piss-poor treatment of Becky Slater begins here, as he starts dating her for the sole purpose of making Winnie jealous. It's obnoxious and transparent — although, to be fair, Becky isn't the easiest person to date either. Of all of Kevin's romantic foibles outside of his on-again, off-again romance with Winnie, his shoddy behavior when it comes to Becky is the most memorable. There is, at least, a hint of redemption in the end, when Kevin walks Becky home.

46. "Grandpa's Car" (Season 5, Episode 12)

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The central problem of "Grandpa's Car" is a more adult one than The Wonder Years usually tackles: Grandpa Arnold can no longer drive safely, and his family has to find a way to keep him off the road. While Kevin rarely considers his parents' mortality, he's forced to confront the fact that his grandfather is getting older. The last line is gorgeous: Kevin remembers his first car "not because it was my first car, but because it was my grandfather’s last."

45. "Wayne and Bonnie" (Season 6, Episode 7)

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There are few things more horrifying than watching Wayne handle an infant. And yet, "Wayne and Bonnie" surprises by showing how willing Wayne is to commit to an adult relationship, even if that means dating a woman with a kid. It's tough to say if Bonnie (Paula Marshall) is a great influence on Wayne, or if simply being around her son is enough for him to pull his act together. The ending, in which Wayne leaves home against his parents' wishes, shows he still has a long way to go.

44. "Just Between Me and You and Kirk and Paul and Carla and Becky" (Season 2, Episode 5)

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"Everything was simple and fun," Kevin innocently reflects. Things don't stay that way. As nice as it is to see Kevin finally treat Becky with a modicum of respect, he's still the same jerk he was when he faked his feelings to make Winnie jealous. The best moment in the episode is one of the best moments in the series: Carla punches Kevin repeatedly after he suggests they just be friends. But what the episode really reveals is that boys and girls are equally screwed up when it comes to love.

43. "Separate Rooms" (Season 4, Episode 18)

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There is a lot of back-and-forth when it comes to Kevin and Wayne's relationship, because that's the way things often go with brothers. What's great about "Separate Rooms" is its ability to show what that animosity too often masks — Kevin and Wayne do really care about each other, deeply. As they fight over moving into Karen's old room, adult Kevin puts it all into perspective: "In struggling to separate ourselves from one another, Wayne and I had also struggled to stay together."

42. "Nemesis" (Season 2, Episode 11)

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Hell hath no fury like Becky Slater. But what's great about Becky's righteous anger at Kevin is that it's completely deserved. Kevin's dickishness is central to his character, but things always seem to work out for him regardless. There's something so satisfying about Becky continuing to make his life miserable — especially because all she's really doing is spreading the truth about him. Kevin isn't all that kind to Paul or Winnie or anyone else, and if they finally realize that, more power to them.

41. "Hero" (Season 5, Episode 17)

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It's a little heartbreaking to watch Jack try hard to bond with Kevin, only to get attitude. But hey, that's the reality of fathers and teenage sons. Kevin isn't interested in facts and responsibilities: He's content to live in the fantasy that comes with worshipping basketball star Bobby Riddle (Jim Caviezel). And by the end, he's confronted with a hard truth, first by Bobby cruelly dismissing him, and then by Jack's words of wisdom: "It's not easy being a hero."

40. "Moving" (Season 3, Episode 23)

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It's hard to imagine the difference a few miles can make, but Winnie moving across town — and more importantly, transferring schools — is a pivotal moment for her relationship with Kevin. They end up breaking up, only to get back together, but the larger issue is the fact that Kevin's world is expanding. It feels out of control because it is. In one of his most moving voiceovers, he notes, "You live in a house someone else owns, but your dreams are already somewhere else."

39. "Poker" (Season 6, Episode 18)

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One of the better Season 6 episodes, "Poker" highlights the very adult problems Kevin and his friends are facing: Chuck is worried he got Alice pregnant; Randy (Michael Tricario) is in danger of not graduating. But the heart of the episode is Kevin's strained friendship with Paul — they're more at odds than ever before, with both young men showing their worst characteristics. Their ability to reconcile and find common ground is more satisfying than winning any poker game.

