Why 'The Goldbergs' Is the Worst Thing To Happen to Television

New ABC Sitcom All References, No Humor

A Touch of Crass: George Segal is just one of the stars wasted on the ABC sitcom ‘The Goldbergs,’ which concerns a Jewish family in the 1980s.
ABC Television
A Touch of Crass: George Segal is just one of the stars wasted on the ABC sitcom ‘The Goldbergs,’ which concerns a Jewish family in the 1980s.

By Ezra Glinter

Published December 27, 2013, issue of December 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

I might be the worst possible audience for “The Goldbergs.” It’s not that I grew up in the ’90s, and the show — an ABC sitcom that just finished its first season — is all about the ’80s.

And it’s not that, having grown up without a TV, many of the show’s references would be lost on me regardless. It’s that I can’t stand the kind of nostalgia the show demands, whether I’m the target audience or not.

“The Goldbergs” is the creation of producer and writer Adam F. Goldberg, and it’s presented as a quasi-autobiographical reflection of his own family and childhood. The main character is 11-year-old Adam Goldberg (Sean Giambrone), an aspiring Spielberg who enjoys videotaping his family’s most embarrassing moments. The show also stars Wendi McLendon Covey (of “Reno 911!”) as Adam’s mother, Beverly; Jeff Garlin as his father, Murray; Troy Gentile as older brother Barry, and Hayley Orrantia as older sister Erica. Then there’s George Segal as the flamboyant, womanizing grandfather Albert Solomon, otherwise known as “Pops.”

Unfortunately, the cast’s talent is wasted on the worst tendencies of a network show. The plots are “family issue” day-olds, the characters are cardboard — Murray especially, with his loud-but-loving ways, is little more than a live-action Homer Simpson — and the jokes are hardly jokes at all. (The best one might be that Murray’s furniture store is called Ottoman Empire.) Despite Goldberg’s attempt to present the Goldbergs as a weird but lovable clan, they are entirely white-bread.

Bad as the show is, however, judging “The Goldbergs” by ordinary criteria misses the point. As a family sitcom about the ’80s, “The Goldbergs” recalls family sitcoms from the ’80s, like “Married With Children” or “The Cosby Show.” But “The Goldbergs” is not a pastiche of ’80s television, nor is it like “That ’70s Show” (or “That ‘80s Show”), whose teenage audience never experienced the decade in question.

Instead, “The Goldbergs” is for people who remember the ’80s, but who now expect something more sophisticated from a sitcom. Thus, with an “Arrested Development”-like narrator (Patton Oswalt, as the grown-up Adam Goldberg), a single-camera set-up, and the absence of a laugh track, “The Goldbergs” isn’t a look at the sitcom through the lens of the 1980s, but a look at the ’80s through the lens of a 2013 sitcom. In this case, unfortunately, that means a heap of phony nostalgia.


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!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • 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?
  • 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.