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All About ‘The Goldbergs’ Rollicking Panel at TCA

(ABC/Eric McCandless) WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY, JEFF GARLIN

(ABC/Eric McCandless)
WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY, JEFF GARLIN

Puberty will loom large, big hair will be an issue, and “Thriller” will not be given an homage when “The Goldbergs” return for their third season on ABC. Those were a few of the topics in the wide-ranging and very funny panel featuring series creator and executive producer Adam Goldberg and the cast of his 1980s sitcom at the current Television Critics Association summer press tour.

“The Goldbergs” first episode this coming season Sept. 23 will take off on “Risky Business,” because “I kind of wanted to start with a big splash,” Goldberg said. “So we’re crashing cars and we’re doing the whole thing. It’s going to be awesome.”

As far as other big ’80s hit movies that might get the “Goldbergs” treatment, the creator noted, “It just has to happen kind of organically. We start with a story first. It’s not like I go, ‘I love “Short Circuit.”‘ I want to do an episode about it.” We started talking about an episode where Murray and Adam are forced by mom to build a robot together, which is something that happened with me and my dad. And then that turned into a ‘Short Circuit’ episode” — which will be seen later this year. “I just love all those movies and they’re part of me, so they’re going to be part of the show.”

The movie episodes are also highly promotable, noted a reporter, and ABC runs with them — last season’s huge “Ferris Bueller” episode featuring Charlie Sheen being a prime example. So how does Goldberg keep from allowing such episodes to overrun the show?

Goldberg acknowledged that the movie episodes have wrought behind-the-scenes controversy: “It started with “The Goonies” episode, which no one wanted me to do, and I insisted on doing, and people — the writers in the room were like, ‘This is going to destroy the show. You’re working way too hard on it. It’s driving you insane.'”

Then came the “Ferris Bueller” episode, which was the biggest of all, nicknamed “Adam’s Folly.”

“So I decided once a year, I’m going to do a big, just — it almost operates outside of the realm of the reality of the show. It’s like a direct homage. So I am doing one a year. And we’re negotiating right now with the movie studio. We’ve decided what the movie is, but I don’t know if — it’s so complicated to get these movies on the show,” he said.

Series dad Jeff Garlin jokingly guessed, “Charlotte’s Web”?

“It’s ‘Charlotte’s Web,'” Goldberg deadpanned, to laughter from the assembled press.

Then he went on, “So ABC definitely loves the big promotable stuff. But for me, it’s just, can we do it logistically? Just because I want to do ‘Indiana Jones’ doesn’t mean I can get Spielberg to sign off. It’s almost impossible. There’s so many stories that we want to tell, we just can’t do right now.”

He was told “Thriller” was impossible to get, but wrote a “Thriller”-themed Halloween episode anyway, “which I think is the best script we’ve ever written. And we were just told by the writer of the song, it’s never going to happen. … He doesn’t want his song to be aired on television. Movies, OK, but not TV. So we just kind of have to throw away the script.”

“Has he seen movies lately?” asked Garlin.

Of course, the Goldberg family members have their own lives to deal with, starting with young Adam, who will have a difficult year ahead.

“Every episode this season is about how I struggled with puberty, transitioning from middle school to high school,” revealed Goldberg, who takes his inspiration from his own life. “That’s what it’s going to be for a little bit, which will be really fun, because those stories are pretty brutal.”

Sean Giambrone, who plays Adam, said he’s fine with that, “Because the writers are great and I know they’ll be very nice about it. But it’ll be good comedy, I feel, so I’m OK.”

Garlin teasingly pointed out that Adam’s voice is changing: “How are you? I’m Sean. I still look very young, but my voice!”

Giambrone’s hair was in its natural curly state at the press conference, leading a reporter to ask him whether it will be his new look on the series. “This is my off-season hair. I don’t know about on-air. Because, like, usually I just have the part, you know, the well-coiffed part,” replied the 16-year-old. “But in regular life, it’s just kind of like this.”

“If we want to give Adam a Jewfro, we will,” added Goldberg.

Garlin chimed in, “I think that is a Jewfro. Having had one, that’s what it is, yeah.”

Speaking of hair, Goldberg admitted, “I get a lot of comments like why don’t the women have, like, big, giant hair. And it’s just we tried it in the pilot and it looked so ridiculous that I just thought it would take away from kind of the enjoyment of the show. So I wanted to do an episode about giant ’80s hair which I thought would be really fun this year at some point.”

