The 80s is the most iconography-rich and recognisable decades in terms of artistic output. You can take almost any film, TV series or song from the 80s and anyone can tell you that it’s 80s. In 2013, a series started that wholeheartedly embraced this nostalgia and packed itself with the cheesy traits that made the 80s the 80s – while still being contemporary and accessible to an audience that weren’t even around to see that decade. This is, of course, The Goldbergs.
Finally getting a DVD release in the UK, The Goldbergs arrives in a box set comprising the first 2 seasons of the show. As a long-time fan of the show, it was strange to revisit the early episodes because the show has grown immensely in quality since it began – and actor Sean Giambrone has grown immensely in terms of his stature! But these first two seasons are very much worth watching if you haven’t already, and if you have – they certainly hold up to a revisit.
The Goldbergs follows the lives of the Goldberg family, inspired by creator Adam Goldberg’s real life. Adam (Sean Giambrone) is the youngest, constantly fighting his brother Barry (Troy Gentile) and sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia), whilst being smothered by his mother Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and ignored by his father Murray (Jeff Garlin). His only safe haven is with his fun grandfather, ‘Pops’ (George Segal). The series takes place in a nonspecific 80s setting – each episode’s opening narration remarks the year is ‘nineteen-eighty-something…’ - which allows for any 80s film, music, fashion, products or TV to be referenced with nostalgic passion at any given moment. And it really is as simple as that. Narratively, it’s a pretty straight-forward dysfunctional family sitcom about growing up, fitting in, love, life, family, and anything else you can think of. It’s the era setting - and some other little touches - that make it stand out.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the show, there’s one touch that wraps every episode up in a rather touching and fascinating way. We’re told early on in the show that Adam Goldberg was always the sort of guy who liked to film everything in his life with his clunky video camera. As each episode introduces new friends, or movies Adam makes, or family dinners – the episode ends with the real footage Adam shot back in the 80s. It’s often presented side-by-side with what you saw in the episode, and it’s stunning how well they recreate these moments. The real Adam, who created and also produces the show, continues into the show’s current season (4th) to take many steps to assure the show is accurate to his memories, with a stunning attention to detail. Some episodes take the nostalgia to new heights, such as framing a whole episode around an 80s film – the Ferris Bueller episode is a classic.
The entire cast are brilliant here – Sean Giambrone is initially quite irritating as Adam (sorry bud) but he’ll become your hero before you know it. Gentile is delightfully obnoxious as Barry, Orrantia is perfect as the relatable big sister, and McLendon-Covey and Garlin make a great pair of TV parents. Special mention should go to Segal who is a marvel as Pops. But the show is also full of excellent guest stars – Tim Meadows, Dan Fogler, Stephen Tobolowsky, David Koechner, and even Charlie Sheen shows up to reprise his role as the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off police station thug. Genius.
I’ll admit, The Goldbergs starts out slow. Put it this way – the pilot has an average score of 52% on Metacritic, but by Season 2, the show hit 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Like many modern comedy classics, it takes a while to grow on you - but once it has, you’ll love every minute of it. I know I do. Even the bad episodes are good.
The Goldbergs is great, easy fun. It’s a show that doesn’t appear particularly remarkable on the surface, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. It’s more than just a family sitcom, and it’s more than just a nostalgia fest. It’s one of the best comedy shows on TV today. The Goldbergs’ 4th season starts here in the UK in January, so now’s a perfect time to catch up. 4/5
The Goldbergs at CeX
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