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Why Fred Savage Can't Get Cast In Hollywood Anymore

Fred Savage was arguably the most famous child actor in Hollywood during the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a baby-faced kid, Savage made an impression on moviegoers with lead roles in The Boy Who Could Fly, Vice Versa, Little Monsters, and the full-length Nintendo commercial The Wizard, not to mention his part as "The Grandson" in the storytelling framing sequences in The Princess Bride. But Savage will always be best remembered for his work on The Wonder Years. One the course of six seasons, he grew up on television as Kevin Arnold, a kid coming of age in the tumultuous late 1960s and early 1970s. Savage became one of the youngest Emmy nominees ever for his work on the nostalgic sitcom, but since The Wonder Years signed off in 1993, he's had an inconsistent presence on TV and in the movies. Here's a look at the reasons why Hollywood won't cast Fred Savage anymore.

He's not Kevin Arnold in real life

Being a child star can be a blessing and a curse for an actor. One one hand, they've made a fortune and established themselves in Hollywood years before most people get around to booking roles. On the other hand, kid actors can easily get pigeonholed — casting directors and audiences alike forever associate child stars with the characters they portrayed in their youth, and when they aren't kids anymore, they face difficulty making the jump to the world of grown-up roles. This phenomenon may have hurt Fred Savage. Most people remember cute and young Savage from The Wonder Years or The Princess Bride and they could have a hard time buying him as a star in any other context. While some child stars aged into more mature projects — Drew Barrymore or Jodie Foster, for example — others have struggled, such as Lindsay Lohan and Macaulay Culkin...and Fred Savage.

He's busy making good shows for other people

The last 15 years or so have been a golden age for TV comedy. The proliferation of cable channels and streaming services has led to innovative and original takes on the once stale sitcom genre. Fred Savage, whose film-like show The Wonder Years was one of the first network comedies to eschew the laugh track/studio audience format, has been at the forefront of a number of critically acclaimed cult hits. He produced more than 20 episodes of FX's dark and acerbic It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia before moving on to Starz's short-lived but beloved Party Down. In 2012, Savage served as executive producer on NBC's Best Friends Forever and in 2014, helped translate the musical comedy of duo Garfunkel and Oates (Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci) into the IFC series Garfunkel and Oates. If Fred Savage needed to star in a comedy, he could probably develop it himself.

Quiet on the set!

Savage really does thrive behind the scenes of television comedy. In addition to developing and producing excellent TV shows for other people, he's a prolific episodic television director, too. After trying his hand at helming with an episode of his sitcom Working and a couple tries on Boy Meets World (which starred his younger brother Ben), Savage has worked consistently, racking up more than 60 credits on a wide variety of shows, both single-camera and three-camera, including That's So Raven, Ugly Betty, Franklin & Bash, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls, and more than a dozen installments of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Amusingly, Savage has helmed episodes of both The Goldbergs and Fresh Off the Boat, which play like an '80s- and '90s-set version of The Wonder Years, respectively. So while Hollywood may not want him in things as much anymore, it definitely wants him working on things.

The big screen was not hospitable to this small-screen star

Lots of stars who got their first taste of fame with a hit TV show have successfully transitioned to big-screen stardom — for example, Jennifer Aniston moved from Friends to the A-list, and the former Fresh Prince of Bel Air is now Will Smith, Oscar-nominated actor. Even some child stars of the small screen have gone on to light up the big screen, like Leonardo DiCaprio (Growing Pains) and Jason Bateman (Silver Spoons). Fred Savage wasn't able to replicate those successes. He appeared in varying-sized roles in varying-sized movies, but none launched him to name-above-the-title status. While his child-star era movies like Little Monsters, The Wizard, and The Princess Bride were well received, grown-up movies like The Rules of Attraction, Welcome to Mooseport, and The Last Run were not. Savage's most memorable movie moment came in Austin Powers in Goldmember as "Number Three," a.k.a., the guy with a gigantic mole on his face.

This sounds familiar

Savage will always be best known for The Wonder Years, a show narrated in voiceover by Daniel Stern playing the "grown up" version of his character Kevin Arnold. Ironically, Fred Savage grew up to be a very in-demand voiceover artist. Savage's longest-lasting post-Wonder Years TV show is Oswald, a 2001-03 Nick Jr. cartoon on which Savage voiced a friendly blue octopus living in a city full of other friendly animals. Since 2014, his gentle, dulcet tones have urged TV viewers to buy a Honda-brand automobile, and he's popped up on Justice League Unlimited, BoJack Horseman, Bob's Burgers, Robot Chicken, Kim Possible, and Generator Rex. 

Memorably, he cameoed on Family Guy as a version of himself, "the greatest actor in the history of the world," who created and secretly portrays many "characters," including Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Tony Danza, and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. That Savage just wants to act, and the real-life Savage, with voiceover work, is making that happen.

