THE GOLDBERGS: Creator Adam Goldberg on Fictionalizing His Real Family | Give Me My Remote

THE GOLDBERGS: Creator Adam Goldberg on Fictionalizing His Real Family

September 24, 2013 by  

If you’ve seen promos for the new ABC comedy, THE GOLDBERGS, the family might seem a little extreme, but it’s coming from an authentic place: THE GOLDBERGS creator Adam Goldberg based the show on his real-life family.

I talked with Goldberg about bringing his family to our television screens, being a part of Tuesday’s brand new lineup, and more…

This show has been in the works for a while, including originally being attached to Fox. What can you say about the process to move the show over to ABC?
Adam Goldberg: When [my former show] BREAKING IN got canceled the second time, I sold this show. Fox really wanted the new one, and I think BREAKING IN came back as a way to keep the relationship going. But then the timing got screwed up because BREAKING IN got canceled again, and then ABC was willing to just shoot it. So we moved it over there and shot it there, which I’m really happy about. I love Fox…but ABC does family comedies really well. And what Fox is doing is friends hanging out really well; it’s just different.

In many ways, BREAKING IN just came a little too soon.
AG: I think so. At the time [Fox] was definitely a female-driven agenda, and that’s why they brought in Megan Mullally, but it didn’t work.

Looking to THE GOLDBERGS, you have a really unique tool at your disposal since you do have footage of your real family from when you were a kid (when the series takes place). We get a glimpse of that real footage in the pilot, but how much of that will make its way into the rest of the season and series?
AG: I think at the end of the day, it has to survive as its own show, it’s own thing and not survive on a gimmick. But, there are certain characters I’m introducing [later on] that I have videos of, and just like the pilot, I’m going to do the parallels. So I will bring it back.

Completely fair. Have there been any unexpected challenges of making this show since you know this material and these characters so well?
AG: An unexpected challenge has been to find a way to do a TV version of my family, because they’re very broad, and a lot of stories are unbelievable, so it’s finding that right balance of like, yelling, but inviting. Because I think in real-life, we were often yelling, but not so inviting to the outside world. To us, it was perfectly normal.

Also, just digging up the past. And not just me: all the writers. All we do all day long is sit around sharing embarrassing stories. We dig in and get to know what that was about, and you’re opening up all wounds.

It’s ABC-sponsored therapy.
AG: ABC is paying for my therapy!

What does your family think of the pilot?
AG: [My brother] Barry has watched the pilot, no joke, he says about 50 times. So they all love it. My dad passed away, so it’s like a great homage to him — it really captures us growing up. They had more faith I would do the family justice after seeing it as opposed to me embarrassing the hell out of them, which I could also do.

It’s a great way to keep your family in line.
AG: Totally.

Was it weird seeing a young version of yourself?
AG: [Sean Giambrone (Adam)] is way cuter than I ever was. So I totally embrace Young Adam. Sean’s great. He totally captures me from those videos I took; just poking the bear and causing problems. It’s really fun casting yourself. It’s an awesome, surreal experience.

The Upfronts were most surreal; at Lincoln Center and [ABC boss] Paul Lee talking about THE GOLDBERGS. That was like I was literally out of body.  It was a very surreal experience.

Is there any pressure of being a part of ABC’s entirely new Tuesday night? Or because you’re in the middle of the night, does that alleviate a little bit of it?
AG: Here’s the thing: it’s always hard launching a show at any time. We have crazy competition. All I can hope for is people respond to the show and start talking about it and it finds an audience. I’m going to be watching S.H.I.E.L.D. anyway, so I might as well stick around and watch my own show.

Absolutely. You worked in some great obscure references into BREAKING IN. With this show, are you thinking about everything you obsessed about as a kid and trying to figure out how many of those things you can reintroduce to present-day TV watchers?
AG: Absolutely. The Adam character is me, so all he’ll be doing is referencing nerdy stuff I love. Through that character, I can tap into that side of me. But other than that, it’s a family show, and it’s just channeling my parents.

The good thing has been — as far as this experience can go for a showrunner — this has been the most painless it could ever go. I’ve got no notes. So far, I’ve gotten no notes, and all the scripts have been approved, and we have a ton of them going in. It feels right. It’s been easy and every time I sit down at the computer it has been so much fun to bring my dad back to life, and how would my mom interact with this situation, and how would I react? It’s been really fun.

When it comes time for a season 1 DVD set, we’re going to need your mother’s commentary about what actually happened and what she thinks you’ve totally made up.
AG: That’s a great idea, actually. [Laughs] I worked on COMMUNITY [in season 4] and got to do some DVD extras, and that was the first time I had done that. It was a lot of fun! And I can only imagine what it would be like with my mom in there. She would just take over and tell embarrassing stories. I’m sure it would be delightful.

Has your family banned you from sharing any stories at this point?
AG: They really haven’t. I think they just trust that at the end of the day, I’ll do their characters’ justice. Barry can’t deny he goes ape-shit all the time, so when it happens in the pilot, he’s like, yeah, that’s what I do. As long as I stay true to the character.

One moment he does have issue with is when [the on-screen Barry] runs inside [in an odd way,] and my brother is actually athletic, so he’s like, “That’s how you run and you gave that to me, and that’s not what I would do!” So as long as I stay true to the character, I think they’ll be fine. As long as I’m not selling them out for the joke.

Before I let you go, is there anything you really want to make sure potential viewers know about the show?
AG: I think really what I set out to do was a universal family show like MODERN FAMILY, like THE MIDDLE, like RAYMOND. Hopefully people can watch it and relate to it. It’s a comedy. There’s a lot of yelling, but hopefully people will see that under it, there’s a family that loves each other. And that was my family. We yelled at a lot, but I’m still best friends with them. Mostly because we survived a war together. [Laughs]

THE GOLDBERGS premieres tonight at 9 PM on ABC.

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