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Nineteen Eighty Something

The Goldberg’s

September 24, 2019

Great storytellers often revert to their youth as a way to mine for fictional gems.

In the 1970’s it was the TV program Happy Days which took us back to the 1950’s. Then there were The Wonder Years which aired in the late 80’s but was set from 1968 to 1974.


The Goldberg’s TV family

For anyone who grew up in the 1980’s they can tune in to ABC’s current program The Goldberg s and see their childhood come to life. It premiered on September 24, 2013.

Created by Adam F. Goldberg, the show is based on people he knew and events which happened to him while he was growing up.  Season 7 begins on Wednesday (Sept. 25) (For 2020, Season 8 begins October 21)


Murray in his recliner

Like all great TV shows, excellent writing and casting are key. Adam’s is a wacky family which begins with his father, Murray, whose main goal in life is to be able to relax in his recliner (sans trousers) and watch TV undisturbed by his three children, who he calls ‘morons.’ The heart of the family is the ultimate intrusive mother, Beverly, who Adam and his siblings, Erica and Barry, call the ‘Smother.’ Although she ‘could have been a lawyer’, her only focus in life is finding ways to stay inappropriately relevant in her teenage children’s’ lives. The travails of the three siblings are fleshed out by a host of friends and rivals.

beverly goldberg

Beverly going in for a smothering snuggie

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The Goldberg’s is set in the 1980’s in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. The show is loosely based on the show runner’s childhood, during which he videotaped events, many of which are reenacted throughout the program. It shows the reality of the 1980’s through a young boy’s eyes.

The series stars Jeff Garlin as patriarch Murray and Wendi McLendon-Covey as matriarch Beverly. Their two older children are Erica (Hayley Orrantia) and Barry (Troy Gentile). The youngest child, Adam (Sean Giambrone), documents his family life with his video camera. Beverly’s father, Albert “Pops” Solomon (George Segal), is frequently around to provide advice or to help out his grandchildren (often behind his daughter’s back).


Barry, Erica, and Adam

The present-day ‘Adult Adam’ (Patton Oswalt) narrates every episode as taking place in ‘1980-something’.

Many references to real-life Philadelphia-area businesses are made, including the Wawa Inc. convenience store chain, Gimbel’s department store, Willow Grove Park Mall, and Kremp’s Florist of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.”

It was halfway through season six that I saw my first ‘Goldberg’s.’ Over the past 10 years, I have traveled frequently to Yakima to assist my parents. What started as an every five or six weeks visit to cook meals for my dad has shortened over the years as the needs increased. I’ve literally spent hundreds of days there helping both of them and dealing with a variety of crises. There have been hospital stays for both my parents, my mother living in multiple care facilities for 8 years, legal battles, her passing in November 2017, and now the decline of my 96 year old father.

In January 2019, my dad took ill and ended up in the hospital. Upon his release my siblings and I recognized that we needed to place him into a facility as my brother, who had lived with him for the previous five years, was not able to provide the level of care needed.

I was in Yakima to facilitate dad’s move and arrived back at my Dad’s place one evening sometime the last week of January. My brother told me he had discovered a new TV show and asked if I wanted to watch. I did and, like him, was soon hooked on The Goldberg’s.

For most people it’s a simple thing to be able to watch and enjoy a TV program. That was not the case at my Dad’s house.

While Dad was still at home, the TV was his main activity, particularly after my mother died, and there were only a few programs he watched: Sports and News.

During the five years my brother lived there those were the choices during the hours Dad was present.

In those first weeks after Dad moved to Assisted Living, a weird quiet descended over the house. I think both my brother and I were in a bit of state of shock as the new reality settled in.

Enter the Goldberg’s. My brother set up the TV to record every episode as it played since season’s one through five were being rebroadcast. Many evenings in the next few months during the days and weeks I was in Yakima, I’d arrive back after visiting Dad and my brother and I would binge watch, often staying up way too late.

In many ways it was a lifeline and a way to deal with the stress. Laughter and the occasional cry do that for you.

On another level there was a more subtle lesson to be learned. One that comes through from the Goldberg’s in every episode:

Sure, stuff happens in life and we’re not always at our best with our family and friends, but in the end cherish your family because things change – sometimes in an instant – and you cannot get it back.

We recently completed an estate sale at my Dad’s place. Soon the condo will be on the market. As we went through the process of sorting everything last summer, we’d come upon items which triggered emotional responses. When I handed the electric griddle to my sister in law to use for her grand kids it hit me that I would never cook another pancake (I made thousands in those 10 years) or a pot pie for Dad in that kitchen, or stay there, or hear my dad’s walker thumping overhead in the morning. Everything had changed.

Barb and Reggie.jpg

The author with Reggie, one of the double doodles

But a new and different way of loving and supporting family has emerged. When I’m over there I now stay with my sister and her husband. Herbert and Teddy, their two dogs, announce every arrival in a cacophony of barking. Shop Cat – who is an outdoor pet – will come and hang out on the deck and has decided I’m okay, rubbing against my legs and looking to be petted. My sister’s adult daughter – who lives nearby – arrives most every evening, bringing with her Reggie and Rex, the Double Doodle dogs, who join in the melee.

I visit dad at least once a day when over there. He has good days and bad days… last week he had one particularly good day and insisted he wanted to have Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. So what the heck? I loaded him and his walker into the car and we went to KFC. Was it easy? No. But I recognize his days are short and doing something so simple made him happy for a little while. And that makes it all worthwhile. No regrets.

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Dinner with Dad at KFC

2019 has been a hard year, but it was made better thanks to the Goldberg’s and my own family.

Here’s the link to Wikipedia, but really, it does not do justice to the show. Give yourself a treat and watch an episode.


Update 2022: When I posted this on September 24, 2019, I had no idea that exactly one month later my Dad would be gone. While I have not watched the Goldberg’s for over a year, those early episodes were wonderful.