Gary David Goldberg Channeled the Colorful Experience of Growing Up a Brooklyn Jew – an Appreciation

Guest blog: Although Goldberg was most famous for shows as “Family Ties,” I was most enamored with him for “Brooklyn Bridge”

What a shock to hear that Gary David Goldberg died Sunday as I planned to send him birthday greetings on Tuesday.

Although Goldberg was most famous for producing and writing such wonderful television shows as “Family Ties,” “Lou Grant” and “Spin City,” I was most enamored with him for his short-lived and semi-autobiographical “Brooklyn Bridge” television show. 

Set in the Brooklyn of yesteryear — totally unlike the present day hipster version depicted in “Girls” — the show showed the mid-1950s New York borough populated by Jewish and Irish immigrants who still spoke with accents, identified with the old country and navigated the strange customs of their diverse neighbors.

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This show about a middle-class Jewish family showcased both a very positive and prominent depiction of Jews and their immigrant neighbors, similar to the characters found in Gertrude Berg’s “The Goldbergs,” that aired in the '40s and '50s. Characters had accents as they bonded with their neighbors and everyday problems were treated with sensitivity and adoration.

Indeed, it was if Goldberg had cloned “The Goldbergs,” a significant accomplishment since being overtly Jewish was no longer popular on television anymore, especially by the early '90s. The gentle show won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy. 

Himself Brooklyn-born, in "Brooklyn Bridge," Goldberg channeled the colorful experience of growing up a Brooklyn Jew. Partly autobiographical, it featured the budding romance of a young Jewish boy and an Irish girl, a romance that reflected his own relationship with his wife Diana Meehan.

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One of the series’ funniest scenes was when the Jewish family members went out with the young son’s Irish girlfriend’s clan to a Chinese restaurant where their respective religious practices made for great laughs.

Goldberg was very receptive to being interviewed for my movie, "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," on Gertrude Berg and the making of “The Goldbergs.” He reminisced about how, when "we first started watching ‘The Goldbergs,’ it was really like visiting our relatives. I mean, we were the Goldbergs and everyone in my life looked like the Goldbergs."

I am so grateful to him for re-creating those childhood memories on the screen. Goldberg expressed regret to me that “Brooklyn Bridge” never got released on DVD. I think the greatest tribute to his talent would be the release of “Brooklyn Bridge” on DVD.