Network television’s most obviously Jewish but not-so-Jewish
family debuts its third season September 23 on ABC.
Set in “1980-something” by creator and showrunner Adam F. Goldberg, “The Goldbergs” is a semi-autobiographical sitcom in which he explores the life of an American family — with actual events serving as a launching pad for hair-brained scenarios.
“I don’t know if I’ll run out of real stories to do on the show,” creator Adam F. Goldberg told TVGuide.com. “Certainly not before I run out of [home] videos. Between me and the writers, I think we have enough weird childhood stories and ideas to do.”
Each episode is dedicated to some person, place or thing in Goldberg’s real life with actual video clips he shot as a teen.
— The Goldbergs (@TheGoldbergsABC) April 2, 2015
But while their characters’ surname and most of their first names resonate as decidedly Jewish, and the creator also is, the content rarely is. In its two seasons so far, the most Jewish episode focused on the mother-daughter legacy of “yenta-ing” as a matchmaker.
In fact, meals such as shrimp-parm feed this on-screen family. The majority of the cast is also decidedly not Jewish. ABC cast a NGB (a nice gentile boy) Troy Gentile, a name too good for riffing, as eldest son, Barry. Middle daughter, Erica, is portrayed by Haley Orrantia. The director’s own onscreen persona, the adorable nerd, Adam, is played by the Sean Giambrone.
The parental super-sized characters, Murray and Beverly, are the hilarious Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Clovey. Garlin is best-known as Larry David’s manager on the hit show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which he also executive produces.
McLendon-Clovey earned her chops at LA’s famous improv and sketch comedy Groundlings Theatre & School. Naturally–or un-naturally as it were — her Beverly’s exaggerated, quintessential 1980s big hair never moves. But her tuchus sure does. That hyper-emotional “smother” is a non-stop, uber-cling-on in each episode. “Oh, Shmoopy, I’m so proud of you,” she announces, hugging Erica at the moment she first reveals her innate yenta-bilities.
With no sense of appropriate boundaries, she annoyingly — and incessantly–inserts herself into the most absurd TV moments, such as producing a skit in front of the entire school on the dangers of drugs.
Lovable grandfather, Albert “Pops” Solomon, portrayed by show biz veteran George Segal, brings some solid Jewish street cred. His delivery of Yiddishisms on the show come across as authentic; four grandparents were all Russian immigrants.
The real Adam F. Goldberg grew up in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, about 10 miles north of Philadelphia, with the real Beverly and the late Murray Goldberg.
His two brothers, Barry, and Eric, appear as brother and sister instead because Goldberg felt that adding a sister allowed for more comic opportunities, he told the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.
“I saw more stories coming out of having a daughter in the mix,” Goldberg said. “I really took all of Eric’s characteristics,” which he assigned to the character, Erica. “He was disappointed at first, but he has complete deniability of his character now.”
An accomplished playwright, Goldberg wrote more than 50 plays which were performed by the time he was 19 at theaters around the country. At 15, he won the Philadelphia Young Playwrights award for his play, “Dr. Pickup,” inspired by his biological grandfather’s struggles with Alzheimer’s.
Goldberg’s first television series was the 2011 comedy “Breaking In,” which he created with Seth Gordon, which ran for two seasons on Fox.
He initially developed “The Goldbergs” under a deal with ABC in which he called the show “How the F*** Am I Normal,” which the studio rejected.
“The way I sold the show was by showing home movies of my family,” he told the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.
The showrunner, Adam F. Goldberg, is not to be confused with the actor and director, Adam Goldberg who co-stars in the “The Jim Gaffigan Show.” The two have been engaged in a (staged?) Twitter tango about their names and identities @AdamFGoldberg and @TheAdamGoldberg.
The two are slated to work together in “Hammer vs Hitler.” The feature filim sequel to the “Hebrew Hammer” stars the actor Adam Goldberg and is produced by “The Goldbergs” creator, Adam F. Goldberg.