Each week on the ABC original comedy The Goldbergs depicts the real life childhood of creator Adam F. Goldberg. Each episode is narrated by a present day character of Adam (Patton Oswalt) while the child character of Adam (Sean Giambrone) depicts a somewhat true event that happened in Goldberg’s life in the 80’s. Adam has always been an aspiring film director so each episode ends with a home video from the 80’s of the real Adam Goldberg or his family and friends doing something that was shown in that episode.
Making sure not to miss a single notable event of the 80’s the episodes usually begin with Adam saying “it was 1980 something”. This allows for there to be no continuity issues through the seasons allowing him to say things like Caddyshack was the big film this year or Dirty Dancing just came out all in the same season even though there is a 7 year difference between them. Before season 3 however the show was mostly just about The Goldberg family and the things a normal family may face. It was still good but there was nothing “80’s” about their lives except Beverly Goldberg’s (Wendi McLendon-Covey) hair and wild sweater choices. It wasn’t until season 3 where the use of pop-culture phenomenons where placed in episodes each week. Instead of drawing away from the storyline they added to them creating funny, outrageous situations around them, from Barry (Troy Gentile) dressing like Boy George to get his girlfriend back to Erica (Hayley Orrantia) working in the exciting world of a Spencer’s Gifts.
This doesn’t make the first 2 seasons any less enjoyable than season 3 and 4, just different. They focus more on viewers getting to know the characters and creating a bond with them so we actually care to know what is going on in their lives. Without these context filling seasons we wouldn’t understand the true extremes Bev would go to for her kids, or how over bearing she could really be, the unbelievably dumb things Barry the oldest son does, or why Murray Goldberg (Jeff Garlin) constantly calls his kids “morons”, nor would we understand Adams love of film or why Erica is such a moody older sister. Those seasons build important relationships between the family like that of Adam and Pops (George Segal), as well as romantic interest that carry through the more recent seasons.
Since most of the episodes are based on true events and people, there is a real sense of believably in the storylines. The characters feel like real people because they are, well except for a few changes to create depth like the character of Erica. The real life Adam doesn’t have an older sister, but rather an older brother named Eric. Making this character female instead a male makes it possible for the show to incorporate both the lives of teen boys in the 80’s as well as the lives of girls. Another unique thing about the show is that many of the real life people being depicted will appear in episodes as teachers and parents to their character’s counterparts.
The Goldbergs is a feel good family comedy. The setup is the same in each episode, there is a problem in one of the characters’ lives, the family tries to help (mostly Bev), the character rejects the help only to end up realizing how important their family is and letting them help. Even when language gets explicit (which is rare and only from Bev), it is all bleeped to the point that it is undecipherable but it adds to the humor. Having storylines ranging from Adam’s middle school life to Pop’s hitting on women far too young for him to teach Adam how to get girls, there is something for all ages to enjoy on The Goldbergs.