waynepygram.com: The Goldbergs Mini-Reviewed: 1990-something [sic, in case people pester me that the s should be capitalized] (S5Exx - yeah, don't worry we'll get to explaining that too)

waynepygram.com: The Goldbergs Mini-Reviewed: 1990-something [sic, in case people pester me that the s should be capitalized] (S5Exx - yeah, don't worry we'll get to explaining that too)

If everybody gets a trophy how will the winners know who's faces to rub it in?

What is it? 24-minute-ish (sans commercial breaks) single-cam family sitcom, but moreover a "backdoor pilot" to a new spinoff, hence why it doesn't officially have a Goldbergs episode production number, at least as listed by my service provider's digital programming guide.
Where did it air? ABC
Who stars in it? By perhaps a staggering margin the most recognizable names are going to be Tim Meadows along with Bryan Callen reprising their usual Goldbergs recurring roles along with Octavia Spencer, with Meadows getting to be the headlining star in this one (more than a bit overdue, really) and Spencer taking over from Patton Oswalt's disembodied voiceover from the parent series in this one (incidentally this is nearly the second thing in a row we've reviewed with Octavia Spencer in it). Our usual readership will also likely recognize Rachel Crow who was a regular on...uhhhh...let it come to me, I know the name of it...ugh, some Nickelodeon show from like half a decade ago when I just started watching the network (Big Time Rush? Nah, that already had Ciara Bravo in it) as well as Invisible Sister. Nia Long also plays Crow's mom/Meadow's sister.
Why are we reviewing this? Well...I'm a fan of the Goldbergs and...it's got Rachel Crow in it?

Speaking of which...man, Rachel Crow is not a bad actress by any means but I'm wondering if she's the kiss of death. Or rather if she just has a lot of bad luck.

First of all let's start with her Nickelodeon show which was...FRED?!?! REALLY? ...well, ummm...wow. I guess that speaks for itself. Sorry, Rachel.

Then there's Invisible Sister, which I also think speaks for itself and now we get to...here.

I mean, the actors are fine. Rachel's pretty excellent in it. In the few times I mentioned him I think I've made it clear I'm a huge Tim Meadows fan, and he was freakin' awesome in this. 

But....

They say great actors can save a show. Well, that's not true all the time. Sometimes the material just doesn't work.

First of all there's the 90s setting which, despite what Octavia Spencer says is not the greatest decade ever (at least not the first half). Trust me, I know, I actually lived through it. I'm freakin' 32 years old. I was born in 1985, the same year as both Eddie Hwuang's character on Fresh off the Boat (which takes place in roughly the same time period, or at least the back half of the 1990s) and quite possibly Rachel's character Felicia. I'm old enough to have an alcoholic ex-fiancee, for God's sakes. But I'm not here to wax anti-nostalgic, but rather that the series shows off one of its weaknesses right off the bat by diving into some of the most Flanderized cultural tropes that usually pop up from the 90s. I know this is the whole schtick of The Goldbergs in the first place, but 1.) 1990s-something makes even Fresh Off the Boat look like a realistic documentary and 2.) ...the issue is that 80s cultural stereotypes are quite frankly awesome, and 90s ones...just suck.

The episode itself puts one of those tropes front and center - the whole "softening" of the culture as a whole that, again believe me, was a real hot topic of the 90s (Rush Limbaugh couldn't shut his big fat blowhole about it, or in other words nothing's changed in the last 25 years). The idea of participation ribbons and "everyone's a winner." This whole debate of opposing ideas around the value of such extreme inclusion...was tiring back when I actually had to fucking live through that shit, and it's tiring now when, again we're still living through that shit. I'm not validating or invalidating the idea of participation ribbons or "everyone's a winner" philosophy either way - as a solid product of the 90s, I'm...just not sure which approach is right, especially given how both the school systems I went through actually were pretty big believers and practitioners of that kind of philosophy, and at the same time my parents fought tooth and nail to counteract it with their right-wing brainwash/hogwash, to the point where I think I just ended up absorbing the worst of both - hence why Eddie Hwang is a successful Asian Pacific Islander rap star and I'm an Asian Pacific Islander...guy who blogs about tween shows on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel and am desperately scrambling to find a job within the next less-than-a-week despite being the same age.

But my point being, is that it's extremely poor joke material. Also I don't care how much fun Rachel Crow's having watching those kids get beamed with dodgeballs was horrible.

But even that aside...there's something that just pales compared to the parent show. I think it was the moment when the band - I want to make this clear, specifically, the marching band - joined in with Meadows and Callen on the Backstreat Boys beat. If it had just been them two, I think it would've been pretty decent comedy - but throwing the marching band in? Literally at that moment I realized, this show had jumped the shark, 20 minutes into its freakin' pilot.

Again, a part of me wants to force this show to succeed just because of Meadows and Crow but.....ugh.

Episode Grade: C-. 
Episode MVP: Tim Meadows in what I confidently feel is one of the most definitive cases of MVP we've ever had on this blog. As it should perhaps be expected from him, he absolutely carried virtually 100% of the comedy scenes. Almost every time he spoke, I laughed, heartedly. Whoever's giving him his lines knows how to write them, but he sure knows how to deliver them.

Extra Thoughts

 - I know this episode was a bit controversial given how ABC sat on it and looked as if they were going to just keep sitting on it, as is what happens with the vast majority of TV pilots, and...well I can see why they sat on it for a while.

