The radio program “The Rise of the Goldbergs” premiered in 1929, introducing America to an unabashedly Jewish immigrant family whose matriarch, Molly (Gertrude Berg) dished out compassion and comedy as rich as her own chicken soup.
Two decades later, a television version of the series – a groundbreaking domestic sitcom years before “I Love Lucy” – aired for seven years on CBS, where Molly reigned in her tenement flat and was serenaded by a neighbor leaning across an air shaft to call out, “Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg!”
Now a new Goldberg family is coming to prime time, in an ABC sitcom also titled “The Goldbergs,” created by Adam F. Goldberg, 37 ("Breaking In," Fanboys"). But it’s not a sequel or a remake and, in fact, doesn’t draw at all on Berg’s work. Rather, it’s based on Adam Goldberg’s family life growing up in Pennsylvania in the 1980s with a Camcorder glued to his face to capture the antics of his crazy mishpoche, whom, we’re told, had only one means of communication: shouting at the top of their lungs.
A trailer for the show reveals these Goldbergs to be like “The Wonder Years” on high-octane fuel, and perhaps Jewish in name only, even though Tribal archetypes seem to abound. The hilarious Jeff Garlin (Jeff Greene from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) is the gruff, abrasive patriarch (“I don’t say it a lot but you’re not a total moron all the time” is his means of saying “I love you"). And when his 17-year-old daughter returns home past her curfew: "It's 2 a.m., I thought you were dead. I could kill you!"
Wendy McLendon-Covey (“Bridesmaids”) portrays the overprotective, boundary-challenged mother; in one sequence she barges in on her middle son (played by Troy Gentile) in the shower and asks what he wants for his birthday, prompting him to retort: “Privacy!” In another, she announces, "Fine, I'll eat the way I'll die -- alone!
George Segal (“Don’t Shoot Me”) is the mischievous grandpa, Hayley Orrantia portrays the tart teenaged daughter and Sean Giambrone is Adam, Goldberg’s alter ego, who is extorted by his parents to “Stop with the camera [already]!”
Whether or not we’ll see a bar mitzvah or a Shabbat dinner on “The Goldbergs” remains to be seen when the show premieres this fall; it may be that the series depicts just another American family struggling with typical suburban concerns (middle child Barry, for example, wants the keys to the family car, to his parents’ chagrin) – albeit an octave or two louder than the denizens of “Seinfeld” or “Everybody Loves Raymond.”