38. "When Worlds Collide" (Season 4, Episode 17)

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Like "Mom Wars," "When Worlds Collide" is an episode that affects you differently as an adult than as a kid. Yes, it's embarrassing when your mom comes to work at the school — but Kevin's refusal to even acknowledge Norma's presence is painful. The look on her face when Kevin asks her not to even notice him at school is devastating. But this also represents a major step forward for Norma, who uses getting fired from her brief stint at Kevin's school as inspiration to apply to community college.

37. "A Very Cutlip Christmas" (Season 4, Episode 9)

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Coach Cutlip is one of the funniest Wonder Years characters, but there's something sadder lurking beneath that big Santa beard. After Kevin gets past the weirdness of seeing a teacher outside of school — a strange event, to be sure — he comes to sympathize with Cutlip, who sadly explains his Santa gig by saying, "Kids like me when I'm Santa." The conclusion, where none of Kevin's friends recognize their coach, is unrealistic, but call it a Christmas miracle.

36. "Our Miss White" (Season 2, Episode 2)

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Kevin would like to believe that his crush on Miss White (Wendel Meldrum) is about more than just her looks, but he spends a lot of time staring at her breasts. This is another episode that contrasts the little things (Kevin's crush) with the bigger picture (the civil rights movement). Kevin may not quite get it, but in speaking the words of Robert F. Kennedy, he starts to understand how much more important larger cultural dreams are than his adolescent fantasies.

35. "The Unnatural" (Season 3, Episode 19)

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Another episode of Kevin trying out a new sport — and largely failing. But "The Unnatural" isn't concerned with being realistic. The final scene, in which Kevin hits it out of the park, is gorgeous, and possibly never happened. We take the adult Kevin Arnold to be a trustworthy narrator, but this episode subverts that: "If dreams and memories sometimes get confused, well, that’s as it should be. Because every kid deserves to be a hero." All that matters is that you're crying.

34. "The Ties That Bind" (Season 4, Episode 7)

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Money problems once again loom over the Arnold family, but here we get a clearer sense of the effect it has on Jack and Norma. The saddest part of the episode is Norma's insistence on putting on a brave face: She refuses to let Jack's absence derail Thanksgiving, even though she has a hard time adjusting once family dinner arrives. The reunion Jack and Norma share at the end is one of the most romantic moments they share in the season, an apt reminder of what really matters.

33. "Dinner Out" (Season 5, Episode 8)

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Karen is missing for most of Season 5, her last season as a regular, mostly because she's now living with her boyfriend Michael (David Schwimmer). Jack's refusal to welcome Michael into the family is frustrating to watch, but they have so much more to do with his inability to let go of his little girl. The last scene is loaded with subtext: Karen shows up to apologize to Jack after his birthday dinner fiasco and tells him, "I can't stay." Before apologizing himself, he answers, "I know."

32. "New Years" (Season 6, Episode 11)

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Wayne has matured so much under Bonnie's influence — and with a kid to take care of. The two seem fated to make it work, which is why it's so upsetting when Bonnie decides to take back her ex, the father of her son. What makes this episode bittersweet is how Wayne's growth helps him cope with the breakup. "You can't make someone fall in love with you," he says. Then he encourages Kevin and Winnie to share a midnight kiss, because "you're only young once."

31. "On the Spot" (Season 3, Episode 5)

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Of course The Wonder Years, a show that largely traffics in suburban nostalgia, would eventually pay homage to the classic play Our Town, which largely does the same. There is plenty of humor in this episode — Paul's control-freak takeover of Kevin's spotlight duties is hilarious — but it's all about the poignance of the final scene, in which Winnie's parents tearfully reconnect during her "Goodbye, Grover's Corners" speech. Realistic? Maybe not. But that's theater magic.

30. "Summer Song" (Season 3, Episode 1)

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Kevin articulates one of the series' major themes when he says, "None of it was permanent." "Summer Song" is sad and sweet because you know that Kevin's fling with beach babe Teri (Holly Sampson) is temporary. But it's all worth it for the reflections it brings about in Kevin, who realizes that feeling that pain of loss is actually a good thing, because it speaks to what he had. Similar territory is explored in "The Lake," but this is a softer, more innocent look at lost love.