In April 1986 I was finally old enough to get my driver’s permit; somewhat uncommon for the time, my mother took an active role in teaching me to drive. On our very first outing we started with driving around the block, this went so well that she directed me to drive downtown and then back up the big hill and past my aunt and uncle’s house and then on past our local mall and take a right onto the main thoroughfare and finally I would take a left across traffic to get home. It is this left turn across traffic that had me worried; our small town had few turn lanes which meant I would have to time things just right.
As we approached the intersection the light was red, and my mother instructed me, “When the light turns green remain calm, inch forward, wait for your chance and then hit the gas, don’t worry about what other drivers are doing just listen to me, I will guide you.” The light turned green and I inched forward, being a bit timid I was waiting for a large gap between oncoming traffic, as the light turned yellow the cars behind me began to honk, it was in this moment my mother proved both her affection for me and her temerity; she told me, “Wait just a second” and proceeded to get out of the car, cross behind me and with fists clenched, she shouted at a level of volume which belied her relatively small stature, “SHUT UP MY SON IS LEARNING HOW TO DRIVE!!!!!!!” The honking immediately ceased! She got back in, buckled up and then in the same calm voice as before said, “Now, when the light turns green remain calm, inch forward, wait for your chance and then hit the gas, don’t worry about what other drivers are doing just listen to me, I will guide you.
It’s just this kind of wonderful, crazy nostalgia that Adam F. Goldberg brings to mind in his new series, The Goldbergs. Based on the countless hours of video shot by Goldberg during his adolescence, the series follows his family as they navigate life in the 80’s. There’s overbearing “smother” Beverly (Wendy McLendon-Covey), dad Murray (Jeff Garlin), who just wants to be left alone, likes to yell, loves his family and has apparently had more than one heart attack, and then there are the Goldberg children; 17-year-old Erica (Hayley Orrantia), Barry whose sixteenth birthday is the subject of the pilot episode (Troy Gentile), and 11-year-old Adam who always has a video camera resting on his shoulder (Sean Giambrone). As a comedy bonus there is cool, Trans-AM driving grandpa Pops (George Segal). The story is narrated by Patton Oswalt.
The pace of the show is pretty quick; in the roughly twenty-two minutes of the first episode, Pops gets into an accident, Murray fails miserably at giving Barry his first driving lesson, Beverly yells at a police officer for arresting her father and boys, Pops and Adam go for waffles twice, and have the chance to talk about the important things in life (Pops is doling out his wisdom on wooing women to young Adam), Beverly then frustrates Adam causing him to humiliate himself in front of the object of his affection, Murray and Barry bond over REO Speedwagon and there is a final, sweet moment in which the parents sit on long unused swings in their back yard, smelling the children’s baby blankets. Woven through this action is a lot of comedy, and a lot of yelling; some may be turned off by all the yelling, but I think it is rather funny, and quite frankly, real life.
I highly recommend this new series. The acting is spot on; Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jeff Garlin just flat get it right, they play, with honesty and humor, middle aged people who love each other, love their kids, and are scared both by the prospect of losing their children as they grow up and having to make tough decisions for Pops as he gets older. Oh, and George Segal is perfect in his role as the cool grandpa. In addition to the fine acting, the story telling is genuinely funny, and the fact that the outrageous events are at least somewhat based in reality makes it even better. Perhaps, most importantly, Generation X finally gets a show based on the era in which we grew up. With Baby Boomers sucking up most of our air for most of our lives and the younger crowd with their Twitter and Facebook plastered everywhere, Generation Xers sometimes get lost in the cultural shuffle. My advice? Watch The Goldbergs, it’s funny; and if you, like me, are a Generation Xer enjoy the 80’s references because this and Grosse Pointe Blank may be all we get.
– John Morton