The Goldbergs Review: “The Ring” (Episode 1.05)
It was only a matter of time before The Goldbergs, a show that lives and thrives on memories of the ‘80s (or perceived memories thereof), performed its take on an iconic ‘80s film scene. Being that romance and relationships were the center of this installment, it makes sense that it would be none other than Say Anything…, one of the defining romantic comedies not only of the decade but of all time.
The scene in question occurs when Adam, following Albert’s advice to “make a big impression,” attempts to replicate the scene for his crush, Dana. Things, of course, end disastrously. Much like the episode that surrounds it, this scene is cute without ever being necessarily funny. Then again, that’s been my main issue with The Goldbergs thus far. It’s well-executed, well-cast and delivers instances of sharp writing week after week, but the most it ever gets out of me is the occasional chuckle.
The catalysts of this week’s main story occur when Barry and Erica, while cleaning out the garage, discover love letters that Murray wrote for a girl named Anita (by the way, I don’t know what’s up with the distracting shaky-cam used in the garage scenes, did Paul Greengrass guest-direct this section?). This leads Murray to finally admit to his family that he was engaged to another woman before Beverly. Out of curiosity—cough jealously cough—Beverly researches Anita at the library (“it only took us two hours” she exclaims in a clear jokey nod to the pre-Internet days). She then discovers, to her horror, that her wedding ring once belonged to Murray’s former fiancée. In Goldbergs fashion, what follows is a lot of yelling and a demand from Beverly that Murray purchase her a new diamond (a “spite diamond” if you will).
According to brief coda at the end of the episode, this “used ring” situation was an actual event from the life of the real Adam Goldberg. Whether or not any actual argument occurred as a result or Adam was called upon to use his video footage to save the day is up for question. In any case, it’s a standard Goldbergs plot—not particularly memorable, but it leaves you with a nice warm feeling in the end.
Then there’s the Adam-Dana story. Discounting Adam’s ill-fated encounter with a waffle house waitress in the pilot episode, this marks the first real romantic interest subplot for any of the Goldberg children. With her freckled face and bright smile, actress Natalie Alyn Lind acts as the perfect archetype for that first teenage crush that any male has, at one point, experienced. That being said, her continued interest in Adam even after he so publicly humiliated himself on her lawn seems a bit nonsensical (then again, this is a sitcom).
Speaking of nonsensical, let’s talk about Barry. Five episodes in, and the writers have already overloaded the character with an overwhelming amount of quirks. This time around, we get two more. The more amusing one involves him finding his old keyboard, which can record and loop sounds. This effectively turns him into a live-action version of Gene from Bob’s Burgers which, in theory, I really shouldn’t like because it’s a tad derivative. On the other, it would be an endearing (if slightly annoying) trait in any show. The less successful one, however, involves his girlfriend in Canada. Yep, a “girlfriend in Canada” joke. Even the show lamely tries to point out what a cliché that is, once again demonstrating that self-awareness is not an excuse. Then again, the scene where this info is revealed also contains a quite amusing sight gag. As Adam and Albert talk about Dana, Barry keeps entering the room to interject and each time from different doorways. It’s almost impossible to write about this gag without killing the joke, but its humorous nature compelled me to signal it out.
Music-wise, considering the Say Anything… connection, it’s not at all surprising that the wrap-up/‘80s staple this time around is Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” And while I can appreciate whatever reminds of the glory that is Lloyd Dobler, perhaps invoking such a great, nuanced ‘80s artifact is not the best idea for a show that paints the era in such broad strokes. Rather than capturing a sense of good will, it kind of makes me just want to watch Say Anything… again.