Jeff Garlin, George Segal, Wendi McLendon-Covey
Break out your leg warmers and cassette tapes! The Goldbergs is taking you back to the '80s.
The new retro, Wonder Years-esque ABC comedy (premieresTuesday, 9/8c) follows the titular — and very loud — clan, headed by mom Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and dad Murray (Jeff Garlin), who puts the "fun" in dysfunctional — all while 11-year-old Adam (Sean Giambrone) films the family's exploits. Patton Oswalt narrates from the future as an adult Adam.
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At first glance, the series seems and sounds like every family sitcom and '80s cliché in the book: the gruff dad, the overprotective mom, the dorky kid, the horny grandfather (George Segal) and Cosby sweaters. But it's all real and based on the childhood of creator Adam F. Goldberg, who filmed his family as a kid. And if you don't believe him, he can — nay, he will — prove it to you. The end of the pilot features actual footage from Goldberg's home videos of his siblings and parents acting and screaming pretty much exactly the same way the fictional Goldbergs do.
"I definitely have videos to prove that things that happen on the show are real, and this is what my family was actually like," he tells TVGuide.com. "It's also been great creatively because ABC will be like, 'Oof. This is pretty crazy.' And I would go, 'Yeah. It's all true! Here's the proof.' And they'll go, 'Oh, great!' I think as long as it comes from a real place, hopefully people will notice that and appreciate it."
So what else is ahead as we go back to the future past, besides REO Speedwagon and The Karate Kid? Here are five things you need to know about the totally rad show.
1. It's a throwback family comedy.
And not just because it's set in the '80s. Goldberg says he was struck by how different parenting was back then after he became a father."Parenting is so different now, like helicopter-parenting and just all the PC stuff," he says. "My dad couldn't have parented the way he did [in the '80s] today. People would've been like, 'What is wrong with this guy?' But it was the norm back then for him to scream and call me a moron. Hopefully this is kind of family you haven't really seen in a while on TV and also on ABC especially. I don't know if they've done a show like this in a while."
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2. Goldberg encouraged some of the arguments that he filmed.
Hey, when you need material, you create it yourself. "The longer an argument went on, the better it was for me," he says. "We're doing an episode about a daddy-daughter day, so the end is just some of my dad's great parenting moments. One of them is me standing in front of the TV going, 'Is it annoying? Is it annoying?' And my dad just screams, 'You're aggravating me!' I was embarrassed giving the editors all this footage because I was like, 'Don't judge me.'"
3. Love is loud.
Though fights and disagreements are the Goldbergs' — real and faux — M.O., Goldberg hopes viewers realize that beneath all the shouting is a whole lot of love. "My best memories were being in the car driving home after we went to a restaurant and everybody screaming at each other and ganging up on one person. I would be laughing in the backseat so hard that I couldn't breathe," he says. "I loved it — the drama. Maybe as a creative person I wanted that."
The loudness was all Goldberg knew, he says, until he met his wife, who came from a quiet family, and he subsequently realized that there are "two kinds of families." "There's mine where you scream and yell, and there's no filter, and everyone says what they want, and five seconds later you get over it and move on and everything's fine," he says. "The other kind is everything is under the surface, where when there's a big fight, there's door-slamming and people don't speak to each other for a month. I think people equate fights with bad things, but that's not always the case. There's a lot of love in my family."
4. The truth is stranger than fiction.
Goldberg's childhood stories can basically be summed up as "too good to be true" and are just rife with possibility for comedic gold. "The way I'm pitching every episode, it's like, 'here's the real story and here's our version of it,'" he says. "I would say all the stories are real in some way, if not from me, then from one of the writers."
One future story line that is a true Goldberg tale is when his mom found out that his father repurposed an old engagement ring from his ex-fiancée and gave it to her because he didn't want to spend money to get a new one. But Goldberg decided not to include how the discovery actually went down. "My mom ended up sitting next to [the ex-fiancée] in a college class wearing the ring," he says. "She didn't even know that this girl next to her had the ring. They just happened to be sitting next to each other, and the girl recognized the ring. We didn't write that in because no one would believe it! "
As for his mom's recycled ring, Goldberg says, "My mom ended up losing it, and my dad bought her a new one."
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5. The '80s are a place where time stands still.
Don't expect The Goldbergs to pinpoint exactly when in the '80s it takes place. In the spirit of nostalgia, Goldberg chose to keep the time element as vague as possible. "What we realized in the [writers'] room telling these stories is that we have no idea when these things actually happened in the '80s," he says. "Our title sequence is popping in a video tape. It's basically you pop in a videotape and this is a memory. I just say every episode is set in 1980-something. To me, it's like, you don't remember that exact date; you just know it's the general time of the '80s when you were growing up. So we're not doing Mad Men, where it's like, 'We are in 1985 now.'"
The lack of a definitive timeline also frees the show up to reference iconic '80s products (like Reebok Pumps) and license music any time they want. But there might just come a day when Goldberg will have to specify the year. "If Adam goes to college, we'd probably go into the '90s," he says. "But that's a long time away!"
The Goldbergs premieres Tuesday at 9/8c on ABC.
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