by Tierney Bricker | Tue., Sep. 24, 2013 12:40 PM
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing.
"The world was still small: No cellphones, Internet or Twitter," The voiceover (What up, Patton Oswalt, a Twitter favorite ironically enough) for ABC's new '80s-set sitcom The Goldbergs says in the beginning of the series premiere. "Your friends lived on your street and your family were the people at your dinner table." And that's the focus of The Goldbergs: One dysfunctional family in the '80s filled with lovable and loud characters, whose hearts are as big as their hair. But does the series feel like a parody of life in the '80s rather than a modern sitcom?
To help you decide which of the many new series debuting this fall are worth your time, we're reviewing all of the five network's newbies, and we've got gathered up everything you need to know about The Goldbergs, ABC's trip back to the '80s...
The Goldbergs (ABC)
Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 9 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), New Girl (FOX), Supernatural (The CW), The Voice (NBC)
Cast: Jeff Garlin, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Sean Giambrone, Hayley Orrantia, Troy Gentile and George Segal
Status: We've seen the pilot episode
Before we really dive into this review, let's meet the family, shall we? At the center of the family is Adam (Giambrone), who records his entire childhood (similar to series creator Adam F. Goldberg, who based the show on his family, in case you didn't get that from the title); Murray (a boisterously hilarious Garlin, using his patented scream-comedy to great effect), the outspoken father who's tendency to yell has caused him to suffer a heart attack or two; overbearing and affectionate mom Beverly (standout Bridesmaids star McLendon-Covey), who forces her son to wear his sister's jeans by saying, "One day I won't be here to dress you"; your stereotypical teen girl Erica (Hayley Orrantia), Adam's sister who is the perfect blend of a John Hughes heroine and villainess; Barry (Gentile), the standard middle child who constantly feels misunderstood (only Flava Fav gets him) and embarrassed, and finally, grandfather Pops Solomon (Segal), who is "80 years of pure awesome" and teaches young Adam how to flirt.
Now that we've introduced them, we're going to tell you right now that we love this family. The pilot perfectly sets up the dysfunctional family dynamics, while highlighting the love between all the family members as well. They might not like each other all the time, but they do love each other. McLendon-Covey steals the episode as manipulative, smothering and well-meaning mama Goldberg, who likes to smell her children's old baby blankets when she's sad and gives her son a locket with her picture in it for his birthday, threatening to throw it in the trash when he doesn't like it. She's obnoxious and smothering, but she's also the heart of the show.
As for the show itself: It's like Modern Family mixed with A Christmas Story (thanks to adult Adam's voiceovers), a perfect blend of sentimentality and nostalgia.
But is the nostalgia too much? Well, there are a lot of '80s references: "Sexiest Man Alive" Burt Reynolds is referenced, Simon Says is played, REO Speedwagon is rocked out to, Jazzercise is performed and the clothes are really, really heinous. But The Goldbergs doesn't feel like a Halloween costume of a series, it's authentic, thanks to the cast and writing. But we do hope the '80s nods play less of a role moving forward.
Also a slight concern for us is the scale tipping to heavily to the side of sentimentality. While Modern Family's sentimentality always crept up from behind and surprised you in the beginning, we can now see the emotional manipulation coming from a mile away. With a comedy, we want the tears to sneak up on us, which they did while watching The Goldbergs, thanks to the dynamic between Adam and Pops, who is coming to terms with the fact that his body just isn't as young as his spirit anymore. (We were super-close to our grandparents, OK?!) But right now, it seems The Goldbergs has found that delicate, sweet spot between slightly cheesy and highly effective.
Verdict: DVR it. While we totally adore what we've seen from the series thus far, this timeslot is a warzone.
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