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ABC’s ‘The Goldbergs’ Creator Talks First Love, Reveals Show’s Steadfast Rules

Adam F. Goldberg speaks with TheWrap about the sophomore season of the show based on his childhood

Adam F. Goldberg mined his childhood for memorable first love moments for the second season of his ABC comedy, “The Goldbergs.”

“First love is such a big thing growing up,” Goldberg told TheWrap. “I always look to the ‘Wonder Years’ and everybody remembers Kevin and Winnie. That’s why I watched the show when I was Kevin’s age.”

Wasting no time, last week’s second season premiere episode had Adam (Sean Giambrone) uttering the L-word on a mix tape for Dana (Natalie Alyn Lind), which was then intercepted by mom Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who mistook the tape as being made for her. Awkwardness ensued.

Also read: 8 Questions With ‘The Goldbergs’ Star Wendi McLendon-Covey: Emmy Contender Quickie

Goldberg spoke with TheWrap about what we can expect in the show’s exploration of love, the hard rules he created for preserving the show’s 80s-era setting and true-to-life portrayal of his family, and whether the comedy can continue without him.

TheWrap: What can we expect in the show’s plunge into first loves this season?
Adam F. Goldberg: There are two very different relationships this year. There’s Adam and Dana, which is something we set up last year. And that to me sets up the first love. It’s all very nostalgic. I want to keep it really sweet, innocent, and just those moments where you hold hands for the first time and say I love you for the first time, your first dates, all those moments I want to explore this year.

And then there’s Barry and his girlfriend Laney, which is kind of the opposite. They have just the most screwed up high school relationship you can ever have, dating in secret, her being embarrassed of him, him making all the wrong moves, being terrible with women, having no game. I stepped that up in the finale last year and now I get to play with that too.

And those are really only the two things I’m tracking all year. When you’re young and a teen, naturally romance is a big deal to you and that’s what I want to explore this year.

Also read: ABC Orders Family Comedy Pilot From Mandeville, Fred Goss

The Goldbergs, Season 2

From left, Adam F. Goldberg, Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey. (Getty Images)

And what about Erica (Hayley Orrantia)?
In the second half of the season, we’re going to explore a romance for her, as well. That’s just something we’re breaking out now and exploring. I didn’t really touch on it that much this year, because I did it last year a lot. This year, Erica plays a part in the romance because Barry is dating her best friend and all the trouble that represents.

You’re also going to have the parents renew their vows?
Yes. This summer, I asked the writers to email some loglines, ideas, and concepts for the season and everyone kept bringing up the royal wedding. Everyone has their memory of that from four in the morning. It was a big deal in my house and my mom bought some Diana plates. So, we’re doing a vow renewal story where Beverly wants to be treated like a princess. Our mom was treated like everything but a princess, so it’s about her and Murray going up against each other as he thinks the whole thing is just a sham. His whole thing is marriage is like a magazine, no need to renew. It comes from a place of truth and this episode is so sweet. It’s adorable.

I hear you have a few rules for the show. Can you describe your take on time passing on the show?
We’ve stopped saying what grade the kids are in. I don’t know if I’ve even said it on the show. I think maybe in the second episode, it said seventh grade. I’m not aging the kids until Adam is visually older. Adam’s in middle school, still in the same grade. It’s just not a chronological show. It’s set in the hazy memories of the 80s. That’s something I pitched starting in the pilot. It’s just so limiting and then you end up with something like ‘That 70s Show’ when it starts in ’76 and goes 10 years. It’s a lose-lose situation. This allows me to have fun with everything I remember in the 80s. I play it really fast and loose on purpose. It just works creatively. I believe that it’s probably the sole reason that the show worked the first season and came back. It allowed me to tell stories that I was desperate to tell and it all took place in different years.

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Are there other rules that you’ve made for the show?
I have a couple rules for the show that sometime drives the writers crazy, but there all rules about making the show feel real and like what I grew up with. One of the rules is I can’t have 80s celebrities on the show playing roles other than themselves. And even an actor from the 80s playing themselves creates complications for me, because they’re older and I never met any of those people when I was a kid. I always wanted to meet David Hasselhoff, but I never did. So, I can’t have him on the show because it isn’t true. Plus, they watch show on TV like ‘Quantum Leap,’ ‘Who’s the Boss,’ ‘Growing Pains,’ ‘Facts of life,’ shows I was obsessed with as a kid. So, to have stars from those shows on the show playing Uncle Rick or something, they have him on the wall in posters. How do you reconcile those things?

Another rule I have is that the parents can’t kiss, because I never saw my parents kiss. I made a special moment in one episode and I said that would be the only time I saw my parents kiss.

Also, I really want to keep the show as family-friendly as possible. And as writers, you want to do a lot of racy, bawdy jokes. And sometimes, we come up with great jokes like that, especially for Pops who’s sort of a ladies’ man. And I’ll say to the people with 10-year-old, 12 year-old kids if they’d be comfortable watching this joke with their children. Sometimes, they say ‘yeah, totally.’ And other times, they say ‘no, obviously I’m not.’ I really want to keep this a family show. It’s not what I initially intended from the pilot, but it’s what it’s become now that it’s on ABC at 8:30. Initially, it was supposed a Fox pilot, a racier expose of my family. But, it ended up at the right network and, hopefully, the right timeslot.

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Will it ever be possible for you to step away from “The Goldbergs” to do other projects?
I feel like with any show the creator should stick to it the first few years and get it off the ground. This one will always be deeply personal. Is there a world where I see someone else running ‘The Goldbergs’? Probably not. I’ll always be involved in some way. I’m still in my free time working on movies, working on documentaries. I’m one of those writers that have always worked on multiple things. But honestly at the end of the day, it’s not going to get any better. What more can I want than the show that I have? I’m trying not to kill myself or overextend myself.

I’m already writing my dream job. I have a show called ‘The Goldbergs.’ I get to resurrect my dad every episode. I get to do stories that really happened to me. I get to use my home footage, which people find entertaining. I always have to remember that this is the thing I want to be remembered for and I hope that people remember it fondly.

“The Goldbergs” airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.