The Goldbergs is a lot like The Wonder Years. Perhaps too much. Both have an adult narrator reflecting back on his childhood and take place during what is perceived as a more idealist time. For The Wonder Years it’s the 50s; for The Goldbergs that time is the 80s. Had the similarities ended there, The Goldbergs would be described as inspired by The Wonder Years. Instead, it’s a copy.
How similar is The Goldbergs to the beloved sitcom about Kevin Arnold? Grumpy father? Check. Perky mother? Check. Older sister? Check. Older brother? Yup. Winnie Cooper? No, but there’s a already a love interest for young Adam Goldberg. Supposedly, all these characters are based on real people, but that doesn’t help the show’s case.
To make matters worse, The Goldbergs would be a decent show had it been set in the present. The show wants to demonstrate that some issues are timeless, but the ridiculousness of 80s wardrobes distracts from it. Adam’s mom, Beverly Goldberg, dresses like she’s going to an 80s-themed Halloween party. While it makes sense that she wouldn’t want her father to continue driving because his driving skills are deteriorating, modern viewers can’t take her seriously because her clothing distracts us from her sentiment. At least her father, Albert Soloman, eventually realizes his daughter is right and gives up his keys without mentioning how terrible Beverly is dressed. This isn’t a show that is going to make fun of the 80s. It embraces that decade in a bear hug and shows no signs of letting go.
There is also a largely forgettable story line about who will inherit Grandpa Albert’s car, since Barry and Erica are both old enough to drive. Like typical siblings, whoever doesn’t get the car will feel that the car situation is unfair. In the “Circle of Driving,” we are led to believe Barry will get the car in the end, but the show’s ending montage show that Albert slipped the keys into Erica’s jacket, while she was sleeping.
The standout is George Segal as Adam’s grandfather. There’s so much he could say, but is reigned in because of the current perception of the 80s and the fact that this show airs on ABC. In the first episode, Albert teaches his grandson about how to get women. Well, one part of women: boobs. When we meet Albert, he is talking about the proper way to fondle them. He also encourages Adam to flirt with the cute waitress who is only a few years older than him. Adam never gets the girl because she finds out that he is obsessed with boobs. It’s a good thing that grandpa knows about the Hooters that recently opened in town.
The show is inoffensive and unmemorable. For some reason, a few characters curse and are bleeped, which doesn’t fit with the show at all. The Goldbergs probably won’t last more than a few episodes and will go down as a the show that was nostalgic for nostalgia, but that’s what you get when you make a clone of The Wonder Years and set it during the time when new episodes of The Wonder Years were airing. The Goldbergs isn’t a bad copy, just an unnecessary one.