In all of its classic, aggressively ’80s glory, ABC’s “The Goldbergs” returned for its eighth season this past Wednesday. With Beverly’s (Wendi McLendon-Covey, “Crossing Swords”) usual antics, her childrens’ comedic rebellion and a heartwarming and cheesy understanding of the importance of family to conclude, the Season 8 premiere was a typical “Goldbergs” episode at best.
Still though, it may have been the exact episode viewers and fans needed. After months of interrupted stability due to the pandemic, a light, formulaic story provides the comfort audiences have been craving since mid-March. “The Goldbergs” prides itself on being the complete epitome of a sitcom; regardless of the situation, characters are likely going to stick to their usual trope, and audiences know any issues will be resolved and forgotten about by the end of the episode. The sole purpose of creating more episodes seems to be to place the characters into as many different situations as possible without altering the main plotline.
This week’s premiere shows the family taking a vacation to Miami, where Beverly schemes to force her family to attend their cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. A loose parody of the 1980 comedy “Airplane!,” this season premiere does just enough to differentiate itself from past seasons without straying from its heartwarming familiarity. Even if the settings of an airport and plane appear different from their typical Philadelphia suburb, Adam’s (Sean Giambrone, “Jurassic World”) incessant pop culture references combined with Beverly’s perfectly over-the-top comedy create the classic “Goldbergs” concoction of nostalgia and laughs.
The first act is quick to get to this over-the-top comedy, as the entire family dances to “Conga” by Gloria Estefan around the living room before leaving for the airport. The airport scenes are notably culturally aware, as they poke fun at the ridiculous lack of security pre-9/11. At its most extreme, a security agent finds Barry’s nunchucks (Troy Gentile, “That One Time”) and exclaims “Cool!” without a second thought.
The episode’s peak comedic chaos ensues on the plane, summarized by older sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia, “Schooled”) when she explains that “as the plane goes higher, our appeal goes lower.” Forcing the pilot to pursue an emergency landing, the Goldberg family truly outdoes itself in their tendency to wreak innocent havoc.
After the truth is revealed about Beverly’s motives for their vacation, her children are furious for no more than two minutes before they come together to do what’s best for their distressed but well meaning mother. The classic voiceover from adult Adam (Patton Oswalt, “Dads”) paired with a reprise of Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” as the family reunites provides an overdone yet calmingly familiar conclusion. “The Goldbergs” is unafraid to embrace its rigid structure to the extent that it feels more comforting than frustrating to see conceptually identical endings in every episode.
Though Season 8’s premiere did not feel entirely “normal,” the comfort of the Goldberg family’s antics provide a sense of stability that television hasn’t seen much of since the beginning of the pandemic. In a time where virtually nothing is certain and lives can change drastically at any moment, it’s reassuring that at least the Goldberg family has obtained a sense of normalcy.
Daily Arts Contributor Emily Blumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.