'The Goldbergs' May Be Fall's Best New Sitcom, While 'The Trophy Wife' Definitely Is Not

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'The Goldbergs' May Be Fall's Best New Sitcom, While 'The Trophy Wife' Definitely Is Not

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | September 24, 2013 | Comments ()


The Goldbergs may be the first sitcom I’ve ever seen during which I legitimately thought that I would love to be a part of the writers’ room. An ’80s-set The Wonder Years with a louder, more boisterous family (to suit the times), there is an immense amount of potential in The Goldbergs, and it’s already one of the few sitcoms I’ve ever fallen completely in love with before mid-season.

The Goldbergs yell a lot. They nag, and they criticize, and the mock each other, but there’s obviously a great deal of affection underneath the scorn. Jeff Garlin, who plays the Dad, is basically Jeff Garlin in full-on obnoxious mode, who seems like he’s probably spitting food on you anytime he speaks. Meanwhile, Wendi McLendon-Covey is brilliant as the no-nonsense, overbearing Mom who will walk in on her son while he’s taking a shower and gives no f*cks.

There’s nothing special about the storyline in the pilot itself — the middle kid turns 16, and his parents torture him about the fact that he’s not responsible enough to drive — but the episode does a remarkable job of establishing the characters. The older sister is dour and temperamental, the middle kid is the put-upon, overreacting dolt, and the younger kid — whose viewpoint the series is told from (with narration by Patton Oswalt) — is a nerdlinger, who is clearly going to suffer through his teenage years in hand-me down women’s jeans. George Segal rounds out the cast as the spoiling grandfather who is slowly losing his mind, and he brings in a considerable amount of charm to offset some of the yelling. The entire family starts out as caricatures of excess, but 22 minutes help to fill in their personalities, and with four or five episodes under its belt, I can see myself being invested in a more fully-realized family.

It’s also very funny, thanks mostly to the abrasive parenting styles of Mom and Dad, who dote with insults and guilt. There’s a lot of comparisons you can draw here: Besides The Wonder Years, it’s also reminiscent of The Middle and Raising Hope (minus the baby). But what really appealed to me, besides the nostalgia factor (for which I am a sucker), was a touch of the Freaks and Geeks tone that simmers beneath it all. (I think Patton Oswalt’s narration contributes to that.) I liked the first two acts of The Goldbergs pilot, but when they cracked out the REO Speedwagon, I was completely sold.

Who knows how The Goldbergs holds up over time, but most sitcoms improve upon the pilot, and after its premiere, it’s already sitting pretty.

Meanwhile, Trophy Wife — which follows The Goldbergs on ABC tonight (both follow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — has a phenomenal cast, but there’s not a particularly compelling angle. It centers on Malik Akerman’s character, who becomes the third wife of Bradley Whitford’s character, and in doing so, inherits not only Whitford’s children, but his two ex-wives (one of whom is a straight-laced doctor played by Marcia Gay Harden). It’s not a bad pilot; in fact, it’s very watchable. But you can’t help but feel like it’s trying to duplicate Modern Family in a world of divorce, custody arrangements, and step-parents. The viewpoint it provides doesn’t feel very genuine, and the humor can be best described as tepid and inoffensively trashy. It’s very much like later season Modern Family episodes: Forgettable, easy to watch, and modestly entertaining, but certainly nothing worth tuning in for each week.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • iluvkayaking

    The Godbergs was absolute CRAP!! It was painful to watch and so annoying. Bring back Mash and Fraiser. At least they had great writing and characters. This was just insults, yelling and bickering. Absolutely dreadful.

  • Devin McMusters

    My DVR told me not to add anything new. So I am boycotting every new show. Unless I can talk my wife out of her Grey's Anatomy habit.

  • Classic

    Good luck with that. That show sucks. Except for any parts dealing with Christina Yang.

  • Artemis

    The Goldbergs wasn't terrible. I actually agree with a lot of what Dustin has to say about it, and particularly with how polished it was for a pilot and how well it established its characters. Unfortunately, I couldn't disagree more about how funny it was. In that it wasn't. At all. There were lines that I imagine were supposed to be jokes, but there wasn't a single one that got even a silent chuckle from me.

    And since funny is kind of a requirement for comedies, this is the first show of the season that's getting cut from my DVR. I would be willing to pick it up again if people start to rave about it later in the season--it was pleasant and I don't have an aversion to seeing more of its characters--but it would have to learn to tell jokes first.

  • Tracey

    The Goldbergs was painful to watch and I switched it off 15 minutes through the pilot. Dude's off his rocker if he thinks it's better than Trophy Wife.

  • Jifaner

    I really liked Trophy Wife. I think all the actresses are incredibly talented and I'm excited to have them all in one show. The name is super dumb, and she doesn't appear to ACTUALLY be a "trophy wife" thank goodness (Bradley Whitford's character doesn't seem to be a mid-life crisis guy or rich dude that needs someone pretty on his arm), but whatever. It's just a name.