 - Unrelated to Goldbergs but I'm watching KC Undercover as I'm writing this and I can't believe KC threw her best friend Marissa in jail, literally, just to save her own butt, wow.









It's a good thing you reviewed this because the episode would have just collected dust on my DVR.

Before Nick at Nite picked up the show, I had never watched a single minute of The Goldbergs. I remember going to school a few years ago and seeing subway advertisements for the show. I thought to myself, "What is this garbage?" Watching current network sitcoms didn't cross my mind. That's why if I had changed the channel last summer after Monday Night RAW, I would have never become a fan of Modern Family.

But this turned out to be a really good show. The fact that the show is based in the 1980s means that they can use whatever cultural references they want from that decade without coming off as random and unnecessary. You know, like Family Guy or something. Plus, even though they do write stories based on 1980s events, the events are usually just the backdrop for character-centered situations. I feel like The Goldbergs would still work without the 1980s concept because Adam and Barry come off as fully realized characters. And it does help because this show is just a way for us all to see what Adam F. Goldberg's life was like in the 1980s, but you still have to make these fictional versions entertaining and meaningful. This isn't the best version of a period show that I have ever seen (Everybody Hates Chris) but I understand why it exists and why it has a fan base. Plus, I could never hate a show that gave Rowan Blanchard work.

This show seems like something that won't last long. I don't know what you can say about the 1990s that anyone else hasn't. I feel like the pilot episode was more about getting a whole bunch of decade-specific references in there than trying to move the story along. I feel like it would help the show a lot more if they focus on the characters first and the gimmick second. Especially since 90s nostalgia is at its peak right now. If this was one episode where we see life in the 1990s for the Goldbergs, that would have been a much more interesting premise. But I wonder how much mileage they'll get out of doing the same thing with different characters, and they're already at a disadvantage by going after the decade that everyone goes after.

I liked Tim Meadows in Mean Girls, so it has nothing to do with him. I already feel like the casting was done well because Rachel Crow and Summer Parker already feel like their characters. And when The Goldbergs eventually ends, at least it will have a successor. But the writing will definitely have to go beyond "We're in the nineties now" in order for the show to have some longevity. 

It's kind of funny that you brought up the story of how you came to end up enjoying The Goldbergs by not changing the channel, since a similar story is how I came to watch Disney Channel (and Nickelodeon) myself in the first place. Before that network comedies were the exclusive comedies I watched. I don't think I even bothered to watch many comedies on cable (other than the super-high profile ones on premium for example or the ones on Freeform which...let's face it is Disney Channel for old teens, I can't really think of any off the top of my head). Oh wait I used to watch [adult swim] of course.

But I definitely agree with you on Goldbergs (especially on "anything that keeps Rowan on television") and...I think you did a better job hitting on how 1990-something failed better than I did. I didn't really have a good grasp on what was going on (or rather, the lack of it) until you pointed it out. The Goldbergs is effectively a sitcom about a family trapped in a world of 80s cultural and entertainment tropes. 1990-something is the sitcom equivalent of a brochure on 90s cultural and entertainment tropes. 


We both agree that Meadows carried his material and the rest of the show but...I just don't know what to say about everything else. Not everybody can be Tim Meadows. You can't just cast a bunch of Tim Meadowses (Team Meadows?) and expect them to carry anything and everything because Tim Meadows is pretty much one guy out of, like, a billion. Even if you scour the world, congratulations you've got a team of at the absolute most about seven guys. Even with someone like say Nia Long, she's got to have some material to work with. And I'll even roll back what I just said, Tim Meadows in a way lucked out because they gave him material to work with. They know both the actor and the character and they know how to work with him - and I also take back what I said about Nia Long because she absolutely carried what she had to work with and her scenes and the rest of the show too. If there's one person even remotely contending with Meadows for MVP, it's Long. But I feel disappointed that they, for example, didn't give Rachel Crow material she can work with. She's not even "Chick Adam," as insulting as being Chick Adam is at least it's something. She was just...there, filling in the void that needs to be filled by "insert main character here."


Episode Grade: C+
Episode MVP: Tim Meadows. When I was watching this episode, I was worried they were going to make him this really weak, ineffective authority figure that is in way over his head. But the pilot gives me hope that the characters will be taking him seriously. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-How ironic is it that this is the second current ABC sitcom to get a spin-off? That Modern Family spin-off shouldn't be that far behind.

-I wonder how much of a role Beverly will have now that her kids aren't going to the school. Like, she'll appear every now and then in the first season and they'll phase her out after that.

-I have to agree with Ray that the "I Want It That Way" scene was pretty cheesy. If this show's going to be taken seriously, that's the kind of material they need to avoid. It feels like this show is begging to be a little more gritty and darker than the original show. It would help if it was left in the hands of writers who were new and could find a distinctive voice for it. It really shouldn't be Goldbergs II.

-Is Lainey ever coming back to the original series or is she done for good? I don't know how much Erica works without someone like Lainey or her family to play off of. It's especially jarring since she's the only original main character.

  - Wow the formatting of Blogspot is still really wonky - it's best described as "basically it's just gonna do whatever the hell it feels like, to hell with what the user actually wants." Sadly we're basically stuck here because you get what you pay for, welcome to microtransaction society -_-.
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