The Very Mid ‘Goldbergs’ Was the Last Heaving Gasp of the Network Sitcom
They literally don’t make ‘em like The Goldbergs anymore, an extremely mid sitcom that coughed and wheezed its way through ten seasons. It’s the kind of family comedy that networks used to churn out like widgets, one after another, interchangeable content nuggets that backfilled primetime schedules for years. Now with the show ending after a decade, we suppose we could pour one out, but that seems like a waste of perfectly good cheap malt liquor.
Forget all of the headaches with series patriarch Jeff Garlin. Sure, that was a problem, but he wasn’t the primary reason the show has been just OK for its entire run. All of the cast members, especially Wendi McLendon-Covey as mother Beverly, are perfectly competent. But The Goldbergs, like the traditional network sitcom itself, seems like an artifact from a time capsule. And the best thing about time capsules is that they get sealed up and buried for 100 years at a pop.
To be fair, The Goldbergs was a minor hit at a time when network comedies failed on the regular. Audiences didn’t seem to mind the show’s gimmicky references to 1980s nostalgia (enough with the VCRs and REO Speedwagon already) or Patton Oswalt’s ubiquitous voiceover narration, a direct ripoff of the Wonders Years contrivance. The show’s Rotten Tomatoes audience score was nearly 90% after its first season. But The Goldbergs wore out its welcome as the years plodded on. By season 9, audience approval had plummeted to 23%. “The worst season yet,” complained one viewer. “The jokes got old and the stories end up boring me to death.” The decision to replace the fired Garlin with a CGI Sims version didn’t help.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve banged this drum before — the network sitcom is dead. But with The Goldbergs gone and Young Sheldon packing its bags, we mean it this time. Sure, there will be occasional Ghosts and an Abbott Elementary to be the exceptions that prove the rule, but the old-school family sitcom is toast. Watch an episode of Shrinking, Ted Lasso, or The Bear and it’s easy to understand why. The old set-up/punchline rhythms of The Goldbergs feel like they’re from another time, and we’re not talking its totally ‘80s setting. Television comedy has evolved into something else — okay, something better — and there’s no shame in shows like The Goldbergs quietly riding into the sunset.
It’s not hard to see where networks go from here. A steady diet of Chicago Occupations, humiliating FBoy reality shows, and the usual acronyms — FBI, NCIS, CSI, etc. When we need a comedy fix, we’ll look to the streamers for laughs. As long as we get a steady diet of Hacks, What We Do In The Shadows, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, we won’t shed a tear for the network sitcom. Congrats on ten seasons, Goldbergs, don't let the door hit you on the way out.