Lunchtable TV talk – The Goldbergs: Nostalgia makes me cry, as do robot overlords

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The Goldbergs was a bit over the top for me in the beginning, but as I continued to watch, the 1980s nostalgia eventually won me over. Many, many moments choke me up with tears. The show manages to evoke nostalgia, emotion without being overly saccharine. And I suppose people who did not grow up in that era might not feel as strongly about it. But they can find other points to connect with emotionally (the importance of family, the connection the crazy mother has with the kids, the sense of not wanting your kids to grow up, the feeling that everyone is awkward in youth but eventually, with the right guidance, they find their voice and path). It is interesting to watch the Goldberg kids grow up.

A recent episode made me laugh out loud. The dad wonders why someone would destroy a perfectly good Fiero to make a robot when the youngest, Adam, enthuses about the greatness of The Transformers (toys and cartoon). Adam pits the “stupidity” of a game “where grown men hit a ball with a stick” against his future run by robots. Argument ensues about baseball versus robots – America’s pastime (past) and its robotic future.

“Robots aren’t even real.”

“Oh you’ll see how real they are when cyborgs take over and outlaw your precious baseball.”

Why I Changed My Mind: Cheesy TV Action Shows

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We can’t be highbrow all the time, can we? My personal tastes – those that really speak to me and mean something to me – seem to align with the PBS and arthouse/foreign film crowd. But, as a multitasker, I like mindless entertainment to play in the background while I focus on other things. This realization dawned on me after quite some time, when I finally succumbed to the fairly harmless and unrealistic lure of TV action shows.

At some point I fell under the charming and sometimes hilarious spell of Burn Notice. Stretching believability in every episode, I could set aside all concerns about reality, what could actually happen and suspend all highbrow notions and get lost in the Miami world of burned CIA covert officer, Michael Westen, and his merry band of vigilante co-conspirators. The show had a number of one-time and running jokes (notably, when Tyne Daly guest starred to play opposite series regular Sharon Gless, reuniting the TV cop duo Cagney & Lacey; the character Sam Axe – played by the inimitable Bruce Campbell – always gave his cover identities the name “Chuck Finley”, which is not funny and means nothing to non-baseball fans). Burn Notice went on for a number of seasons, and though it ended in a satisfactory way, and I thought I was ready for it to end – I miss my mindless action show!

I have shifted my allegiances and started watching the remake of Hawaii Five-0, which is actually full of fun and interesting characters. Not deep characters, not deep stories, not great acting. But it’s enough to fill the need for mindless laughs and action. Scott Caan uses humor to escape the shadow of his actor father, James Caan and plays well off his counterpart and Five-0 partner, Steve McGarrett, played by Alex O’Loughlin (I’d only seen him in the late, great The Shield before this). I am thrilled to see Grace Park in this after her killer role in one of my all-time favorites, Battlestar Galactica. With all the cast chemistry, casual fun, Hawaiian views (me being an island-born Honolulu girl), the updated version of the original theme song (who doesn’t love that?) and Magnum PI references, this should satisfy my need.

But it does not quite fill the hole left by Burn Notice – and none of the other mindless shows out there (action or no) quite fill the void.