Nearly three decades after The Wonder Years first made its TV debut, actress Alley Mills is claiming that a “ridiculous” sexual harassment lawsuit is what brought the beloved ABC show to a sudden halt in 1993.
Mills, who played wholesome matriarch Norma Arnold in the Sixties-set teen drama, told Yahoo! Entertainment that a lawsuit brought about by her costumer, Monique Long, against her TV sons Fred Savage and Jason Hervey, ultimately led to the show’s cancellation after six seasons.
“When we shot the series finale … nobody knew whether or not The Wonder Years was going to be renewed,” Mills said. “And that’s because of a completely ridiculous sexual harassment suit that was going on against Fred Savage – who is, like, the least offensive, most wonderful, sweet human being that ever walked the face of the Earth.”
Long’s suit alleges that, Savage, then 16, and onscreen sibling Hervey, then 20, physically and verbally harassed her in ways ranging from repeatedly pestering her to go on dates (Savage) to making sexually suggestive remarks about her behavior in the bedroom (Hervey).
Long claimed that the alleged harassment prevented her from doing her job and caused her to be fired.
A female crew member told People back in 1993 that Long’s dismissal had nothing to do with sexual harassment. “She’d fall asleep, and we couldn’t find her when it was time to shoot a scene,” the crew member said. “Or she’d be in the bathroom, primping. We had problems with her from the beginning. She is not a team player.”
In response, Long’s attorney told People at the time that “the idea of Monique being tired for poor job performance is ridiculous,” noting that the costumer had tried several times to voice her concerns, but to no avail.
“I just thought [the lawsuit] was a big joke and it was going to blow over,” Mills told Yahoo. “It’s a little bit like what’s happening now – some innocent people can get caught up in this stuff; it’s very tricky. It was so not true.” (Mills cited a gag order that was imposed on the entire cast and crew as the reason the other side of the story never got out).
The lawsuit was ultimately dropped after an undisclosed out-of-court settlement, though Mills said she was angry about the way ABC handled the situation.
“I just thought this was a joke,” she said. “You know, they bought her off, which made me mad. That was incorrigible that the network did that; they should never have paid her off. They wanted to avoid a scandal or something, but it made them look guilty. You know, you don’t pay someone off when there was no crime, you just fire the girl.”