[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"The Goldbergs" (ABC)
Airs:Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
The Pitch: It's "The Wonder Years" for Generation Y, if the point of "The Wonder Years" was that 1968 was an incredibly important year for humanity as seen through a prism of a young boy's coming of age, while the point of "The Goldbergs" is that 1985 was a completely irrelevant year other than pop culture references.
Quick Response: My favorite part of "The Goldbergs" was the closing credits. That sounds mean. It's not intended to be. Creator Adam Goldberg puts home-video footage of his actual family over the closing credits perhaps to fend off concerns that the characters comes across as too cartoonish. Nope. Turns out Adam Goldberg came from a somewhat cartoonish family. Again, that's not intended as an insult. Generationally, "The Goldbergs" is somewhere in my wheelhouse, so I'm perfectly happy to chuckle at a good GoBots, Alf or Brooke Shields joke. I just wish this pilot weren't predominantly a carousel rotating between pop culture references, Jeff Garlin bellowing, George Segal mugging, Jeff Garlin bellowing, Wendi McLendon-Covey being broadly brassy and Jeff Garlin bellowing again. There's a lot of Jeff Garlin working at a very high volume in this pilot and, ultimately, what it really needs is some sort of grounding, which could come from almost anywhere, but is initially lacking. Juvenile leading man Sean Giambrone is inoffensively sitcom-y, but sitcom-y none-the-less. Hayley Orranti is under-utilized. And Troy Gentile is hitting his punchlines way harder than the single-cam format would seem to demand. There's just a limit to how much wackiness can ensue without compensating moments of flawlessly effective heart. I'd point to "Malcolm in the Middle" and its pilot for an example of how you can sell a full slate of larger-than-life characters if the genuine emotion lands as well. Ultimately, it's the difference between the rather expert work of "Malcolm" pilot director Todd Holland, a frequent master of pilot tone, and the disjointed work of "Goldbergs" director Seth Gordon, who just cranks up the volume and hopes that the viewers will understand when things are supposed to be cartoonish and when they're supposed to be real. With this, "Meet the Fishers" and "Surviving Jack," it's a big year for "Wonder Years"-style inside glimpses at childhood and it's possible that because I just rewatched the "Wonder Years" pilot, I'm holding all of them to a higher standard, a standard none of them even come within hailing distance of. It's also possible that because I watched all of the ABC comedies in a short window, I was able to catch all of the recurring jokes that seem to be trickling from their development pipeline and they're too familiar to me. Or maybe this is just an all-too-familiar comedy with a couple interesting aesthetic tics. [I'll leave the big question -- "Is it good for the Jews?" -- for an eventual review or podcast, because it's a bit of a concern.]
Desire To Watch Again: I'll be watching "S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Trophy Wife" is one of my favorite fall comedy pilots, so wedged in between then, I'll be somewhat patient to see if "The Goldbergs," and particularly the near-deafening performances in "The Goldbergs," settle in a bit. It'll be all about smoothing things out with this one. The pilot is rough, but I don't hate it.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries