Tuesday, May 13, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Goldbergs' - Barry Throws a Party & Murray Goes Back to High School in 'Livin' on a Prayer'

ABC's The Goldbergs - Episode 1.23 "Livin' on a Prayer"

When Murray leans his high school free throw record has been broken, he begrudgingly attends a banquet as the guest of honor. Reliving his glory years, his school spirit is re-energized until he is mocked by the crowd. Elsewhere at home, Barry decides to throw a party where he quickly loses the spotlight and it is up to Erica's friend Lainey to help him get it back.

It's really interesting how we're at the end of The Goldbergs' 23-episode first season and we still know so little about family patriarch Murray Goldberg. When the show started the role was largely boiled down to Jeff Garlin yelling. And yet, nuances have come throughout the year. He's had great moments with everyone else in the cast. But the show can also have a small detail from his past pop up and everyone else can be just as bewildered by it as the audience. It's that kind of conversation that makes The Goldbergs feel like it really does understand its audience. We have come to be a part of this family. Yes, they yell at each other and Beverly is the ultimate smother. But they love each other and we love seeing what wacky 80s situations they'll get into every week.

Thusly, when it's revealed that Murray survived a plane crash or was a popular basketball player in high school we can all collective respond with a What?!?!? Murray is a man who loves his routine. He doesn't feel the need to change unless life around him forces him to. He's happy with his life and doesn't feel the need to change anything. He also doesn't feel the need to boast about his past. To him, that stuff has happened and there's no need to talk about it. Yes, it's those characteristics that keep him from being as fully developed as the rest of the cast. But here, those concerns are addressed head-on and it's wonderfully amusing to watch.

Things also get much better once the story with Murray ties into Barry's current social struggles. Barry's unwavering optimism and embarrassing social skills has been one of the most original and constant funny details from a new character this season. The season goes out big on Barry. Another party gets thrown at the Goldberg house - seriously, didn't we just have one of those a few weeks ago? This time though it's a full on high school party without any mature adult supervision. Pops is in charge but he sees this as a good thing for Barry's spirits. And yes, in the end, the party is a success and Barry gets recognized for something other than complaining about pudding the cafeteria. And it's all because of Lainey. She got people to the people and she helped Barry turn it around. More importantly though, she is the girl he got to kiss at the end of the night and not his crush Lexy Bloom. It's a weird note to end on considering we don't know either of those girls at all. But it's just nice to see Barry get a win and seeing Murray being a much more open father to his kids. A strong conclusion to an overall good first season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Livin' on a Prayer" was written by Chris Bishop & Adam F. Goldberg and directed by Claire Scanlon.
  • One of the best things The Goldbergs did with Erica was turning her into a mini-Beverly. That's made her more funny and useful especially when paired with the other juvenile elements.
  • Yeah, didn't understand any of the bits with Dustin Ybarra's college character at all. 
  • That season-ending voiceover by Patton Oswalt was basically trolling all those people who complained about the illogical chronology of the 1980s in the first season.
  • This morning ABC announced that The Goldbergs is moving to the Wednesday comedy block in the fall for season two. That's a very smart move. See you all then.