2 August 2009 | bkoganbing
The Goldbergs Of The Grand Concourse
In the early days of television there was a lot of free program timing and what to do to fill it. Simply take the best from medium you are supplanting, radio. The first years of television simply had radio shows be it Jack Benny, Burns&Allen, the Lone Ranger, etc. simply come over from radio and before when you only could imagine what the characters looked like, now they had to fulfill expectations of what you came to expect.
The Goldbergs were filmed live originally, no canned laugh soundtrack, the laughs Gertrude Berg and her cast got were real. But Gertrude Berg was no stranger to live audiences, she honed her acting talent and the material that she and her husband Lewis wrote at the Borscht Belt Jewish club in the Catskills. From the skits of Jewish life she wrote for her club act, Ms. Berg created the adventures of the lovable and philosophical Molly Goldberg and her family which consisted of husband Jake, Philip Loeb, children Arlene McQuade and Larry Robinson and Uncle David played by Eli Mintz. They and others who replaced them among the older generation were all veterans of the Yiddish Theater and the Borscht Belt nightclubs of the Catskills.
Though many folks succeeded the other cast members, particularly Philip Loeb who was blacklisted, only Gertrude Berg was with it all the way. As the creative force of the show, it could not have worked with anyone else. It'a also the only television show I can think of besides Car 54 Where Are You that was centered in the Bronx.
The Jewish Champs Elysees of the time, better known as the Grand Concourse has changed considerably over half a century. Molly Goldberg wouldn't recognize the place now. From where she dispensed her wisdom from out her apartment window or in the living room, she'd more than likely have to do it in Spanish today.
Yet take out the Jewish character and humor, what you've got with The Goldbergs are the bare bones of a gazillion family comedies that have come through television since then. Family situations are universal and is George Lopez's Show speaking of Molly dispensing wisdom in Spanish all that different from The Goldbergs.
Gertrude Berg was a real pioneer in nightclub, on radio, and finally on television. Molly, you were a Yiddishe sage.