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On The Tube

That ’80s Show


“The Goldbergs” wallows in a decade’s worth of shame and guilt

On the Tube 091913The 1980s take a beating in “The Goldbergs” (Tuesday, 8 p.m., ABC). An adult narrator looks back on his childhood in the days when REO Speedwagon seemed profound and even middle-aged moms wore the Madonna hairdo. The Goldbergs are a hostile-yet-loving family with a nutty grandfather (George Segal), a bossy mother (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and a dyspeptic dad (Jeff Garlin), plus three kids for the adults to yell at. Dad is the champion yeller, though the narrator insists his insults are really endearments cloaked in harsh language. When Dad snarls, “You’re not a total moron all the time,” a subtitle translates: “I love you.”

“The Goldbergs” could have settled for easy laughs about Burt Reynolds and Gobots, but it’s more than just an ’80s parody. It finds humor in an unsettling family dynamic that feels all too real (the series is based on producer Adam F. Goldberg’s own childhood). I found myself both laughing and cringing at the mixture of guilt, shame and affection.

“The Goldbergs” is the hardest-to-watch sitcom of 2013-14. Translation: I love it.


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Monday, 8:30 p.m. (CBS)

Just when you think old-fashioned, multi-camera, laugh-track sitcoms are dead, here comes producer Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men”) to prove you wrong. Lorre’s latest throws one problem after another at its hapless protagonist, Christy (Anna Faris): a dead-end waitressing job, an incorrigible tramp of a mother (Allison Janney), a promiscuous daughter (Sadie Calvano) and a married boyfriend (Nate Corddry). Overwhelmed by the chaos in her life, Christy is reduced to reciting “daily affirmations.” “I open my heart and allow wonderful things to flow into my life,” she intones, right before catching her daughter’s shirtless boyfriend sneaking out a bedroom window. The daily affirmation immediately transforms into: “My daughter is an easy lay, and it’s not my fault.”

“Mom” is blessed with deft comedians, a witty script and, best of all, a humane perspective.


“The Blacklist”

Monday, 9 p.m. (NBC)

“The Blacklist” is the rare dramatic series with a criminal mastermind worthy of the name. Raymond Reddington (James Spader) is a military officer who turned to the dark side for mysterious reasons. For equally mysterious reasons, this reptilian character offers to work with the FBI tracking high-level terrorists. His only condition is that he works exclusively with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a new agent who knows nothing about him and wonders why he knows everything about her.

In the pilot, Reddington messes with Keen’s mind the way Hannibal Lecter did with Clarice Starling’s. Taking a cue from Reddington, “The Blacklist” messes with our minds. The pilot has so many sinister twists that you grow as paranoid as Keen, wondering what will happen next. I can’t wait to see what trap doors await us in episode two. CV

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. See more of his work at

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