12 April 2014 | Manth_Sigdaw
Mediocre 80s nostalgia show, very fake, not everyone dressed like Madonna and Don Johnson
I think The Goldbergs is an OK show, but that great 80s nostalgia sitcom has yet to be made. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, so I know about the 80s. And this show is mediocre at best. It's not outright bad, but it's not classic TV greatness either. This show certainly is not what Happy Days (made in the 1970s and 80s but set in the 50s/early 60s) or That 70s Show (made in the 90s and 2000s but set in the 70s) were to their respective decades.
For whatever reason, it's been tough doing a show set in the 80s. I think the creators of 80s nostalgia sitcoms get way, way, WAAAY too hung up on putting in too many pop culture references and ultimately get distracted from just telling a good story that happens to take place in the 1980s.
Happy Days and That 70s Show were at their best when they stayed period correct, but did it in an understated way and stayed focused more on the characters and story, which was how real life is. In The Goldbergs, nearly everyone is "dressing 80s", the teen girls are dressing like Madonna circa 1984 and the guys are dressing like they just walked off of Miami Vice. Yes there were people that did dress like these stereotypes in North America, but that was like a small portion of the population. A proper 80s nostalgia show should take cues from That 70s Show. On That 70s Show, the characters were proper 70s clothes, but in a more understated way, not every man is wearing a leisure suit or glittery disco outfit. That 70s Show feels more like real life, how it was really. The Goldbergs, much like the failed That 80s Show from 2002 just feels like people going to an 80s themed dress up party. The best advice for this series and any future 80s and eventual 90s and 2000s shows is to not get so hung up on pop culture, have the pop culture be part of the background and tell good stories first and foremost with interesting characters.
This is how I would have started a show like The Goldbergs: I would have started an 80s show like The Goldbergs as early as 1982, but no later then 1984, and then just let it run from there. I wouldn't start a series in 1980 b/c it might not feel "80s 80s" enough for most people with all the left over late 70s vibe still around, but by 1981 or 1982 you had MTV, Ronald Reagan and enough 80s mentality and fashion to be legitimately feel like the 80s. If you go too deep into the 80s then you are catching the tail end of the decade where stuff was already dying out. Plus the heart and soul of the real 1980s was during the 1982-'85 time anyways. As great as playing Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt on that old 8 bit Nintendo was in 1989 and watching Batman in the theaters in 1989, real 80s kids know that the late 80s wasn't the meat and potatoes of the decade. The true 80s was like around 1984. Plus the Nintendo Power Glove from 1989 sucked, I don't know why Adam Goldberg is so big on that.
I would let the 80s pop culture be the background for the series not the forefront running gag of the show. I would write good stories with interesting characters that just happen to take place around 1982-'84. I would keep the fashions more understated, it's OK if maybe every once in while you have a girl dress like Madonna circa 1983-'85, but if you have EVERY girl dress like Madonna then it's ridiculous. Once the show is a hit, you can start to forget about trying to stay perfectly accurate to what year did what song or TV show came out, as long as it's within a year or two of whenever the show is supposed to take place and not wildly off.
That 70s Show had 70s fashions, but they tried to stay more realistic, not every dude was walking around in a leisure suit or glittery disco outfit. Now a series like Happy Days did get super fake as the show went on and eventually forgot about it's 1950s setting, but when Happy Days started out, it went for realism. An 80s nostalgia show should take cues from other nostalgia shows like Happy Days (1950s), The Wonder Years (late 1960s/early 70s) or That 70s Show.
If an 80s series with my formula is a huge hit like That 70s Show or Happy Days, then eventually people will even forget that it's a nostalgia show and that by this time the characters should be existing in like 1991 or something, it would just be a long running hit series about interesting characters that started around 1982-'84.