Asked to comment on 1980s styles and fads seen in the show, Hayley Orrantia confessed that “I can’t stand the jelly shoes. I never understood it. They’re just so uncomfortable and your feet are sweaty and it’s just not that attractive. I think they’re like the Crocs of the ’80s.”

But AJ Michalka said she loves those plastic shoes.

Not series mom Wendi McLendon-Covey. “I hate all the fashions of the ’80s,” said the former “Reno 911” funny lady. “None of them need to come back in daily life. I’m pretty much horrified every day when I get dressed, but it’s what the character would wear. And what I love/hate on our set are all the little — do you remember when geese were a thing in the ’80s? You would decorate your house with little geese that had bows around their necks? That makes me laugh. Why did we think that was cute?”

The panel commented on some of the more attention-getting activities of their fans, such as the woman who had Beverly Goldberg’s face tattooed on her arm the other day.

“That’s your face,” Orrantia stressed to her series mom.

“Yeah. Wow,” McLendon-Covey replied.

Garlin joked that a tattoo shop in the Valley is “offering free Goldberg tattoos. Yeah. It’s a promo thing. ABC’s behind it, I think.”

“That was disturbing/flattering,” McLendon-Covey admitted. She also said there was a woman who crotcheted dolls of all the cast. “We’ve got some talented fans out there with some skills.”

“I’m glad I don’t know about that stuff,” Garlin said.

The fantastically funny actor and comedian was asked about the talk of a new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — and was quick to say that although “The Goldbergs” is in first position for him professionally, he has a deal that will allow him to go back and do more episodes of the much-honored HBO show if creator Larry David decides to do another season. “It’s been such an honor to work with him. I hope he does. I’d love to,” Garlin said.

Will he?

At this point, Garlin is giving it a 51 percent chance. He pointed out, “‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ is the only show that I know of in the history of television that only moves forward because the creator is basing his decision entirely on creativity. … Larry David is so g———- rich that he doesn’t have to do anything unless it’s good.”

Speaking of having to do things, the panel got into Garlin’s many underwear scenes. He let it be known that having to wear the infamous tighty-whities on camera is no picnic.

“In order to match my face, they have to put makeup on my legs, and it’s with water and a brush. Not enjoyable,” he complained, as reporters laughed. “Tighty-whities — not enjoyable. As a matter of fact, when we first started doing the show, I just wore a pair of tighty-whities. Then, the censor said, ‘I see movement.’ And so they added another layer. And then she said, ‘I see shadows,’ so there’s a special thing …”

“A codpiece,” offered Goldberg.

“It reminds me of kneepads when I played football — over my weiner. And she still comes in and says, ‘I see movements and shadows,’ which, I guess, is a compliment.”

Garlin let the media know, “I do it cause it’s my job. You know, when I get home, I wear boxer briefs. And when I get home to my actual home, my pants are off. I’m thrilled to not wear pants. I’m always disappointed if there’s guests, because then I have to keep my pants on out of respect. I have no respect for my family. So I do it. But there have been times where I have said — and it’s gone upstairs — ‘Jeff doesn’t feel it’s necessary in this scene for him to be in his underwear.’ And 9 out of 10 times, they’ll go OK.”

He added, “By the way, I go to craft service in my underwear and I hang out like that. They’re all pretty much used to it.”

“We love it. It’s a gift to all of us,” McLendon-Covey enthused.

So will “The Goldbergs” be like “M*A*S*H,” outlasting the actual time frame in which its story exists?

“The good thing about setting the show in 1980-something is it can go on for as long as we want. I don’t really specify any kind of time,” Goldberg responded. “In fact, I haven’t even aged the kids yet in terms of their grades, and no one’s even really seemed to notice. So it’s definitely not chronological. They’re like ‘The Simpsons.’ It’s basically a live-action ‘Simpsons.’ So I think that’s a great thing, I’m not locked into any time. So it’s as ’80s as long as we say it is. And then if we’re on long enough and we get bored, maybe we’ll go to the ’90s. Who knows.”

