Series: The Goldbergs

Like your family was so cool in the 80s.
"When it comes to my childhood, I may not always remember exactly when something happened or exactly who was there. But I do know that it was nineteen eighty-something and it...was...awesome. "
Adam Goldberg

The Goldbergs is an American period sitcom on ABC. The first episode premiered on September 24, 2013 to a viewing audience of 8.94 million viewers. The show revolves around the life of 12-year-old Adam Goldberg and his family during the 1980s. He regularly has to deal with his older sister Erica, older brother and middle child Barry, as well as his parents Beverly and Murray. His maternal grandfather "Pops" is also a member of the main cast. The show features a mix of traditional camerawork as well as "home footage" taken from Adam's camera.

Not to be confused with the old time radio/sitcom The Goldbergs from the early 50s. Or maybe not...

The show provides the following totally, like, awesome tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Adam's gym teacher, Mr. Miller, keeps calling him Goldfarb, even when his name's written on the gym shirt. It's only until Adam does one pull-up on the fitness test that the gym teacher calls him Goldberg. This becomes a Running Gag as time goes on. Every so often the main conflict of the show is Adam vs. Miller. Once Adam masters the particular skill Mr. Miller wants him to, he calls Adam by his real name.
    • Happens with Pop-Pop calling Adam Barry.
  • Adorkable: Adam
    Adam Goldberg: "I was so excited for my dad to get home I could barely enjoy my algebra homework."
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents:
    • Beverly, of course. Murray also has his moments.
    • Pops still can embarrass his daughter, Beverly.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The family is named Goldberg, and a lot of stereotypical Jewish slang is used, but it's never a plot point.
    • The family are not troubled by kosher law—Beverley prides herself on shellfish and they practically lived in their local Chinese restaurant where Barry had a dish, containing an excess of pork, named after him. On the other hand, this isn't particularly indicative—a lot of Jews in the 1980s (as today!) were not only Reform, but more or less completely non-religious, and eat pork regularly.
    • In one episode where Adam and Dana have to take care of a Cabbage Patch Kid for health class, Beverly butts in trying to be the best bubbie, or grandmother.
    • Erica wants her stage name to be "Riki Gold" because "Goldberg is ... you know."
  • Anachronism Stew/Comic-Book Time: The show refuses to say specific years, as each episode begins with present-day Adam saying the date followed by "1980-something".
    • The exact year is deliberately left ambiguous. For instance in one episode Adam and Pops are wearing Ghostbusters costumes which would put the time 1985 or later. But in another episode Murray is watching the Phillies in the World Series which would put it in either 1980 or 1983. Yet everyone is the exact same age.
    • The pop culture (obsession with The Karate Kid, for example) would place it around 1984-1986, yet one of the boys wanted "pump" running shoes, which weren't introduced until 1989.
    • And then an episode takes place with the theatrical debut of Return of the Jedi as a plot point, which was released in 1983.note 
    • Staying with movies, one episode involves Adam wanting to see Poltergeist while Beverly suggests The Great Mouse Detective; they came out in 1982 and 1986 respectively. To be fair, Adam said Poltergeist was playing in the dollar theater, so it was probably a re-release.
    • Another episode takes place on Adam's birthday, showing Mr. Golberg and Pops watching Geraldo Rivera "Al Capone's Vault" special. The special aired April 21, 1986.
    • The Thanksgiving episode features Uncle Marvin buying a DeLorean. Early on, Adam asks Marvin if it can travel through time, an obvious nod to Back to the Future; but later on Pops hears news reports on the arrest of John DeLorean for drug trafficking. That happened in October 1982, three years before Back to the Future premiered.
    • One episode involves the Mondale-Reagan presidential election of 1984. This same episode also mentions Americas Funniest Home Videos, the premiere special of which aired in 1989,note  and American Gladiators, which also premiered in '89.
    • However, the most egregious example would come from "The Adam Bomb", which has the fall of the Berlin Wall (which occurred, albeit in 1989, in November) take place in April.
