I’ve never known life as an only child. My wife, on the other hand, knows all too well. During our many years together I have often asked her to regale me with stories of her imaginary childhood friend “Stephanie” while she listens to me drone on and on about endless car trips where my sister and I would play “Interstate Bingo” and struggle to stay on our opposite sides of the car’s backseat. I can imagine a single point in the past where just as my wife was dreaming of a picturesque life with a brother or sister, I was one ill-deserved punch away from wishing for a solitary existence. But then again, what would siblings be without rivalry?
In The Goldbergs, sibling rivalry between Adam (Sean Giambrone) and Barry (Troy Gentile) comes to a head in this week’s episode, “The Adam Bomb.” For Adam, an April Fool’s prank goes one step too far and sends Barry into beast mode as he destroys Adam’s prized possession, Castle Greyskull (The horror!). After Adam retaliates, a tit-for-tat battle ensues until we cringe with horror as Barry unleashes his secret weapon, a horribly unflattering portrait shot of young Adam. Always relying heavily on real-life influences, the awkward family photo was based on reality and is a something only a mother could love.
— The Goldbergs (@TheGoldbergsABC) April 2, 2015
Meanwhile, oldest sibling Erica (Hayley Orrantia) makes her way to the mandatory setting of 1980-something suburbia, the mall. With best friend Lainey (AJ Michalka) by her side, Erica is stopped dead in her tracks by an advertisement for an upcoming mall show featuring pop-sensation Tiffany. The allure of stardom awakens a nascent desire for a musical career, which pits Mom Beverly (Wendi Mclendon-Covey) against Dad Murray (Jeff Garlin) in a battle to decide who gets to serve as the crusher of dreams.
The episode was a fun romp in family dynamics. There were plenty of pop culture references to Garbage Pail Kids, Charles Barkley, and mall culture sprinkled throughout to make an ’80s kid like me happy. And if you happen to be lucky enough to have a sibling, then you’ll no doubt identify with the torturous meddling between the two Goldberg brothers. Likewise, I’m sure most of the social media generation can identify with Erica’s adolescent hunger for fame. As a parent, this one cuts deep by showing the struggles of wanting your kids to dream and succeed while fighting the urge for them to remain grounded and realistic in their goals.
Each member of the cast is fun to watch, but I find myself wishing there were less segmentation and more time spent as a true ensemble. And forget about Gramps (George Segal) in this episode. If you blink, you’ll miss him. He’s such an underutilized character these days, but I anticipate showrunner and executive producer Adam F. Goldberg will tap Segal for a central plotline soon. Though Gramps is rarely seen, Murray continues moving past his shouting recliner quarterback role into one with greater depth of emotion. I wonder if I’m the only one that secretly wishes my own father were more like Murray?
Not too touchy-feely, this episode of The Goldbergs deals some nice moments. Although, at times, it does seem to try too hard for easy laughs (I’m looking at you, Barry’s rap video). Despite not having a stand-out scene like previous episodes, this one is best looked at as solid package. Just like our siblings, there may be a few things here and there we take issue with, but for the most part, the world wouldn’t be quite as good without them.