Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Celebrating The Goldbergs' 100th

The Goldbergs at the Paley Center for Media,
Beverly Hills:
(l to r) Executive Producer Doug Robinson,
stars Sam Lerner, Wendi McLendon Covey,
Hayley Orrantia, 100th episode director Lea Thompson
Last night at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, cast and creators of The Goldbergs came together to celebrate the series' upcoming 100th episode.

After an advance screening of tonight's (hilarious) Revenge of the Nerds-themed episode -- not the 100th, which is not quite ready yet -- series stars Wendi McLendon Covey, Hayley Orrantia and new series regular Sam Lerner, as well as EP Doug Robinson, creator/EP Adam Goldberg and the director of the 100th episode, Lea Thompson, came together for a panel discussion about the show's past and future.  Some highlights:

The show came about when creator Adam Goldberg and producer Robinson were working on Breaking In, starring Christian Slater, which then was cancelled.  Familiar with the crazy stories from Adam's childhood, Doug said to him, "Now is the time to do your family show."

Adam put together a pitch about a family he called the "Silvers," and wrote a pilot called "How the F--- Am I Normal?"  Doug, who had worked with Wendi McLendon Covey on Rules of Engagement, instantly thought of her to play Beverly Goldberg.  So they sent her some of the real-life footage that Adam had shot throughout his life -- and Wendi was in.  "There was one moment where Beverly was yelling at Adam, 'You don't deserve anything!  You're not going to eat tonight!  That's a nice sweater. Where did you get it?'," Wendi remembers. "She turned on a dime, and my parents talked to me that way, so it rang true to me.  I thought, 'These people are crazy! I'm in!'"

Hayley Orrantia auditioned at first via videotape -- and nailed it.  But afraid to cast one of their leads so soon from a mere tape, the producers proceeded to audition many more actresses -- before coming back to Hayley.  The character of Erica is the only one for whom creative license was taken; she's based off Adam's real-life brother Eric.  "In real life, Eric is so much older than me, I thought it would open up the world of the show and create more storylines if the family had a daughter," Adam explains.  "And the great thing about the character has been, I'm so locked in to how Pops would really act, or how my dad would, or how I would, that there's one character in the family where there are no rules -- and I don't get a phone call the morning after an episode airs from someone whose feeligns are hurt.  So creating Erica has turned out to be fantastic -- and for the writers, it's really freeing."

Another freeing device Adam cleverly came up with: the "1980something" device.  From the pilot, he says, he didn't want to be locked into a certain year -- especially an early-80s year, with so little of the decade to explore.  As he and Doug worked hard to convince Sony early on, memory is a tricky thing, and it tends to blur and mix all of its references together anyway.

The Goldbergs panel at the
Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills:
(l to r): Lea Thompson, Doug Robinson,
Sam Lerner, Hayley Orrantia,
Wendi McLendon Covey, Adam Goldberg,
moderator Jim Halterman
So now, thanks to that device, we get to see the show's trademark takes on movies from anytime in the '80s, from The Goonies, to Hayley's favorite (Dirty Dancing) to Wendi's favorite (watching Troy Gentile as Barry inside the stadium as a Ferris Bueller-type)  to tonight's episode, based on Revenge of the Nerds.  (As Thompson quipped, "I auditioned for all those movies!")  Karate Kid, Adam says, was the easiest homage to pull off -- because for one thing, it's a Sony movie, so rights and clearances were easier.  Whereas recreating Ferris Bueller proved so difficult that, as Doug joked, "I think we're still filming that." 

Rights are a tricky issue for the show; as Adam points out, broken-hearted, he went ahead and wrote a "Thriller"-themed episode, complete with dance, which was never shot because the show was never able to secure permission.  In other instances, it's come down to the wire, and some personal please.  In fact, for one episode, the show was forced to create a separate, non-Journey based version of an episode, until Adam got the okay from the band, via twitter, just before the show was to air.

That's why, of course, the video to which Adam DOES have full rights to use -- his own -- is such an amazing secret weapon.  Not only did his home video compilation help sell the pitch to Sony and help secure actors like Wendi, but a brief clip has accompanied every episode of the show so far, except one.  For the second episode of season 1, there was no clip.  Adam didn't include it, he reveals, "because I didn't know it was a thing."  But then, just as people were responding to him that "you should show more of those," episode 3 turned out to be a few moments too short.  So The Goldbergs producers threw in another of Adam's clips, and the rest was history.  "With the third episode, it became 'a thing.'"

After moderator Jim Halterman of TV Guide opened up the evening to audience questions, one woman ascended to the stage to give the panelists homemade Goldbergs gifts -- and in the process, pointed out her husband, who was "being shy" -- and who turned out to be Adventures in Babysitting star Keith Coogan.  So perhaps the producers will be inspired to create a Babysitting movie homage.  But one spoiler Adam did reveal:  with the 100th episode featuring the return of AJ Michalka as Erica's friend/Barry's girlfriend Lainie, producers are toying with Lainie and Erica forming a girl band.

That 100th episode, by the way, is set to air next week, just in time for Halloween -- which, as Adam pointed out, is always a big night for ABC's comedies.  The episode features not only Lainie's return, but an argument between Star Wars-loving Adam and his Trekkie girlfriend Jackie (based on the second of the real-life Adam's girlfriends -- the third of whom, from age 17, now being his wife.)  "It's very emotional, and hilarious," Adam promises.  "Halloween episodes are always big and kind of silly, but there was a lot of good emotion this year."

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