Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Goldbergs Series Premiere Review: "Pilot" - A Blast from the Past

"The Goldbergs" is not ABC's best new comedy, but it's decent.
I feel safe in saying that I’m probably one of fewer than 1,000 people in this country who have seen every episode of Adam Goldberg’s last series Breaking In.  It’s not that the show was watched by that few people (though the numbers weren’t great); it’s just that the show’s second season was pulled after only five episodes aired and the remaining eight have, by all accounts, never aired outside of Portugal.  No Netflix, no Hulu, no Amazon, no DVDs, nothing.  Of course, thanks to the magic of the internet, nothing is truly lost forever anymore, and so I managed to get my hands on the remaining eight episodes of a show that, while never really good, managed to make me laugh and also do some interesting things, including what was basically a season-long homage to geek culture.

I tell you that to let you know that I have a particular affinity for Adam Goldberg.  I get his humor and share his affinity for pop culture, so I’m probably more disposed to liking The Goldbergs than your average person.  That all said, The Goldbergs is a much more accessible, much funnier, and much better show than Breaking In ever was, and I could legitimately see it becoming my favorite new comedy this year.

There is definitely a strong The Wonder Years vibe to The Goldbergs.  There’s a voiceover from the future (narrated by Patton Oswalt instead of Daniel Stern).  The nominal lead is in his early teens, there’s a less-intelligent older brother, the sister about to head off to college, the gruff but lovable father, and the slightly wacky mother.  Having just rewatched The Wonder Years pilot this summer, I’m fully comfortable saying that show was both better and more ambitious.  It was also much quieter, more dramatic, and more subtle.  The Goldbergs is the The Wonder Years crossed with Malcolm in the Middle, which is to say there’s a lot of yelling.

Judging comedies by their pilots is often a fools’ errand, as so much time is spent establishing characters and plots that shows often forget to be, well, funny.  One thing that struck me quite a bit about The Goldbergs is that I laughed.  And I wasn’t just laughing at obvious jokes and shenanigans, but I was laughing with the characters and their situations.  There’s a running gag throughout the pilot about father Murray (Jeff Garlin) and his inability to express his emotions verbally.  Yes, it could be a lazy stereotype, but the way his “Dad Translator” is used and the timing with which it is employed gave me a chuckle pretty much every time.

What surprised me the most about the pilot was how little Sean Giambrone was used as Adam.  It was probably just a matter of my incorrect expectations, but I expected the Adam Goldberg character to have more of a role in the show created by Adam Goldberg.  Again, that’s a problem of my expectations more than the show, because the pilot’s plot, which revolves largely around older son Barry’s (Troy Gentile) attempt to get his driver’s license is, while cliched, very charming as well.  It's probable that since Goldberg was always videotaping his family's life, he sees himself as the objective observer of all their shenanigans.  But the pilot's story brings in the entire family and really serves nicely to flesh out all the characters.

I don’t know that The Goldbergs is really trying anything new, but I like the characters and it made me laugh which, like I said, is really about all you can realistically ask of a comedy pilot. 

The Goldbergs debuts Tuesday night at 8:00pm CST.

A couple of spare thoughts –

There’s a great tag at the end, where Goldberg shows home video footage of his family that he took as a child, including a scene that he took straight from real life. 

Wendy McLendon Covey’s mother, Beverly, is really over the top and could easily become my least favorite character very quickly.  Hopefully she is toned down in coming weeks.

“He’s too old for you.  He’s in college.”  “Wrong, he dropped out to start a band.  Don’t you feel stupid?”

“I agree with whatever nonsense your mother just said.”

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV

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