 

From ‘Wizards’ to ‘Cristela,’ Maria Canals Barrera Keeps Priorities Straight

MARIA CANALS-BARRERAHollywood can be very hard on couples, as anyone who has seen “A Star is Born” — any version — can readily attest. However, tackling the challenges of husband and wife dual acting careers is all in a day’s work for Maria Canals and David Barrera, who have been married for 15 years and are the parents of two daughters, Bridget, 10, and Madeleine, 8.

Maria, best known for her 106-episode run on the Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” returns to the series game Friday, Oct. 10, playing the sister of breakout comedy star Cristela Alonzo in ABC’s new “Cristela.” She was up for the series with her husband. She got the job. He got a couple of callbacks, but ended up not being cast. Still, he’s very supportive, she says.

“He works all the time. He’s very fulfilled. It would have been fun to work together, but it’s OK,” says Maria, whose series spouse is being played by Carlos Ponce. She adds, “We’ve been up for husband and wife and boyfriend and girlfriend before, and sometimes we’ve gotten it.”

When it’s noted that some couples couldn’t handle such tricky ego territory, she is quick to shoot back, “I would question their priorities if they couldn’t handle it. I mean, we’re a team. We see things very much as a team. He works a lot. He just had a great big juicy guest star role on the first episode of this season of ‘Big Bang Theory.'”

In fact, David, whose credits range from big screen roles including Gunnery Sgt. Ray “Casey Kasem” Griego in “Generation Kill” to numerous TV gigs, was possibly better known to Cristela Alonzo at the outset of her sitcom’s casting than was Maria.

“The funny thing is she’s from the same small town in Texas that my husband is from,” notes the actress, referring to hamlet of San Juan in Hidalgo County. “They even attended the same high school, albeit 10 years apart. My husband was like the small town big star — everybody in that tiny town knows of David Barrera, the famous actor in Hollywood. Now it’s Cristela: ‘Oh, wow Cristela is our girl! She’s doing so great.’

“So, she knew who he was, she knew of him and knew I was his wife and about ‘Wizards’ and all of that.

She told me that she told the casting lady to make sure to bring us in because we’re a husband and wife team.”

Maria recalls that she and her new on-camera sister clicked immediately. “I did not know her personally before, but it was something that instantly felt great. It was so much fun — she’s so much fun to play off of, she’s easy to love like a sister. We both have sisters in real life, so we get the sister thing, how the sisters interact, how they keep bringing up things from the past.”

“Cristela” could have been even more of a Barrera family affair. Her elder daughter is in the “Cristela” pilot. “It was so much fun. The part of the kid was a recurring character. And then when the show got picked up, it became a regular. My daughter said, ‘Mom, I love doing the show, but I don’t want to miss middle school.’

“I said, ‘You know what? You’ll only have sixth grade once in your life. You can always do a show’ — because she’s really talented. So she chose school! Let me tell you, we were very blown away,” notes Maria with pride.

She keeps in touch with her former series daughter, Selena Gomez. She keeps in touch with all of her former “Wizards” family, in fact.

“We don’t see each other that often because we’re all doing so many different things, but we do talk, we do connect. I just connected with Jennifer (Stone). I saw David DeLuise recently. I see David Henrie. I was at the premiere of his film — he had a short film he wrote and directed that was terrific. I see Jake (T. Austin). And I do see Selena a little bit, but it’s been several months because she’s been so busy. We all stay connected, we support each other, we text,” she says. “It was a very special thing we had there. We’re grateful for it and we’re grateful for each other.”

Maria reports that she’s reunited with former occasional “Wizards of Waverly Place” director Victor Gonzalez, who’s been directing “Cristela.” And Peter Murrieta, a former writer-producer on “Wizards,” works on her new series, too. “It’s a small, small world,” she says.

So far she is having a blast on “Cristela.” “I love doing sitcoms with a live audience. There’s nothing like it. I love interacting with the people out there. It’s exciting to laugh with the audience. And it’s a family show, which is unusual and wonderful,” she adds. “You can watch with your kids and not flinch because of something highly inappropriate.”

Perhaps David Barrera will come in for a guesting some time?

Maria laughs. “Of course!”

