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.
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.”