ABC’s The Goldbergs returned last night. In the third season premiere, “A Kick-Ass Risky Business Party,” Adam (Sean Giambrone) tries to sustain a long-distance relationship, causing friction with a rising phone bill, and Lainey (AJ Michalka) learns what it’s like to have Beverly Goldberg (Wendi McLendon-Covey) as a mother. Basically, it’s your average episode of the reliably funny, family-friendly sitcom.
I admit it; I wasn’t entirely impressed when The Goldbergs came onto the scene two years ago. It’s not that it wasn’t good, there were just so many other similar sitcoms like it at the time. Today, some have dropped off, many of them remain, but The Goldbergs is probably the best of the bunch. Every time I sit down to watch, it’s like reconnecting with a close family friend, and the show never fails to both make me feel nostalgic and elicit a few chuckles.
“A Kick-Ass Risky Business Party” highlights once again that the best characters on the show are Beverly and Murray (Jeff Garlin) Goldberg. The rest of the cast is enjoyable, too, but these two veteran comedians just know how to deliver a line and sell a joke, as well as get touching at the right moments. Whether it’s Beverly whipping out her dance moves to break up an out-of-control teen party, or Murray realizing his son is an actual person and connecting with him on an emotional level, every moment these two are on screen is magic. They both bring a number of layers to the roles, their outsize personalities overlaid upon authentic, complex make ups. They can yell or smother, but at the end of the day, you can tell that these characters really love their children.
And sometimes, it can be hard to go on loving your kids. In “A Kick-Ass Risky Business Party,” Barry (Troy Gentile), Erica (Hayley Orrantia), and Lainey are doing what countless teens have done: stage a celebration without parental supervision. While the 80s movie references and sneaking around are amusing, what makes this story hit home is that it’s really about the teens thinking they don’t need their parents, and then discovering that they do. It’s a pivotal maturation point, setting the stage for why Barry and Erica will want to have a relationship with Beverly long after they move out of the house, appreciating what she has done for them and her unconditional love.
Perhaps it’s not a new idea for a sitcom to have an outsider be parented by the core family unit, prompting the existing kids to open their eyes. But just because it’s been done before doesn’t make it any less effective, and it gives Lainey, a fun recurring character, a growth arc, too.
The third child, Adam, isn’t thinking about the price of talking long distance; he just wants to be with his girlfriend, Dana (Natalie Alyn Lind). Now, yes, this is selfish and shows an utter lack of thinking about others. But Adam is young, and he can be forgiven for this, as most people his age are the same. I absolutely love the scene where Pops (George Segal) helps Murray to understand his son, and then Murray lovingly allows Adam the phone time, beyond the ten-minute limit he ‘firmly’ set. It’s a good reminder for parents watching The Goldbergs with their kids about what it’s like to be Adam’s age, and that sometimes, you’ve got to realize what makes your kid happy and provide them the opportunity to be so.
The Goldbergs may not be the very best show on television (at least in my opinon), but the show knows exactly what it is, and makes me laugh on a weekly basis, which is more than I can say for a lot of series. I keep coming back because I just have to see what happens with these characters next, and I really think Garlin and McLendon-Covey deserve to be in Emmy contention just as much as the Modern Family ensemble does. There is also a level of reality infused in the show, and one can tell it’s a personal story, which makes it all the better. If you’re not watching The Goldbergs, I definitely recommend checking it out Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.