“Extreme Weight Loss” Trainers Chris and Heidi Powell Set New Parameters

CHRIS POWELL, HEIDI POWELL
                It’s a season of “firsts” for ABC’s popular “Extreme Weight Loss.” Season 4, beginning tonight (5/27), features the first father and daughter participants and the first mother and son. It includes the first person to quit trainer and lifestyle makeover specialist Chris Powell’s program, and the first to be kicked out of it. This is the first season to begin with participants in a weight loss boot camp at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC) in Aurora, CO.
And, “I would say that one of the most important firsts is that I have a full-time, super hot co-host here,” boasts Chris. He does indeed – his gorgeous blond wife, mother of their four children and fellow trainer, Heidi. The Powells make it clear that Heidi has been a part of the show since Day 1, from being in on its creation to working with participants – but until now, she’s been behind the scenes. We chatted with the incredibly toned twosome about their new directions and how they keep it all together.

Q: Why haven’t we been seeing Heidi until now?
She: You can only capture so much of what is happening in a one or two-hour episode. When you spend an entire year with somebody, you can’t even imagine how much footage ends up on the cutting room floor. To have me and Chris together didn’t make sense, story wise, because Chris was kind of the person known as the trainer. And then this year, the change in the format of the show led the producers to say, ‘Why not capture this?’
Q: What about that change in format?
She: I had my fourth baby last year, and we decided it was going to be too hard with Chris traveling again. So we talked to the producers and decided to actually do three months in one location rather than have him travel all over. So he and I got to run a boot camp for three months in Denver, Colorado, and the reality of what happened really came out on camera. I worked with the pariticpants as much as I always have, it’s just that now occasionally I have to do interviews on camera. That’s really the only change.
Q: Was the idea of Chris traveling originally set up to help differentiate you from ‘Biggest Loser’? Was that part of the thinking?
He: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I mean, when we were creating the show, we wanted to map out what the journey of transformation is really like for people at home. So that’s like the concept. It’s not a competition. It wasn’t just a matter of two months; we wanted to take a whole year because that’s what the journey it truly like. And then, instead of just diet and exercise, we go and do the emotional aspect and the psychological aspect of it, which is really what it’s all about.
Q: You say this is the first time someone walked out and also the first time you kicked somebody off. There’s a lot of drama this year.
She: There’s a lot of drama every year, but we were able to capture it being at the same location for such an extended period of time. This year we did have a couple of people who began the journey, who, from the beginning, we weren’t quite sure of. At least one of them. I wasn’t sure the person was ready and sure enough, over time, the person quit.
Q: Are there a lot of people whose stories don’t make it on the air at all?
She: They all do. Even the two people who quit or got kicked off, you will get to see what happens.
Q: Without giving too much away, what caused the departure? What caused you to kick someone off? Were they lying?
He: I think with one individual — the individual who quit was just scared. Terrified. And the person who left, what they wanted to get out of the process was less about transformation and more about superficial stuff. They weren’t in it for the right reasons. We work with food addicts, and the only way you control an addiction is with honest and authenticity — being real, open. And this individual would not open up. Lying — sure enough, when we started to dig down deeper into all these stories that were being told, there were so many untruths.
Q: You have a big family. Do you run back and forth between shooting and being with your kids?
He: We do. We’re a great tag team; when she is working, I’m Mr. Mom, and it works so well that way. When I was on the road so much, we couldn’t do that. I’d be gone six weeks at a time and I’d come home and the kids barely knew me.
Q: The young man you work with this season whose father abused him as a child — telling that story required a lot of sensitivity. Do you sit with the editors when putting these shows, these stories, together?
He: We spend a lot of time with the executive producers. We have so much one-on-one time with these individuals, we know what to be sensitive to and what is the best way to tell a story and what is happening emotionally behind the scenes. It really is a team effort in capturing the reality of the situation and truly telling their story.
She: Also a huge shout out to our editors. Most editors spend their entire lives in an edit bay, putting the stories together. Ours actually go out on the road with us, and know the particulars of the stories.
Q: This is some really life-changing material. Do the subjects sometimes have misgivings about telling their stories?
She: Oh, yeah. Oh my gosh. I would say every single one of them. I think as humans we all want to be loved, and we think what will make us loved is looking good on camera, and when. It takes a lot of reassurance and trust for them to believe us when we say, ‘Guys, imagine watching your own journey. What would you want your character to divulge to make that connection?’ And it’s talking about how many people will be helped by laying it all out on the table. All the participants want to make a difference in this world.
He: That’s a great point. They all want to make a difference. You can tell the truth because your truth is going to give someone else struggling with the same thing permission to make a change as well. Once they get that, they realize how powerful that courage is, and that’s what gets them to open up.