The Goldbergs: The Complete First Season DVD Review

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I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not the guy who watches a lot of TV. The Goldbergs isn’t something I’d even consider watching on my own time had this not been an assignment, and my tastes are more catered towards shows like Angel, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica (2004), and Arrow. Basically, I find premises based on the family dynamic to be boring unless somebody is a werewolf or the fate of the universe is at stake. When I do watch comedy I prefer reruns of Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, South Park, The Office (US and UK), and Parks and Recreation. My point is, The Goldbergs is definitely not the type of show I’d generally seek out when I’m looking for something to watch.

With that said, I watched all of Season One and my impressions on the show are a big fat ‘Meh’. Early on in the episodes I found myself absolutely despising the show and hating myself for volunteering to review something that was so far out of my comfort in taste but the show did start to grow on me. Was this because I was learning to like the characters a lot more? No, it was because the writing was improving, the actors were dialing their more extreme character quirks back, and the series was becoming more focused. The Goldbergs went from being intolerable to tolerable, and I applaud everyone involved for it.

The Goldbergs is a semi-autobiographical series created by Adam F. Goldberg set in the 1980’s. Every character in the family (and even some outside friends) are based on real people in Adam F. Goldberg’s life (with the exception of the fictional sister, Erica Goldberg)  and this concept is always reiterated at the end of every episode with home footage from The real Goldberg family’s home movies. These brief glimpses into the creator’s life are enjoyable and give us a sense that this is Adam F. Goldberg’s loving tribute to his family and upbringing. It was wise to keep the exact year these events take place vague so that continuity sticklers wouldn’t have anything to complain about. All you need to know is that it’s all happening some time during the 80’s and the spirit, fashion, music, and lingo evoke a feeling of nostalgia.

Let’s start with a critique on the characters first; at the center of the family is Murray Goldberg played by Curb Your Enthusiasm alumni Jeff Garland. Murray is introduced as being a gruff and angry patriarch who has a penchant for dropping trou immediately upon entering the sacred doors of his home. The dedication to keeping up with this visual gag is inspiring, and I enjoy it because, and I hope I’m not getting too much into my personal life, but I do the exact same thing. Murray is akin to Homer Simpson in a sense that he’s portrayed as a rageful idiot with a heart of gold who truly loves his family; however I think Jeff Garland plays the character a little bit too soft. He’s more of a nice guy and less of the nightmare our narrator (played by Patton Oswalt) hypes him up to be.

The cast highlights are Hayley Orrantia, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and George Segal

The cast highlights are Hayley Orrantia, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and George Segal

Wendi McLendon-Covey’s portrayal of Beverly Goldberg is the absolute highlight of the show for me. I’ve loved her since I stumbled across Reno 911! and she continues to do solid work in everything I’ve seen her in. She plays the Mother of the family with such brilliance and integrity that even the most outlandish character personalities come off as genuine. She’s an overprotective and overtly affectionate mother trying to cope with her kids growing up and seeking their independence. She’s such a delight to watch that when she’s on screen even the most insufferable aspects of The Goldbergs are immediately ignored.

With the most enjoyable aspect of the show covered we might as well dive straight into the least ones. Barry Goldberg played by Troy Gentile is absolutely grating and horrible. His character is the character equivalent of nails scraping a chalkboard or that awful feeling you get when the dentist is drilling your teeth. Everything from his voice, his whiny attitude, his unrealistic self-worth, and his haircut come off as extremely offensive. Words cannot properly convey the deep sense of dread I feel when his character is onscreen. I almost always breathe a sigh of relief when I watch an episode that barely features him. I’d love to tell you that I feel the same way when he leaves a scene but he usually runs in his trademark annoying fashion and I grit my teeth and suffer from chest pains; yes, the character is so bad I literally feel pain in my chest because I hate him so much. Adam, the main focus of the show played by Sean Giambrone, is almost as bad and obnoxious, but he’s a young actor playing a young character so that makes sense. Most kids are awkward and they just don’t have the whole ‘being funny’ thing down, so it’s excusable, besides he’s mostly just there to comment on his family and most of his ideas and thoughts are conveyed by the Narrator.

Barry (Troy Gentile) and Adam (Sean Giambrone) are terrible, but to their credit they do get more tolerable as the season progresses.

Barry (Troy Gentile) and Adam (Sean Giambrone) are terrible, but to their credit they do get more tolerable as the season progresses.

The last two cast members are Hayley Orrantia playing sister Erica, and George Segal playing a Grandfather/Mentor role as Albert ‘Pops’ Solomon. Erica is a very likable character that straddles the line between cliche’d and inventive; her penchant for wine coolers and popularity with boys sets her up to be a stereotypical slut but she thankfully breaks away from that trite television trope and aspires to be relatable. Her interaction with Jeff Garland’s Murray are always a pleasure to watch, and every scene she’s in with Barry and Adam even seems to make the two characters nearly human. I commend her for playing a rebellious teen girl without being a teen gone wild  retread of Laurie Foreman from That 70’s Show. Pops is another pleasant addition to the cast, he’s a womanizing perverted old man that doesn’t come off as creepy or malicious, but instead suave and respectful. George Segal plays the father of Wendi McLendon-Covey’s character and their character interactions provide some of my favorite moments from the series.

Some of the notable shenanigans the show goes into involve embarrassing school dances, an homage to The Goonies, sneaking into scary movies, Murray’s sin of re-gifting a wedding ring, sports, meeting a best friend, and a disastrous Halloween. These are not groundbreaking story lines, and even if they’re based on real life events they have been told in countless other sitcoms. The writing ranges from down-right-awful to passable; there are a few truly funny bits and some touching family moments, but again nothing that transcends the genre and brings us anything we haven’t seen a thousand times before, but there’s nothing wrong with doing something familiar. The show is intended to be a (mostly) family friendly show that you can shut your brain off for. Sometimes I feel that the characters are being too exaggerated into cartoon levels of horrific monstrosities (Barry and Adam), but admittedly in later episodes they do cut back and make them more human.

Best friends bond over Tron.

Best friends bond over Tron.

The DVD came with a few special features, but nothing noteworthy. Jeff Garland wanders around the set and nothing significant happens. There’s no cast or creator interviews that give more details into the real life basis for some of the episodes, but there are a few key episodes that feature commentary by various members of the cast and crew. There’s also a special feature on Patton Oswalt’s role as Narrator, but honestly he just looks bored and devoid of all energy and motivation so I’d just skip it. There’s also a feature called ‘Blast From the Past: Making Season One’ that has some interesting tidbits regarding the conception and execution of the series that’s actually pretty entertaining. Lastly, a feature dedicated to the costumes revealed that everything worn on the show is authentic to the 1980’s and some of Wendi McLendon-Covey’s ridiculous outfits are actually donated to the show by the real Beverly Goldberg.

Did I enjoy The Goldbergs? It had it’s moments, but overall I was not impressed and some aspects of the show were an absolute turn-off. If it wasn’t an assignment I would have never given it a chance past the first episode, but since I did I found more positive and fun aspects of the show that I’d never thought I’d get. If you’re in the mood for a solid family dynamic set in a period from the past go buy the seasons of The Wonder Years on DVD, but if you want to shut your brain off and watch something at least amusing with the kids grab a copy of The Goldbergs and try it out; for everyone else you’re not likely to find anything noteworthy. The Goldbergs: The Complete First Season  from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment arrives on DVD September 9th.

 

Cover Art for The Goldbergs: The Complete First Season

Cover Art for The Goldbergs: The Complete First Season available on DVD September 9th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

 

 

Anytime Costumes

One Response

  1. Brenda September 8, 2014 Reply

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