I’m lucky in that I haven’t experienced many truly terrible things in my life. However, I can say with some small bit of pride that, in 1987, I experienced the urinal trough in the mens’ room at Wrigley Field and lived to tell the tale. Needless to say, through this experience alone, I was able to identify with this week’s episode of ABC’s The Goldbergs. However, the connection I felt with the situations in “The Lost Boy” episode extended far beyond the discomfort of pee fright.
The Goldbergs never strays too far from the authenticity of growing up in the ’80s. Sure, things may be exaggerated a bit compared to my childhood or yours, but, in the case of Adam F. Goldberg’s family, everything is based in reality. As he described on Episode 9 of The Goldnerds Podcast, “The Lost Boy” was based on Adam F. Goldberg’s personal experience of being separated from his father in the Philadelphia Phillies’ Veterans Stadium. Now long gone, “The Vet” was lovingly recreated for this episode and almost serves as a character unto itself. The Phillies organization was very cooperative during the production, even sending the team’s mascot “The Phanatic” to pop up when Adam (Sean Giambrone) frantically searches for his dad Murray (Jeff Garlin).
— The Goldbergs (@TheGoldbergsABC) March 26, 2015
The other storyline in this episode revolved around a bedazzled Bev and not only the inordinate amount of plastic rhinestones she adds to her sweaters, but also the inordinate amount of guilt she places on her children. Growing into adulthood and becoming your own person is hard. It’s even harder when your mother is Beverly Goldberg. Wendi McLendon-Covey’s Bev isn’t above forcing her kids to spend time with her, but as they grow weary of her company Barry (Troy Gentile) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia) do the unthinkable and call her bluff.
Standouts in this episode include McLendon-Covey’s Beverly (as always) as she revels in what little time she has left with her kids, Barry’s faux aversion to his bedazzled clothes, and the surprisingly emotional use of John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith In Me.” (Cue daddy issue tears.) I did scratch my head, however, at the underutilized Diedrich Bader as a tailgating Phillies fan and hope he can come back with a heftier role in the future. As I mentioned, The Vet was wonderfully accurate, but, then again, the small details such as a pantsless Murray during the final feel-good pan out only help to prove why this show is so special.
When I watched the Wonder Years growing up, I totally connected with that show from a kid’s standpoint. Even though I was a child at the time and didn’t grow up in the ’60s, the strength of that show was being able to identify with Fred Savage’s portrayal of Kevin Arnold in the role of a brother, a friend, and a son. I’m sure those elements still exist for kids who watch The Goldbergs today, but, watching a show like this as an adult and father, I can identify with both the kids and their parents. I’ve experienced the awkwardness of childhood, parental guilt (who hasn’t), and the struggle of realizing my kids won’t stay kids forever. I imagine I’m not alone.
Though they do take a trip to the movies, if you’re only watching this episode hoping for a million Lost Boys film references, you’ll be disappointed. The movie-centric episodes like “Goldbergs Never Say Die” and the previous “Barry Goldberg’s Day Off” are welcomed fun and perfect in their execution, but it’s the family dynamics that are the real meat of this show. It’s rare for a show to so perfectly manage heart and humor, nostalgia and relevance. For a time, it seemed that those sensibilities were lost on television. With The Goldbergs and “The Lost Boy,” they are easy to find… if you know where to look.