The Arty Semite

'The Goldbergs' Disappoints With '80s Nostalgia

By Jana Banin

  • Print
  • Share Share

(JTA) — Some were psyched for the nostalgia of “The Goldbergs,” a new ABC sitcom about a boisterous, outspoken American family set in the 1980s.

But the September 24 premiere was a little too loaded with references to that neon-colored, big-haired decade — think REO Speedwagon, Sam Goody, hair crimping and rabbit tail key chains.

Courtesy ABC

Such period gags aside, early on it looks in many ways to be just another formulaic sitcom. There’s Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the clan’s overbearing mom; Murray (Jeff Garlin), her brash on the outside/soft on the inside husband; and their three kids. Erica (Hayley Orrantia) is pretty and she knows it, Barry (Troy Gentile) is high-strung and Adam (Sean Giambrone) is a precocious cutie pie who records the family’s histrionics on his clunky old-school video camera.

In typical family comedy fashion, they find one another incredibly frustrating, but underneath it all there’s lots and lots of love.

Folks have been comparing “The Goldbergs” to “The Wonder Years,” and with good reason. Both are time capsules containing family stories told from the innocent-yet-knowing perspective of their clans’ youngest members.

But even deeper in the archives is another comparison: The first incarnation of “The Goldbergs,” which premiered on the radio in 1929 and moved to television in 1949 for an eight-year run.

The modern version is not a remake of the original, which was the brainchild of writer-actress Gertrude Berg. The 2013 show is an autobiographical project from creator Adam Goldberg, who as a kid actually did videotape his family.

And, of course, what it means to be Jewish in America has changed drastically over the past few decades. The new Goldbergs live in the suburbs instead of a Bronx tenement. Mom and dad don’t speak with Eastern European accents or have a hard time reading English. And Pops, the eldest modern Goldberg, with his track suit and swinger talk, is a far cry from suspender-clad, Old World Uncle David.

Hollywood has changed, too. The original Goldbergs were among the first Jewish characters on television. Today our new friends are entering a landscape paved by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Ari Gold, Larry David, Kyle from “South Park” and, most recently, Larry Bloom from “Orange Is the New Black.”

At their core, though, the shows are quite similar. Neither is overtly Jewish — the title family name notwithstanding — and both explore the dynamics not of an average Jewish American family but of an average American family that also happens to be Jewish.

In this way, “The Goldbergs” redux is less like “The Wonder Years” and more like “The Cosby Show,” which showed much of the TV-watching public that just because a family comes from a different cultural background, they still fight, make up and wear bad sweaters.

It’s tempting to say that “The Goldbergs” is not nearly as groundbreaking or funny as “The Cosby Show” or “The Wonder Years.” Nor is it as important as the original. But after one episode, that really isn’t fair.

Hopefully as the season progresses, the show will handle its nostalgia impulse with a little more subtlety and the characters lose a lot of their caricature-like elements.

Watch a trailer for ‘The Goldbergs’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Goldbergs, Television

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.