Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2013 Pilot Preview: "The Goldbergs"

“I think it’s great. ‘Cause all the cool guys in my grade have mom lockets. All of them.”

The Pilot Preview pickings are kind of slim this year (only two I can find so far), so I figured I’d start with a pilot that intrigued me, but isn’t a show I intend to blog regularly. It’s time to take a trip back to the totally tubular 80’s with “The Goldbergs.” Now I was born early enough in the 80’s to remember some of it, but I was a little younger than the characters in this show. When they start having 90’s nostalgia shows like this, that’s when I’ll start feeling even older than I do right now, a month away from age 30. That being said, I do enjoy good 80’s nostalgia now and then, and “The Goldbergs” did not disappoint on that front. The show follows the Goldberg family through the highs and lows of 80’s life in what appears to be suburban Philadelphia (one of the characters wears a Flyers jersey, and the license plate on the family station wagon looks to be an old school, blue on yellow PA tag like my mom’s car had when I was growing up). As a kid who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs in the 80’s and 90’s, I can most definitely approve of that.

The Goldbergs are a rather stereotypical sitcom family, really, probably by design. There’s overly-controlling mom Bev, and clueless, loud dad Murray. There are also three kids. The oldest is Erica, the middle is Barry, and the youngest, who is also the narrator, is Adam. There’s also the family patriarch, Bev’s father Albert, also known as “Pops.” None of these characters are especially deep. Bev’s a control freak, weaving an expert tapestry of guilt to make the rest of the family do exactly what she wants. Like I already said, Murray is mostly loud with a quick temper. He can be wise when he actually decides to put any effort into parenting. I guess that right there makes him the most developed character of the bunch. Erica is pretty much a non-entity other than standing around, looking annoyed, and spouting off vaguely teenage girl-y sentences of derision. Barry is basically a younger, stupider version of his father who really, really wants to learn to drive. Twelve-year-old Adam likes filming his family with an old-school VHS video camera (as I did myself as a kid) and boobs. Lots of boobs. Albert is also somewhat interesting. He’s getting older, but he still wants to drive a hot sports car and be a player.

The pilot pretty much uses Barry’s desire to drive as a framing device to explore how the kids are all growing up and how that affects their parents. Bev absolutely does not thing Barry is ready to drive, and Murray is rather noncommittal about it. Bev is so against Barry driving that she gives him a locket with her picture in it on his sixteenth birthday instead of a car. Murray agrees with Bev early in the episode, mostly just to keep her off his back, but his true opinion manifests itself as the episode progresses. Albert just got himself a new sports car, and he wants Barry to have his old car for Barry’s 16th birthday. Eventually, Murray is allowed to take Barry out for a driving lesson, and it ends in disaster. Barry holds up traffic, and when Murray wants to take over driving, Barry refuses to get out of the car. He still refuses to get out even when a tow truck tows the car away. The rest of the family arrives on the scene of the incident, and of course chaos ensues. Murray, Barry, and Adam all end up in jail for a short while over the whole thing. Eventually, however, Bev relents and starts giving Barry driving lessons herself. By the end of the episode, she’s sniffing the kids’ baby blankets, wondering how time went by so fast.

Albert is also wondering how time went by so fast, but in a different way. He takes young at heart to the extreme, with a packed dating schedule and the aforementioned new sports car. He runs into trouble when, while driving one day, he smashes into a greasy spoon take away place. Bev really wants to take away his keys right then and there. Albert is pretty devastated about it. Throughout the episode, we also see Albert take Adam to a diner. At the diner, Albert is trying to teach Adam how to flirt with the waitress. Albert has basically taken on the duties of teaching Adam about the birds and the bees. Adam, for his part, as I already mentioned, just seems to care about boobs. He really, really wants to try motorboating. Is this seriously what goes on in the mind of twelve-year-old boys? Please don’t spam the comments by all saying “YES!!!” at the same time. Anyway, Adam’s moves on the waitress are kind of all destroyed by Bev showing up at the diner. She didn’t realize Albert was taking Adam on these trips, and while she’s kind of disgusted by the flirting lesson, she’s happy that Albert and Adam have developed such a bond. Albert says that he doesn’t want his car back so he can go on dates. He wants his car back so he can keep taking Adam to the diner.

By the end of the episode, Albert and Adam are still going to the diner but somebody else is driving them, which is probably for the best. Barry is learning to drive, and Bev is wondering when her kids started growing up. This show is really like a cross between “The Wonder Years” and “A Christmas Story,” but with a little less depth. If the creative team can move out of the character stereotypes as the series progresses, I think that “The Goldbergs” shows some real promise. If not, then it might be worth a watch if you’re looking for some 80’s nostalgia. I don’t like to judge shows just on their pilot, since a pilot needs to accomplish so much, and most pilots don’t do that well. So I’ll definitely be giving “The Goldbergs” a several episode trial run once the season gets started.

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