      • Likewise, the Ferris Bueller's Day Off episode, which has homecoming take place in April. The Homecoming game is the first game a football team plays at their home school, as opposed to away. By April, football is over.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Barry and Erica sometimes see Adam as this.
    • And Erica sees Barry as such, too.
    • Murray's younger brother is this, especially in the Thanksgiving episodes.
  • April Fools' Plot: "The Adam Bomb", in which an Escalating War against the Goldberg brothers gets out of hand.
  • Bad Liar: Barry couldn't lie his way out of a wet paper bag to save his life.
  • Batman Gambit: Adam gets Murray to buy him a fencing sword by taking up the fencing team. All so he can have a prop for his Princess Bride scenes.
  • Big Brother Bully: Barry has been shown to be this to Adam, but lets him take off his glasses first and never actually hurts him. He goes full throttle in "For Your Own Good" when Adam asks him to be his bodyguard on the school bus and Barry becomes the new bully instead.
  • Bilingual Backfire: In 'The President's Fitness Test,' Erica has a French exchange student over. Barry has Erica translate pick-up lines for him, only for her to mess around with it. Eventually, Pops can't stand it and tells Barry what he's been saying, much to both his and Erica's surprise.
  • Brutal Honesty: Murray is blunt about the truth, especially when it comes to Barry being a moron.
  • Butt Monkey: Barry is shown to be this at times, sometimes at his own doing.
    • Adam is just as likely to get his own moments as well.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Barry does this when performing his version of "kara-te". Lampshaded by Adam:
    Adam: "You know, I was thinking, it might be better if you didn't call out your moves first."
  • Calvinball: Ball-Ball, in "Stop Arguing and Start Thanking".
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Murray takes off his pants as soon as he gets home and lounges around in his shirt and briefs.
  • Cool Old Guy: Pops, of course.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In-universe and in real life, this was pretty much what the 1984 Presidential Election was for Erica, with Walter Mondale winning only one state.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Or in Adam's case, broke his arm dancing to George Michael on camera.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Pops has his lapses in judgment, but the man is a World War II veteran.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Barry is this to Lainey after her father forbids her from dating him after her father, a Dallas Cowboys fan, is insulted by Barry and Murry, who are diehard Philadelphia Eagles fans.
  • Dawson Casting: In Season 1, we already have 20-year-old Troy Gentile and 19-year-old Hayley Orrantia as high school-aged Barry and Erica, with Erica ironically being the older sibling in-universe. In Season 2, we now have 21-year-old Gentile and 20-year-old Orrantia. And now it's been renewed for a third season...
  • The Ditz: Barry.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The show originally featured a lot of "found footage" taken from Adam's compulsive camerawork which is something the real Adam did a lot (this is where the footage at the ends of episodes comes from). However this was abandoned towards the end of the first season and the real aspects are usually before the credits.
    • The first episode had Pops cause a car crash due to the implied start of Alzheimer's disease. This aspect of the character was severely toned down and he became more of a typical Cool Old Guy.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Pops.
    • Anytime Barry tried to teach Adam about being a man.
  • Egg Sitting: Done with Cabbage Patch Kids dolls in "Happy Mom, Happy Life".
  • '80s Hair: Beverly.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: In "The Adam Bomb," Barry plasters one of these all over Adam's room. The real one is shown in the credits of the episode.
  • Exact Words: In one episode, Beverly promises to Principal Ball she won't show up at the school to talk with him about anything. She later shows up outside his kitchen while he's eating dinner with his family.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Erica is the most responsible of the Goldberg children, usually having to help Barry or Adam out of trouble.
    • Adam can be either foolish or responsible. When dealing with Erica, he's usually the fool; when dealing with Barry he's usually responsible.
    • Barry is the least responsible of the children. He's the most likely to get into trouble and need help from the others.
  • Frozen in Time: "It was mid-April, 19-eighty-something...'' The show purposely plays loose with the timeline in order to cram in as many '80s references as possible and to keep the family in a specific era as long as possible.
