The Goldbergs: TV review
This new retro family sitcom needs to take a chill pill.
It take a certain amount of moxy to think that your family is interesting enough to build sitcom around, but that exactly what Adam F. Goldberg has done, right down to preserving his own name. The closing credits of the pilot episode of The Goldbergs even includes comparative home-video footage of the creator's parents and sibling, as if trying to prove that yes, in fact, these cartoon characters you just watched are real people. Still, just because something's honest, doesn't mean it's going to make for good television.
The Goldberg family is wacky bunch. That's one of the things you'll learn quickly in the pilot. They're wacky and they're loud. Adam (Sean Giambrone), the youngest, has a tendency to follow everyone around with a camcorder that's so humongous it looks like he barely carry it. This quirk is met with much yelling from his family members to stop filming them. Murray Goldberg (Jeff Garlin), the resident patriarch, is perhaps the loudest of the bunch, prone to chastising his family in ways that simultaneously profess his affection and frustration with their behavior. Second to him is middle brother Barry (Troy Gentile), who's so cartoonishly high-strung he may have a heart attack before graduating from high school. The ladies of the Goldberg clan, mother Beverly (Wendi McClendon-Covey) and big sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia), are just big fat stereotypes: Beverly smothers her children and Erica is a teenage girl who talks on the phone a lot. And then there's Pops (George Segal), Beverly's father, who has fun undermining his daughter's parenting choices by giving Adam advice about girls and gifting Barry a car for his 16th birthday.
In a move reminiscent of The Wonder Years, The Goldbergs is set in the 1980s and narrated by older Adam that's voiced by Patton Oswalt. This adds little to the show. There are some parallels between the loud, boisterous personality of '80s culture and the exuberant family at the center of this sitcom. Mostly, the show appears to be set in the past because it's a semi-autobiographical representation of the real Adam F. Goldberg's family and that's when he grew up. The series doesn't really use it to a storytelling advantage.
The comedic talents of the adult cast of The Goldbergs are undeniable and they're all clearly enjoying screaming punchlines at each other, though the younger members of the ensemble don't fare quite as well, coming off as caricatures more than real people. The joys of watching Garlin, McClendon-Covey and Segal snark at each other make the show an amusing comedy. However, this intense level of energy, where everyone communicates by yelling over each other, is fairly exhausting.