Adam F. Goldberg’s family comedy based on his own experiences with an overbearing mother and equally intense siblings in the ’80s is about to celebrate its 100th episode milestone – and in true “The Goldbergs” form, it is doing so by diving into the specific themes from Goldberg’s childhood (from his smother to his love of all things nerd culture) that have come to define the show.
“Halloween is always a consistent theme of Beverly wanting to be in control of her kids and not feeling like when you send them out into the scary world people are going to put razor blades in their candy or if your kid doesn’t wear a costume they’re growing up too fast,” executive producer Doug Robinson told Variety at the Paley Center for Media’s celebration for the milestone. “So, much of it about Beverly’s control and dealing with the fact that she’s having a hard time letting go.”
The episode, entitled “Jackie Likes Star Trek,” will therefore see the continuation of Beverly’s (Wendi McLendon-Covey) “Bevolution,” an attempt for her to find her own identity separate from her family for the first real time.
“Last season she decided she was going to work outside the home, and what did she do? She worked at the kids’ school. Well, that’s not really much of a change. She’s still not cutting the cord,” McLendon-Covey says. “So she needs to find some friends and find a purpose outside the house. I’m still not quite sure how the collecting of the friends will actually happen because she’s a lot, but I think she’ll end up being the head of her own posse at some point.”
Beverly also tries her hand at writing a resume and attempts a new hair style, but these are just tips of the iceberg and they illuminate a bigger problem for Bev. “She’s going to find out how Murray has been holding it together all of these years. She thought they had an honest relationship, and as it turns out, Murray has been teaching Adam what it takes to stay in a relationship with a woman, and it’s a big blow,” McLendon-Covey adds.
Meanwhile, as the title suggests, Adam (Sean Giambrone) is dealing with the fact that his girlfriend falls on “the wrong side” of the “Star Trek” versus “Star Wars” debate. Goldberg points out that back when he was growing up, there was no internet, so it was a lot harder to find people who shared your exact same interests. (He says he got lucky in meeting his own wife when they were in high school.) But when Adam realizes that his “geek love” isn’t exactly on the same page with him about everything, his father tries to teach him how to “deal with” the women in his life.
But some of the other relationships in the Goldberg family are still going strong. Hayley Orrantia, who plays Erica, shares that both she and Geoff Schwartz (Sam Lerner), as well as Barry (Troy Gentile) and Lainey (AJ Michalka) are trying to make long distance relationships work. “I think for awhile longer you’ll see them struggle with making it work from far away,” Orrantia says.
“I think anybody will tell you long distance is hard,” Lerner adds, noting that Geoff already tried proposing to Erica as a way to keep them connected. “But having just shot Halloween and Thanksgiving and we’re about to shoot our Hanukkah episode, there are a lot of opportunities for Erica to come home and spend more time with Geoff.”
Barry and Lainey are going to have a very emotional, “very romantic” story in the milestone episode – one that includes a Ouija board, in keeping with the Halloween theme. And although Michalka is not a series regular this year, she will still play into the family’s life heavily not only with Barry but also her BFF Erica (Hayley Orrantia), with whom she will “start a girl band,” per Goldberg.
“She’s definitely pursuing music,” Orrantia says of Erica. “There’s a couple episodes where we touch on the fact that she has difficulty juggling both school and her music. And you will get to see more covers that I get to do on the show. For me, that’s the best thing – to be able to do the two things that I love.”
And building on that ’80s nostalgia theme, the 100th episode, which features Geoff Schwartz dressed as Marty McFly for the holiday, is directed by Lea Thompson. “It’s always fun to go back and be in that ’80s space,” Thompson notes. “Adam and the whole crew, they think about every tiny detail, and that’s really precious and hard to come by on a TV show – especially one on its 100th episode – but they still really care.”
But of course the show is not slowing down. ABC renewed the show for a fifth and sixth season back in May, which Goldberg calls “really liberating,” allowing him and his writers room to take more chances in their storytelling. One big swing they are making later in the season is an episode in which the Goldbergs go to dinner.
Both Goldberg and Robinson admit it’s a story they wanted to do from the very first season but didn’t feel like they could early on in the show’s run. “I loved the idea of just them in a restaurant, going to dinner, and it’s torture,” Goldberg says. “It’s very hopefully relatable if you have parents like this who have no shame.”
Goldberg admits that early ideas for the episode simply came out of complaining about his parents, like his dad getting so hungry he was shaky but his mom swatting bread out of his hands every time he tries to eat something, or arguments over where to sit because some tables are too drafty while others are too near the kitchen. In order to bring an ordinary snapshot in this family’s week come to life, the episode is centered on Erica’s birthday. And complicating matters: “There’s a new person who has never gone to dinner with this family,” Goldberg says of Erica’s boyfriend Geoff.
While Robinson doesn’t believe any topic is truly off the table as long as they can find a way to put the typical “Goldbergs” spin on it, Goldberg gives his family right of approval over certain specifics. And as of right now, he says his wife doesn’t want him showing old home movies of their younger years on-screen. But maybe she’ll change her mind if — and when — the show hits episode 200.
New episodes of “The Goldbergs” are on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.