  • Gender Flip: Erica. The real Adam Goldberg has two older brothers, Eric and Barry.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: Barry claims to have one of these that he met in summer camp. The rest of the family mocks him mercilessly, and Erica notes that she was at camp with him but never saw his supposed girlfriend.
  • Girly Run: Barry. One has to see it; a description does not do it justice.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Pop-Pop (Murray's father) is this.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Played with. Barry and his friends want Adam to hack the school to get them good grades. Adam has no idea how to do any computer hacking, so he does the next best thing: hack their brains by tricking them into actually studying for their history test!
  • Humiliation Conga: In "The Kremps," Barry finds a recording of a phone conversation between Erica and a friend, in which she talks about wanting to get together with the new neighbors' eldest sonnote . When Erica tries to grab the answering machine, both siblings fight for it and accidentally send it flying onto the floor, resulting in another part of the call playing in front of Erica's crush. Barry and Erica start fighting, while Beverly tries to break them up, she sees that Murray has fallen asleep, leading to a bleeped Precision F-Strike that results in an Oh Crap! expression from Beverly as everyone looks in shock.
    Beverly: Murray, wake the f**k up.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: The second season finale, "Goldbergs Feel Hard" is all about this. Barry warns Adam about saying it to Dana, but then says it to Lainey and gets upset when she doesn't say it back. Adam, meanwhile, tries to retrieve a love letter she left Dana. All the while, Beverly pressures Murray into telling Erica he loves her, then gets upset when Erica doesn't say it back.
  • In Another Man's Shoes: In "Dance Party USA", Erica returns to her former nerdy look after getting Barry's pink eye and accidentally breaking her teeth. This leads her to be treated as a loser, making her realize that is how her brother is treated every day.
  • It's Always Spring/California Doubling: Some episodes are explicitly dated to wintertime, but there is never any snow on the ground, the leaves are always out on the trees, and the characters never wear heavy coats. This is in suburban Philadelphia.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: A lot of Pops' humor in "The Darryl Dawkins Dance" comes from the fact that he's irritated that his grandson won't hit him with a car. What happened was that in this episode, Adam saw Transformers: The Movie, in which Optimus dies, prompting him to make a fan movie to right that wrong, in which Pops played Optimus Prime. Before he got to that, Murray gave Adam a brief death talk, saying that Adam shouldn't worry about dying until he's an old man, which caused Adam to begin worrying about Pops dying. So when Adam and Pops got to filming later, Adam changed the script so that Pops wouldn't have to get hit by a car, a script change that made Pops mad. The rest of the episode has jokes based around the absurdity of a man mad that his grandson won't run him over with a car.
  • Jewish American Princess: Erica. She can get very demanding and imperious.
  • Jewish Mother: Beverly. Definitely Beverly.
  • Kavorka Man: Albert.
  • Kicking My Own Butt: Barry when he confronts the Meadowbrook Mafia in "Just Say No".
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Adam in "Goldbergs Feel Hard" tries to retrieve the letter he left Dana in her locker.
  • Meddling Parents: Beverly, naturally.
  • The Movie Buff: Adam.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Erica, full stop, in "Who Are You Going to Telephone?" The odd part is that she was dressed as Jane Goodall for her Halloween costume, though Goodall never bared any midriff. In fact, if her shirt was plaid and the shorts were denim, she would have been more believable as Daisy Duke.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • Beverly again. Hell, Narrator!Adam even calls her that.
    • Betsy Rubenstone
  • My Friends And David Kim
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Adam wins his fencing match in the episode, "As You Wish" by quoting that line repeatedly.
  • Nerd: Adam, full stop.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The early advertisements made it out to be a wacky 80's period piece full of pop culture ala "That 70's Show." The 80's are really just background. It's really a character driven comedy about the family. In fact it could easily be updated to modern times and you could have the exact same show.
  • The Obi-Wan: Pops dispenses wisdom to everyone from time-to-time, but mostly Adam.
  • Oh Crap!: Whenever something's that kind of moment, Adam screams out "Oh balls!"