He was reduced to Working for Crumbs

Savage's Wonder Years success helped him land lead roles — and more mature ones — in several network sitcoms in the years after the show ended. In 1997, NBC widely publicized his return to series television in Working, a lightly satirical office comedy. Savage played an optimistic, just-out-of-college corporate ladder climber amidst an office full of goofballs. The show's ratings were good enough to earn a second season, but bad enough to force producers to revamp the show, writing out old characters, adding in new ones, and bringing in Savage's Wonder Years co-star Danica McKellar (forever Winnie Cooper) for a guest star arc. The changes didn't work for Working, and NBC terminated the show in the middle of its second season

Next, Savage headlined the cast of ABC's 2006 family comedy Crumbs, which also included Jane Curtin of Saturday Night Live and 3rd Rock from the Sun and William Devane of Knots Landing. Savage played a gay man (still a rare occurrence on TV in 2006) who moves back home to look after his mentally ill mother. Only five episodes aired before ABC pulled the plug.

America couldn't handle the Grind

The majority of TV shows don't make it past their first season, so Savage's failures didn't keep him from getting a few more chances...which also didn't pan out. In 2008, CBS ordered a pilot for a series called Single White Millionaire, written by Family Guy vet Ricky Biltt and starring Savage the title character, a financially successful guy who sets about cleaning up his messy personal life. CBS ultimately declined to turn the show into a regular series. At least Fox picked up his next series attempt, The Grinder. The clever 2015 sitcom was about an actor who played a TV lawyer (Rob Lowe) that moves back to his Idaho hometown and practices actual law with his uptight lawyer brother (Savage). Despite critical acclaim (it enjoys a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), not enough people watched it, and Fox grounded The Grinder after one season.

He doesn't look good in a suit

With the "Time's Up" and "Me Too" movements, Hollywood professionals are calling out bad behavior of all kinds, and those who treat others poorly on set may find that it affects their careers. Some symbolic doors could have slammed shut on Fred Savage after a crew member sued him and the studio that produced his show The Grinder, alleging assault, battery, and harassment. In the suit, costumer Youngjoo Hwang claimed that Savage created an "extremely hostile work environment" with his "aggressive behavior, intimidation, and constant use of profanities toward female employees." Hwang says that Savage even struck her on occasion. In her duties as a costumer, Hwang brushed some dandruff off of Savage's shoulder, which is when she says he exploded in rage and "violently struck" her three times in the arm. Fox representatives publicly defended Savage, and said that a "thorough investigation into these allegations" failed to turn up any evidence of bad behavior on his part.

It's a Wonder this stayed secret

A scandal dating to Fred Savage's Wonder Years years may also have prevented others from wanting to work with him. In 2018, Star (via RadarOnline) uncovered a lawsuit filed in 1993 by a Wonder Years costumer named Monique Long, who alleged that when she worked on the show in 1992, Savage, 16 at the time, tried to touch her inappropriately, relentlessly asked her out, and made multiple comments of a sexual nature, including begging her to sleep with him. Long says she sought assistance from Dan Lauria, Savage's TV dad, whom she claims told her to actually go for it — to be Savage's "first," as it were, even though that would be illegal (Long was 32 at the time). 

Long ultimately accepted an out-of-court settlement, but Alley Mills, Savage's TV mom on The Wonder Years, later claimed that the reason The Wonder Years was canceled in 1993 was because of that suit. "They wanted to avoid a scandal or something, but it made them look guilty," Mills told Yahoo! in 2018. "You know, you don't pay someone off when there was no crime, you just fire the girl."

Isn't it ironic, Fred Savage?

Elsewhere, Savage seemingly took a cue from his funny turn on Family Guy and is going the ironic, meta route. Seemingly accepting the fact that he'll never escape his perception as a famous former child star who can't disappear into roles, Savage has made it known that he wants to be in on the joke. He reprised his role of "Fred Savage" in the 2018 movie Super Troopers 2. His role is instrumental in the plot, which finds the inept cops of the original cult classic fired and working construction.

Also in 2018, Savage landed a major role in Once Upon a Deadpool. A PG-13 edit of the darkly comic (and self-aware) Deadpool 2, Savage appeared in newly shot sequences as the individual to whom Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) tells the events of the film. It's a re-creation and homage of Savage's scenes from The Princess Bride from 30 years earlier. In the summer of 2019, Savage returned to regular TV series work with What Just Happened??! with Fred Savage. One of the most high-concept and original network shows in recent history, What Just Happened??! was a parody of wrap-up and discussion "after-shows" like Talking Dead and Beyond Stranger Things — built around a TV show called The Flare... that doesn't actually exist. Alas, the innovative series first, short season brought in dismal ratings, so a second season isn't likely.

What's next for Fred Savage

More recently, Fred Savage's acting career has showed new signs of life. It would seem that the path forward for the former child star — apart from his behind-the-scenes work developing television shows and for-hire work as a TV director — is a two-pronged approach of ensemble work and self-deprecating nostalgia.

Turning his back on network projects in which he was the obvious star, Savage took a supporting role in the Netflix original series Friends from College. His role as literary agent Max Adler on the streaming comedy co-created by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) enabled him to play alongside comedy "cool kids" such as Keegan-Michael Key and Billy Eichner. The series was renewed for a second season in 2018, which proved also to be its last season, unfortunately. He's also continued to find work both behind a microphone (he was recently heard on American Dad, Bob's Burgers, and Robot Chicken)  and in front of a camera. He made an appearance on Modern Family, where he still occasionally directs, alongside helming jobs on The Conners, Single Parents, and black-ish. 

With an increased interest in lower-key projects and a healthy sense of humor, Savage is busier than ever — so don't be surprised if you see him on a screen near you soon.