During the grim winter days, when the sun decides to take a hiatus from its job at sustaining life and high spirits, and Night surprises you at how early it shows up to the party, one must find ways to keep one’s sanity intact. I would love to say that, being the intellectual and sensible woman I am, I choose to while away the many hours of darkness at my desk, reading, writing, and generally investing in personal growth and development. In the background, soft classical music plays. I also have a roaring fireplace and wear a velvet robe.
Instead, I spend these hours curled up in bed, swathed thick in many layers of clothing, and watching TV. Lots of TV. I move as little as possible and my beverage of choice is wine. There is no fireplace, but the heater is on at full power and makes my face turn an embarrassing and frankly quite perplexing shade of red.
For all the kinds of degenerate forms this vivid description calls to mind, there is one upside. The hours I spend lost to the droning of the television means I sometimes strike TV gold: a show that’s actually good. Now, we all know that TV is filled with many a useless show and even more uninspiring and unsavoury characters; if you need an example, consider that Kim Kardashian has released a book of selfies. It’s called Selfish. And yes, they’re all her selfies. Need I say more? That cringey nonsense aside, we are here to talk about the TV that’s not quite as ridiculous, so here it is:
The premise of the show is simple but intriguing: as a child growing up in the 80s, the show’s creater, Adam Goldberg, was the proud owner of a camcorder, with which he made clips of life with his big, boisterous, dysfunctional-but-fun family. Fast forward to 2013, and Goldberg has since teamed up with ABC to turn all that footage into the basis for this TV series. The real members of the family are all represented by a corresponding TV character: Adam, played by little Sean Giambrone; Barry, his older brother, played by Troy Gentile; Murray and Beverly Goldberg, his fumbling dad and over-enthusiastic mother, played by Jeff Garlin and Wendy McLendon-Covey (seen also in Bridesmaids) respectively. There’s also pops, Adam’s cheeky, playboy grandpa, the effervescent George Segal. The one discrepancy is where Adam’s brother Eric is made ‘Erica’ for the show, played by Hayley Orrantia. Not a bad move; having the rebellious, snarky Erica around spices up the show’s plot a great deal.
Each episode centres around a real-life event; we know this because at the end of every episode, Goldberg throws in a short clip of the original video, and often the scenes in the show are remarkably and hilariously similar to the real events. These little snippets at the back are so cool and lovely to watch, and make me feel nostalgic for a time before I was even born.
Beverly Goldberg – the boss of everything and everyone.
The centre of the family, and arguably the whole show, is Beverly Goldberg, Adam’s strong-headed, overly-caring, overly-involved, overly-anxious mother, who also happens to be brilliant at providing for three defiant children – who take pains to wiggle past her all-encompassing cares and concerns – and a husband who spends most of his day in front of the TV, in his tighty-whiteys. She reaches as far as she can into each child’s private lives, attempting to influence everything from the friends they make to the clothes they wear. When Barry finally learns to drive, she hands him a personally colour coded map of the places he can and cannot drive in, divided into zones. When Erica has a friend to sleepover, Beverly crouches by the vent to listen in on their conversations. When Adam tries to learn to dance to impress his date (o young love), she hops in with him. Beverly is EVERYWHERE, but it’s also incredibly obvious that she does all she does out of immense and unconditional love for her family. What I love so much about her is how startlingly similar she is to my own mother, who is my best friend, house-manager, chef, chauffeur, guidance counselor, and Shazam, all at once. Yeah, Shazam, like the app. My mum can tell me a song is ‘by the Ke$ha girl’ (in all manner of condescending tones) way before I’ve even heard the song. I suspect many of you might find Beverly a pretty accurate mirror of your own mothers as well.
Barry Goldberg gon’ teach YOU how to roller-skate and KA RA TE. *kick kick*
Then there’s the amazing Barry, who, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, is quite an accurate reflection of my role in my family. Boasting slight emotional instability and an unshakeable confidence in his less-than-mediocre talents and personality traits, Barry thinks himself the King of the Universe, Knower of All Knowledge and King of Karate. He is hilariously unsuccessful at many things, but his ability to always pick himself up and encourage himself that he is, indeed, special and amazing, is surely inspiring to all. Troy Gentile does a stunning job at bringing Barry to life, and, as we see in the original clips, the REAL Barry Goldberg was quite the personality himself.
The epitome of awesomeness, Barry Goldberg, as his rapper, break-dancer, alter-ego, Big Tasty.
BARRY IS SO MY FAVOURITE PERSON EVER.
The others are worth mentioning as well, but Beverly and Barry are the real stand-outs, so I think I should let you discover the family in its entirety for yourselves.
The charm of the whole show lies in the dysfunctionality of the family – in this sense, other shows may appear to have ‘been there, done that’, but I think the fact that this is all true (rather true) makes it better than most. The characters are lovable and engaging, and no one character is ‘too much’ of him or herself as to become overbearing.
To top it all off, the show is set in the EIGHTIES, so prepare for a whirlwind of colourful sweaters, pouffy hair-dos, side-ponytails and AN AMAZING SOUNDTRACK! I now have ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot‘ looping in my head over and over and I can’t make it stop, though I’m not sure if I want it too, anyways.
Me thinks: The show is 3 seasons in and I’m still chewing through Season 1, so I’ll get back to you ASAP if its allure starts to dwindle, although I’m quite sure it won’t. Each member of the family is a star in their own right, a real joy to watch, and it almost makes you feel like you’re right there in the kitchen with them, watching Murray (affectionally) calling all his kids ‘morons’ and Beverly aggressively articulating her hatred for the microwave.
Cheers (to raps, relatives, and reminiscence!) x
P.S.: It wouldn’t make sense not to end with this: