On Day 1 of WonderCon in sunny Anaheim, the stars and executive producers of The Goldbergs made an appearance to discuss the 1980s-set ABC comedy, giving a sneak peek at an upcoming episode entitled “The Dynamic Duo.”
Set in Jenkintown, PA, the sitcom is loosely based on series creator Adam F. Goldberg’s childhood and colorful family life, all captured through the lens of a VHS camcorder. “The Dynamic Duo” follows geeky cinephile Adam (Sean Giambrone) and his grandfather, Pops (George Segal), and their differing perspectives after seeing the 1989 film Batman in theaters.
Moderated by Kevin Smith — who directed the episode — Friday’s Goldbergs panel featured stars Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jeff Garlin, executive producers Goldberg and Doug Robinson, along with writer Andrew Secunda, who discussed the Batman episode and the particular way in which a love of pop culture permeates this series.
To begin, though, Smith took the stage, to humbly cast aside any credit one might ascribe to him for the episode that had just played. “I wish I could take credit,” the director said. “They tell me that I directed the episode, but I’ll be honest with you, man — when you go onto a show like The Goldbergs, everybody’s so f*cking good at what they do that by the time you get there, you really can’t manifest any change, whatsoever. And that’s probably for the best.
“This episode, when I got there, I was like, ‘I’m ready to direct,'” Smith continued. “A week went by, and it was over, and they were like, ‘You’re done.’ And I was like, ‘I didn’t do anything.’ They’re like, ‘We noticed.’”
With Smith citing the effortless nature of directing the talented Goldbergs cast — who would never phone it in — Garlin later chimed in: “I really am a remarkable, remarkable performer. I phone it in, and you wouldn’t know because I’m that good.”
While Smith shrugged his shoulders, the series’ creators were quick to identify the importance and influence Smith’s early films had on their lives and burgeoning careers. “For me, I went to NYU, and at that point, it was 1995, and everyone wanted to be Tarantino. I was writing these stupid comedies, and I felt lost,” Goldberg said. “And — I don’t know if I told you this — I went and saw Clerks, and that was a game changer for me because I’m like, ‘Oh. There’s a guy for me, that does things I want to do.’ And then, I was at a screening of Mallrats, and it was like God had walked into the room. So for me, I basically realized that I hired Kevin … the entertainment that you guys have now, I get it in my office. I’ll just bring him in and be like, ‘Just talk to me.'”
With Goldberg reiterating the genesis of The Goldbergs in his personal life and Smith delivering an amusing anecdote of giving up his beloved milk — courtesy of health advice from Garlin — the conversation turned to writer Secunda’s contributions in the genre arena, including on this particular episode. “Andy is famous for writing our geeky genre episodes,” Goldberg said. “He famously has written a Thriller episode every year, and every year I beg him, ‘Please don’t write a Thriller episode. He goes, ‘This is the year Michael Jackson says yes.’ I say, ‘He’s not with us anymore.'”
On a pop culture-heavy show replete with cultural references, one major creative challenge for Goldberg has been securing rights to certain properties — to get the right to screen Batman footage in the background of an episode, for instance. While The Goldbergs is in its fourth season, the Batman concept behind “The Dynamic Duo” stems from the first season, and is an idea Goldberg would have pursued earlier, if he’d had the rights.
“I’ve worn down Warner Bros at this point. They’ll at least allow us to show stuff now,” the EP said. “Season 1, all these places, they’re like, ‘Why are we going to let The Goldbergs use Batman as a way to get ratings?’ Now that we’re an established thing, it’s easier.”
During the 30-minute conversation, the series’ creator revealed some dream gets for future episodes: He’d like to do a Highlander episode or an episode featuring the music of Prince.
“I just wish we could get music from Prince or the Clash or something that has an edge,” Garlin said, taking the moment to get a jab in at his collaborator’s expense. “Adam likes the lamest music — but it’s his show. It’s not called The Garlins.”
With the panel winding down, Goldberg acknowledged his brother Barry as the family member who takes the most punishment every week, with the series’ depiction of their youth. In the room for the panel, with the crowd chanting his name, the real “Big Tasty” got to answer a question: What was the one thing his brother had depicted on the show that had embarrassed him the most?
“The run,” Barry Goldberg said, referencing the onscreen Barry (Troy Gentile)’s awkward form. “I just want to say for the record, I do not run like that.”
The 20th episode of Season 4, “The Dynamic Duo” airs at 8 PM April 5 on ABC.