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In an era where it is vogue for sitcoms to reflect a slice of life à la Modern Family, Mom and How I Met Your Mother, The Goldbergs changes tack. Debashine Thangevelo looks at how the series takes viewers on a nostalgic journey back to the ’80s in a similar vein to Everybody Hates Chris.
WHEN I was growing up, family shows like Growing Pains, Who’s The Boss, The Cosby Show and Family Ties were my staple entertainment diet.
But the social and technological landscape has evolved radically since then. This is the era where socialising is done via an outlet of high-tech gadgets across various platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Even families spend more time interacting via these mediums instead of actually chatting to one another. And this change is interwoven into the fabric of most sitcoms these days.
But The Goldbergs goes against the grain by transporting viewers back to the ‘80s where shoulder pads, bomber jackets and big hair were the rage. And, very similar to the tone of Everybody Hates Chris, it is based on the real-life experience of creator Adam F Goldberg.
The series is told via the eyes of Adam (Sean Giambrone), a nerdish eleven year old, who wanted to capture every crazy moment of his “wonder years”. Oh, and he has this major crush on an older woman.
His family comprises Beverly (Wendi McClendon-Covey) who embodies every frustrating trait of an overbearing mother; dad Murray (Jeff Garlin), who has an intimidating demeanour and is more bark than bite, so to speak.
While his 17-year-old sister Erica sends the testosterone levels of her admirers into overdrive, she is also one tough cookie; and his grandfather Al “Pops” Solomon (George Segal) proves to be quite a handful with his Don Juan-type roving eye.
McLendon Covey, who viewers will remember from Rules of Engagement and Bridesmaids, loves her smothering character.
In an interview with Zap2it, she laughed: “My mom was very overprotective. She wasn’t as spicy with her language as Beverly is, but she could shut down a question like nobody else. You know when you become a teenager and your mom tells you, you can’t do something – you then dare to ask why. My mum could shut that down like no one else… and guilt you into never asking another question.”
Having met the real Bev Goldberg, she shared: “She is a delight. She is an intense woman and is very proud of her boys. In real life, there are three boys and, of course, we changed Eric into Erica for the show. Within the first five minutes (of us meeting), she pretty much gave me the resumes of everyone in her family: cousins, in-laws… she was very proud of her family and that is what makes her tick. Everything is motivated by love and pride.”
The challenge for the actress, however, was to bring out the comedic element while also being mindful of not being disrespectful.
And she is loving being thrust into the ‘80s era, where parents snuck a peak at diaries instead of computer histories and cellphone messages.
The Goldbergs captures the parents at their stereotypical best, with all those teenage trimmings of those first school dances, sneaking off to parties and nursing crushes that consume them. And, let’s not forget about those humiliating moments with the parents.
This comedy goes to painstaking detail to capture moments that will resonate with everyone. And the resulting situations – and stand-off moments – become the breeding ground for unrelenting side-splitting humour.
The Goldbergs air on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Mondays at 6pm.