Welcome to another installment of “5 Questions and 500 Words,” The Boob Tube Dude’s approach this year to reviewing the sundry pilots that will be unspooling over the course of the next few weeks. Given the glut of shows, and the glut of reviews that will be published for these shows, I’m keeping things short and sweet. This is for your convenience and my sanity.
“The Goldbergs” premieres at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday (Sept. 24) on ABC.
I’m old enough to remember watching “The Wonder Years.” Is this going to make me want to punch things?
Absolutely not, since comparing the two shows really does a disservice to both. They might sound like similar entities, separated only by the decades depicted therein. Sure, setting this show in the 1980’s means audience members my age will get that Buzzfeed-esque rush of “Ooooh, I remember that thing from that time!” But “The Wonder Years” was quirky, somber, and sad atop simply being a warm family comedy.
So what does “The Goldbergs” insert to replace “quirky, somber, and sad”?
Yelling. So. Much. Yelling. The word “subtle” never really enters into the equation here, but again, that’s not an inherently bad thing. It just means this show is as loud as the clothing on display. This show doesn’t want to garner your attention so much as grab you by the throat and scream, “LOVE ME, DAMMIT.”
So, I should totally skip this?
Whoa, slow down. Let’s not go that far. For one thing, “The Goldbergs” fits into ABC’s slew of family-centric comedies so effortlessly you’d think it was designed in a Paul Lee-approved lab. In terms of branding, few networks do as well as ABC does with its comedies in terms of providing a cohesive vision for a certain type of programming. “The Goldbergs” doesn’t do it with the proficiency of “Modern Family” or the pathos in the very best episodes of “Suburgatory.” But it does offer easy-to-understand archetypes filled in by able actors who understand the type of show this is.
If there’s a show I could use as a reference, what would that be?
Think of this as an ’80s version of “The Middle” and you wouldn’t be that far off. In particular, middle child Barry (played by the almost impossibly named Troy Gentile) might be the breakout character Sue Heck has somehow never become. On top of that, the pilot does no favors to anyone involved (it establishes certain stereotypes that will be undone as the series progresses), but it gives parents Beverly and Murray (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jeff Garlin) a few hints as to how they could be three-dimensional figures down the line.
I am not a child of the ’80s, and think “Come On, Eileen” is terrible. Will I like this?
First of all, don’t diss Dexy’s Midnight Runners again, or we’ll have words. Second, it all depends on how much “The Goldbergs” relies on “this is funny because it’s a thing from the 1980s!” as a way to garner laughs. A few nods here and there are fine, and certainly welcome. But it has to nail the family dynamic first, and then get to the iconography so lovingly worshipped on VH1 specials later. ABC has better comedies in its lineup (including “Goldbergs” lead-out “Trophy Wife”), but is placing its faith in this show by giving it the post-“Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD” slot. There’s potential for growth here. Let’s hope the show can achieve it.