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Time Paradox: The Curious Case of The Goldbergs
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on July 10, 2014   |   Episode 193 (Show Archive)  

   

Some people will be happy just as long as the TV show gets the 1980s fashion right.
Like so many people, I have a bad habit of binge watching TV shows when I'm home alone with nothing better to do. And thanks to steaming services and various On Demand packages, watching full seasons in a single day has never been easier. Unfortunately, I'm at the point now where I've gone through most of the essentials, so I'm mostly mopping up the second-tier titles recommended by friends and family. This is the reason I decided to sit through all 23 episodes of The Golbergs this past weekend.

In case you haven't been watching network television, The Goldbergs is a moderately amusing half-hour sitcom with a very appealing gimmick. Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Wendi McLendon-Coney (Reno 911) play parents trying to navigate the 1980s in what amounts to a retread of another ABC comedy, The Wonder Years. It's your typical coming-of-age story; only this time around those awkward teenage years are set during the Reagan administration, long before

I love the 1980s, even the horribly outdated technology.
people surfed the internet, DVR'd their favorite shows and spent every waking minute Tweeting their every move.

As a child of the 1980s, I was admittedly drawn to the period piece gimmick. Readers of this site won't be too surprised to hear that I enjoy many of the games, movies, songs and TV shows from that era. I went in ready to laugh at the goofy sweaters, outdated technology and silly catch-phrases. And, for the most part, the first 23 episodes delivered on that promise. But what I didn't expect was that the one thing that sets the show apart was also the thing frustrating me the most.

The pilot episode tells us that the year is 1985 and Adam, the youngest Goldberg, is a 12 year old boy who owns a Nintendo Entertainment System and loves Star Wars. This is the last time the narrator (played by comedian Patton Oswalt)

As expected, Patton Oswalt is the best part of The Goldbergs.
gives a specific year, instead stating that it's "nineteen eighty-something." In theory this gives the show a lot of leeway when mocking the 1980s, but the execution is nothing short of baffling.

While the narrator may be playing coy about the exact year, there are enough real world events to make me conclude that The Goldbergs is actually set in an alternate universe where time is not linear. Or maybe season two will reveal that this is a family of time travelers. I'm not sure what the big science-fiction reveal will be, but it's just about the only way to explain the show's many inconsistencies.

I first noticed the problem when Barry spends his hard-earned money to buy his younger brother a copy of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Prepare to be disappointed, Adam.
for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This is a game that came out in December of 1988, three years after the events depicted in the pilot. But wait, the same episode notes that it's not the middle of winter, suggesting that it's actually 1989.

Several episodes later, Adam's father is excited to watch Geraldo Rivera crack open Al Capone's vault live on television. A person with a good memory (or the know-how to use Google) will already know that the vault turned up empty on April 21, 1986. That's three full years before Adam gets a chance to play Zelda II.

And if you think that's odd, get a load of the Star Wars-themed episode that originally aired on May 6. In this episode, Adam and his older sister stand in line to see Return of the Jedi, the final chapter in the original trilogy. As you probably already know, this Star Wars sequel debuted on May 23, 1983. Not only is that two years before the established date in the pilot, but that's six years before Adam gets his hands on Zelda II.


No, this sitcom is not about Mr. Numbers.
In a frustrating move, the time inconsistencies are never addressed. Despite the fact that he's clearly jumping through time, Adam's story remains linear. He falls for a girl, has a birthday party and experiences his first kiss, all in exactly the steps you would expect. If Adam is the constant, then clearly time is actually bending around him.

I'm sure some will argue that it's just a sitcom and continuity is not the point. This is clearly the opinion of the creator, Adam F. Goldberg, who seems content ignoring the real dates in order to skewer the decade as a whole. But as a viewer, I had a hard time understanding how the young star could be 12 in both 1983 and 1989, despite having a birthday several episodes later (in fictional 1986).


Sally Draper would not tolerate these inaccuracies.
Perhaps this wouldn't have been as noticeable had I not already been knee deep in new episodes of Mad Men. For seven seasons, AMC's drama goes out of its way to painstakingly recreate the 1960s. Instead of jumping around, Mad Men takes a linear path through the turbulent decade, always staying true to the dates and years. Don Draper has spoiled me, which may be why I have such a hard time accepting The Goldbergs' timeline.

As I get ready for season two, I have decided to reject the idea that the creators don't care about continuity. Instead, I'm choosing to look at The Goldbergs as a spinoff to yet another ABC series -- LOST. As we know from the experiments performed on Desmond, it's possible to jump between years and dates as long as you have a constant. And don't forget; only fools are enslaved by time and space.
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