As someone who grew up with two sisters, I always wondered what it would be like to have an older brother. Often, I’d listen enviously as friends described how their brothers would impart to them various life lessons, whether it’d be how to talk to girls, what music to embrace or which teachers to avoid in school. At the same time, I would then hear tales of brotherhood that, while ultimately loving, appeared on the surface to be little more than an endless stream of wrestling and name-calling. Hearing this, my envy would dissipate a bit.
Adam and Barry Goldberg, needless to say, do not subscribe to the mentor-mentee brand of brotherhood. Neither, as we find out in this episode, do Murray and his younger brother, Marvin (Dan Fogler).
“Stop Arguing and Start Thanking” begins with Murray dreading the Thanksgiving visitation of his brother. After Marvin’s dramatic arrival at the house in no less than a Back to the Future-esque DeLorean, Murray braces himself for the worst. To his surprise, however, the younger Goldberg starts things off on a great note by claiming to have found a real job and, as if to prove it, pays back his monetary debt to Murray. This “real job,” of course, turns out to be hocking questionable face lotion as part of a pyramid scheme. It’s not long before Murray and Marvin again come to blows.
Let’s start with the episode’s most notable addition—the casting of Dan Fogler as Marvin. After launching to fame with his career-making performance as William Barfée in the Tony-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Fogler has been a part of movies I’ve loved (Kung Fu Panda) and movies I’ve really … not loved (Good Luck Chuck). The actor’s appearance here no doubt stems from his involvement in Fanboys, the Star Wars-themed road comedy that was penned by Goldbergs creator Adam F. Goldberg and famously butchered by the Weinsteins in an attempt to make the movie more “marketable.” (While I’m sure it was a painful experience for Goldberg, the Fanboys story remains one of the most fascinating examples of executive meddling in recent years.)
Perhaps due to his theater background, Fogler is an actor whose natural tendency is to go for broke. This makes him a more than a perfect fit to play the brother of a boisterous individual like Murray. And while the idea of a disreputable family relative always involved in questionable business ventures is a well-worn sitcom trope, Fogler invests enough energy in the role to help overcome the more cliché elements of his character.
Per its title, “Stop Arguing and Start Thanking” serves as The Goldbergs official Thanksgiving episode. And while Fogler’s appearance is welcome, part of me remains disappointed that he stands as the only new member of the Goldberg clan we meet this go-round. After weeks of seeing Murray’s loud-mouthed parenting style, I long to see what the folks who raised him (and Marvin, for that matter) could possibly be like. If it’s simply a matter of budget and logistics, here’s hoping the show’s second season Thanksgiving episode features many more members of the Goldberg family getting together and almost killing one another.
Paralleling Murray and Marvin’s dispute is the hardcore competition between Adam and Barry. After years of Barry beating him at ball-ball, a made-up game whose rules appear to be written on the spot, Adam finally gets one past his brother and wins a bout. Adam spends the rest of the episode gloating while a steaming Barry desperately attempts to engage him in another game just so he call himself the winner again. The subplot has elements of “Why’re Hitting Yourself?” which still stands as one of my favorite Goldbergs episodes thus far (and one I would rate much higher in retrospect) but, because of its B-storyline nature, the arc feels infinitely more rushed. (It sports a heartfelt reconciliation that, while perfectly serviceable, sort of comes out of nowhere.)
As much as I linger on the show’s broadness in my reviews, this time around I actually felt a tad let down that there wasn’t nearly enough insanity to go around. The Goldbergs are a crazy family, and a holiday like Thanksgiving tends to bring out the crazy in even the most stable of families. In picturing this episode before viewing it, I halfway expected a wall to be demolished before all was said and done.
Then again, as with any Goldbergs episode, the positives ultimately outweigh the negatives. And, hey, all the better to look forward to what Adam Goldberg and his writers have planned for the inevitable Christmas episode.
Also, why yes (TV) Adam, Harrison Ford was underappreciated in Blade Runner. Kudos for being ahead of the time, kid. You’ll go far.