Sure we expected a lot of nostalgic references to the 80’s as the show predictably started with a quick look back at some snippets of what the era was known for.
There was Alf, the Karate Kid, E.T., MTV, break dancing and of course, timeless 80’s music.
But Adam Goldberg’s new sitcom which premiered on ABC last night, “The Goldbergs”, a series devoted to depict Goldberg’s own personal narration (more of a reenactment) of his life as a scrawny, coming-of-age-wannabe, camera-wielding sixth grader living with his “special” family back in the 80’s – the era most of us fondly refer to as our generation’s “playground” - is a little bit different.
The story revolves around the Goldbergs, a working class family composed of dad Murray (Jeff Garlin), mom Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey), teenage kids Barry (Troy Gentile) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia), Grand Pops (George Segal) and little Adam (Sean Giambrone).
The setting is 1985 in what seemed like a typical suburb in America.
“The Circle of Driving”
Last night’s episode centered on Barry who celebrated his 16th birthday with more frowns than smiles throughout the day because his loving yet overprotective mother decided her irresponsible son deserved a silver locket with her picture in it for a birthday present instead of a car.
To make the story short, Dad Murray and groovy Grand Pops didn’t agree with Mom Beverly. So Barry got his chance to drive the family car with his hypertensive dad and little brother, drove like a spoiled turtle and ended up disappointing everybody including the long line of drivers stuck behind them with his poor driving skills and bratty attitude. Car got towed, Dad stuck with Barry and both bonded in the end with the help of REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” playing in the tape deck.
In the meantime, the rest of the family’s individual drama unfolded within the half hour program but everything ended well in their own time – well, until first time driver Barry (“I raised a moron”) slammed his birthday present (finally, a new car with the blessings of his teary-eyed mom) in the family’s closed garage door at the end of the episode.
Watch without the kids
The Goldbergs’ constant yelling and unconventional expression of frustrations and love for each other may not be ideal to be viewed by today’s younger kids but that’s okay, it’s a school night and it’s past the kids’ bedtime. Remember, the show’s target audience, more than likely, are the new grown-ups – the 80’s kids who are now in their early 30’s to their early 50’s, probably experiencing some form of mid-life crisis or bites of nostalgia and wanting to indulge in the past.
“The Wonder Years” comes back repackaged
The show’s approach is reminiscent of the 90’s cult film “Dazed and Confused” set in the 70’s depicting one day in the life of small town high school students in which Goldberg played the role of the nerdy Mike Newhouse. It also brings back more than a little bit of “The Wonder Years”, an 80’s dramedy depicting the story of the Arnolds set in the 60’s to the early 70’s as seen in the eyes of the little boy in the family, Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage).
While the Goldbergs’ story was narrated by the grown up Adam (voice of Patton Oswalt), the Arnolds’ story was narrated by the grown up Kevin (Daniel Stern).
So what’s so different about “The Goldbergs”?
The Gen X perspective.
“The Goldbergs” exhibited everything that we expected in a throwback show – fashion, lingo, lifestyles and environment custom-fit to recreate the era just like any other retro shows produced in the past.
We got that.
However, “The Goldbergs” is an 80’s show that is being shown in 2013. The 80’s kids watching this TV program are now adults and probably viewing the show from a whole different perspective.
We are Generation X
A good chunk of our generation, the so-called MTV kids or the “slackers” of the 80’s and the 90’s, may now be parents themselves raising children who may resemble the Goldberg kids in some way. Therefore, although we may be seeing a bit of ourselves in Adam, Barry or Erica when we were younger, some of us may also be seeing a bit of ourselves in Murray and Beverly as parents or would-be parents.
Perhaps, that is what makes the whole experience a little bit more profound and appealing.
“The Goldbergs” may be a trip down memory lane of what had been but it could also be a glimpse of what is now or what may be in the future.
Just like the sitcom is made out of not only a whole bunch of laughs and guffaws from the familiar and silly retro flashbacks from our younger days but also of lump-in-the-throat moments especially when Beverly was crying in her garden while smelling her kids’ baby blankets and when Murray and Barry poignantly sang and shared the REO Speedwagon classic on their way home - probably two of the most insightful scenes that could move us.
Suddenly, it’s not that difficult to revisit those awesome bonding moments we’ve shared with our folks back in the day and at the same time, wonder if our own little ones will share the same moments with us when they finally “come of age”.
Well, maybe not with a song playing from a tape deck anymore.
Maybe our song would stream from something less outdated like an MP3 player or a downloadable music tool from the web.
These days, with smart phones easily scanning your fingerprints at the touch of the screen, you just never know how this upcoming breed of technology savvy kids will one day define the concept of “retro”.
“The Goldbergs” airs on ABC on Tuesdays at 9pm EST.