  • Precision F-Strike: Delivered, and bleeped, nearly Once an Episode. Usually it's from Beverly, but nearly everyone has gotten into the act.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: In 'A Wrestler Named Goldberg,' Murray has to break it to Barry that it's not real, even when he's coming up with a finisher and backstory.
  • Real Person Cameo: Creator Adam Goldberg based the bus bully in "For Your Own Good" on We're the Millers producer JC Spink who used to bully Goldberg when they were kids. Spink cameos in the episode as the school bus driver.
  • Rousing Speech: Barry gives one (with a tip of the cap to Election) in "The Other Smother" to get elected class treasurer. It's basically a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about moms who interfere in their children's lives, and even his opponent gives him a standing ovation.
  • Safety Worst: Bev is like this towards Adam, her youngest.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Until the ninth grade, Erica had to wear Nerd Glasses and braces, and had stringy hair. Now she's among the hottest girls in school.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: When Beverly loses the Cabbage Patch Kids doll for Adam's Egg Sitting assignment, she buys one from a man selling toys off the back of his car. It ends up being a "Lettuce Crop Kid" with an ugly, badly designed face.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Beverly to Betsy Rubenstone.
    • And now we can add Mrs. Kim to that list.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Adam F. Goldberg's real-life brother Eric was changed into a sister named Erica. Word of God says this was to show some of the trends and fads that were issues for teenaged girls in the '80s, since they already had one teenage boy and one junior high boy in the cast.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Adam's bully JC Spink was originally played by child actor Cooper Roth in the first season and then replaced by teen actor Zayne Emory for the second season when the writers needed to show that JC had physically matured faster than late-bloomer Adam.
  • Spiritual Successor : Arguably, with The Wonder Years.
  • Stage Mom: In "The Adam Bomb", Beverly wants to be Erica's "momager".
  • Stunned Silence: Adam goes into this when watching Transformers: The Movie as many of his childhood icons die.
  • Technology Marches On: invoked A source of some of the show's humour. "I Drank the Mold" features Erica and Barry trying to get their dad to buy them a CD player ($900 plus tax, if anyone remembers the early-runner prices for gadgets), with Barry even claiming that there will never be anything more advanced. At the end, they also have a run-in with a Discman, which was famous for skips. Adam's boxy video camcorder counts as well.
  • That Nostalgia Show
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Barry in "The Adam Bomb".
    Barry: I feel anger!
  • The '80s
  • They Really Do Love Each Other: Murray and Bev have a heartwarming moment at the end of "The Ring" when they finally kiss on camera, much to the squick of the kids.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Barry veers into this territory at times: in the pilot episode, when he drives his grandfather's car for the first time (with the rest of the family in it), he accidentally drives into the garage door when he is supposed to back out of the driveway (to which Murray intones "I raised a moron"). In "The Kremps," Adam "challenges" (tricks) Barry into climbing up the tree in front of the house... twice.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: In what other universe but the magic world of television would these parents ever happen? (Interestingly, Jeff Garlin isn't exactly as attractive as the real Murray, but the real Beverly was about that hot.)
  • Unreliable Narrator: Narrator!Adam can never seem to remember the exact year whatever story he's telling happened (see the page quote). This is probably why he gets certain cultural phenomena crossed up, like thinking the Phillies were playing in the World Series the same year Ghostbusters was out.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Murray tries to have "the talk" with Barry using the names of baseball players instead of the actual body parts involved.
    Barry: "Oh yeah, you're a Mike Schmidt!"
    Murray: "Get your head out of your Orel Hershiser and get back down here!"
  • Vanity License Plate: Uncle Marvin's DeLorean has one reading "CHX DIGIT."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Premise of the show.
    • To preface this fact, most episodes end with real-life home movies filmed during the decade from which the series is set by creator Adam F. Goldberg featuring his family.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Albert to Murray, his son-in-law, in "You're Underfoot".
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Barry's attempts at karate in "Kara-Te". He eventually manages to break a board, but Adam secretly used balsa wood.
  • Whole Plot Reference: "Goldbergs Never Say Die" is one to The Goonies.
  • Xanatos Roulette: Erica in "The Other Smother".