    I think The Goldbergs looks obnoxious. The mom's voice has always grated on my nerves, plus since I actually was a kid in the 80s I feel no need to revisit that.

  • Erm

    I really liked Trophy Wife. I think the Goldbergs is mostly just going to appeal to men who were kids in the 80s. Otherwise I really don't see the appeal.

  • e jerry powell

    Okay, George Segal is looking like the love child of Bill O'Reilly and Bill Maher in that header photo. Maybe they should have gone with Judd Hirsch?

    Oh, and while almost good enough, the Photoshop is a little creepy, because they didn't get the lighting quite uniform when they added Segal. The shadow from his chin is in the wrong direction.

  • sanyo

    Who cast the Lipnicki and Galecki lookalikes?

  • JenVegas

    I was more entertained by The Trophy Wife pilot on Hulu last week. I can't find anything charming about the family in The Goldbergs. They are, literally, the family I avoid at all costs when out and about in the real world now and also in the 80s. The Trophy Wife wasn't GREAT but the cast, at least, gives me some hope for some funny moments in the future.

  • RenoGruber

    See also: Jews.

    (Just kidding, but you left it right there for me. It's the internet, you understand.)

  • bastich

    /Peers suspiciously at RenoGruber, makes notes in his Elders of Zion day journal.

  • marya

    Okay, THAT'S hilarious. bastich with the save!

  • I'll upvote you, mostly because I've also told jokes before that were hilarious in my head, but lead balloons when they escaped out into the world.

  • RenoGruber

    Haha, totally. Trying to explain it will only exacerbate. *backs away slowly*

  • JenVegas

    i feel like you should downvote yourself for that one, RenoGruber.

  • RenoGruber

    I think you missed the irony I was going for. As you were.

  • JenVegas

    Hrm...I must have. Which part was ironic? The part where you crack a joke about Jews being the type of people I avoid or the part where you say you're kidding about Jews being the type of people I avoid?

  • RenoGruber

    Well this escalated quickly.

  • JenVegas

    Nah. I really can't be offended by what some person who doesn't know me, and who I don't know, says on the internets. I do think you're using irony incorrectly though.

  • Michelle

    I watched The Trophy Wife on Hulu last week. I wasn't mad at it, but I also wasn't captivated by it. But it's the pilot, so it should hopefully get better-ish?

    I wasn't going to try The Goldbergs, but now I will add it to my list!

  • Maguita NYC

    Both shows were okay enough yesterday for me to give them a few weeks to prove themselves. Hope they get better and characters develop better chemistry. Also, the combination of Gay Harden / Akerman was quite interesting and there is a lot of potential there. The other ex-wife though got on my nerves... No one is allowed to be that much of an airhead. Same goes for the best friend.

  • Michelle

    Yeah, the best friend seems like she could end up being like Anna Camp on The Mindy Project and just disappearing after half the season. There's already so much going on with the family I don't see how they're going to make it all work.

    The other ex-wife is a bit much! She'll probably tone down soon (I hope?).

  • Three_nineteen

    This is interesting, because another site (Grantland maybe?) said the opposite - Trophy Wife better than Goldbergs. Guess I'll find out tonight whose tastes reflect mine.

  • okayflint

    Yeah, I'd go with grantland, I'm beginning to question why I bother to read Dustin's reviews, at least his tv reviews... We have very different tastes (I like good things, or at least enjoy things more than other things when one of the things is terrible)

  • Arran

    I think most sites are saying the opposite. Everything I've seen suggests The Goldbergs is mediocre and Trophy Wife is full of promise.

  • six6sixwitch

    Meh...80's nostalgia. Next year a 90's version of this will come along. "Cirlce of Sitcom Pilots".

  • lowercase_ryan

    I watched the Goldbergs pilot on Hulu last week, Or I watched 15 mins of it before I had to turn it off. I thought it was garbage and found myself wondering why the hell Patton got mixed up with it. I didn't find it funny at all.

  • Blake

    I think Brooklyn Nine Nine will end up being "Fall's Best New Sitcom".

  • Bert_McGurt

    I thought the pilot was pretty great. I hope it holds out - Andre Braugher's deadpan alone made it worthwhile.

  • Michelle

    I watched that last night on Hulu and thought it had promise. I'm hopeful it'll be good.

  • MarTeaNi

    I really want Trophy Wife to be good if for no other reason than that I root for Sarah Haskins, even though the premise of the show is exactly the kind of thing I avoid. I do wish she were in front of the camera instead of just in the writer's chair, she's got great delivery. Still, it might get better!

  • Nimue

    And the viewpoint at least started somewhere genuine as the show is based on her real life marriage.

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