Crossing the Stream: Day 1 - "The Goldbergs" Sn 1, Eps 1-4

Okay, here we are. I hope no one following along was hoping for some official branded or copyrighted diet method or exercise regimen, because those always seem to creep me out. You know? It's kind of cult-like, to suddenly tell everyone in your life, "I'm on the Hummingbird Diet! You ingest a massive amount of natural sugars right before a rapid breathing exercise in order to triple your heart rate. Then you crash really, really hard."

I'll admit it...I just did a quick research on hummingbirds in order to write that example. All diets sound like that to me, they all have restrictive thinking (I only do this and this, and only at this time of day, and only using these methods) and everyone on a diet wants to recruit others. I don't know. Maybe I've been watching too many cult documentaries, and maybe I'm just biased towards anything that tells me I can lose weight if I just follow these simple steps. At any rate, I haven't lost weight yet, because it's the first day. What's up with that? I want instant results. Better than instant! I want to have lost weight retroactively just because I formed a half-baked plan to exercise and eat right. That's how this works, right? I put a lot of energy into sentiment and planning and then I lose all the weight that very day, correct?

Yeah, so no specified program for this guy. Instead I'm just cracking down on my portions, pulling back on fat, sugar, and salt, and getting at least a mild sweaty cardio period each day. Let's call this revolutionary new program "Living Like a Reasonable Adult."

In preparation for the new way of doing things, I went grocery shopping yesterday and tried very hard to avoid the usual pitfalls. I've gotten better in recent years at buying fresh ingredients and incorporating vegetables into every dinner, eating fruit for breakfast and lunch, etc. But now comes the really hard part: cutting back on meat. Not all the way, sorry in advance to my crunchier friends. I can't quit meat altogether, but I'm going to try and reprogram myself to not think of meat and protein as the constant entree. By giving steak, pork, and chicken top billing on the marquee of my undisciplined diet I've created a false sense of gastric dissatisfaction without it. This has led to larger portions and, frankly, some uninspired recipes that no self-respecting food addict would stoop to. So, I'm talking vegetable soups, I'm talking salads, and I'm talking other sources of protein. Beans. I'm going to be Bean Boy for a bit. That's cool. I like beans. Who doesn't like beans?

As far as the exercise goes...MAN, does the first day always suck. But you know what? Day 1 never sucks as much as Day 3 or 4, when reality sets in. Once I realize that I've started working out regularly, and I've taken away the ice cream reward that usually went with it in the past, and then add on the fact that I have to write about the experience, too...I've made a terrible mistake. The elliptical machine is not my favorite thing in the world, but I like it better than a treadmill. Matter of fact, a few years ago, the last time my doctor told me to lose some weight (as he does every time I see him), he advised against running entirely. Said my knees probably wouldn't do well. I agree. No running.

After twenty minutes or so, my legs are not rubbery or numb, but I think I need to re-evaluate my water intake and go back to elementary school gym class and learn to stretch better. The real problem was going back to my desk and working while my body was still in panic mode, screaming "Hey! We're moving now! We're moving fast and sweating bullets and breathing like Tony Soprano over here! You can't think! You can't do math! You're running for your life! Get in the game, Kyle!"

It'll get better. Beginnings have sharp edges, and it takes a little while for those edges to be sanded down.

The Goldbergs, Season 1 - Episodes 1-4

I think the episode is titled "Hey, 'member roller rinks?"

Case in point, I've just blown through the first four episodes of ABC's "The Goldbergs" on the recommendation of my father. It's a perfect workout show, a great way to get started. First off, the episodes are 22 minutes or so, which fits my timeline on the machine. But also, it's a very chilled out family sitcom. It fits the post-modern formula pioneered by "Married With Children" and "Roseanne" of the working-class family who snipe at each other out of love, but without the laugh tracks, catchphrases, or three-camera structure Adam F. Goldberg is free to pack as much heartfelt sentiment as he wants into it without being accused of being old fashioned or cloying.

The pilot episode is a tidy intro to each family member and establishment of the "Nineteen Eighty-Something" setting and the home movies framing device. Outside that, it's pretty safe fair. Teenager Barry wants a car more than anything in the world, and preteen Adam is learning about girls from lecherous Pops. George Segal and Jeff Garlin appear to be the more prominent punchline characters, with Wendy McLendon-Covey carrying a lot of narrative weight.

As Episode 2, 3, and 4 reveal Troy Gentile as the potential breakout character, his Barry gets to flirt with a lot of '80s kitsch and costume gags, and also tweaks him further toward awkward vulnerability that recalls a young Johnny Galecki. The plots of each already seem to shine when pairing unlikely allies, like Segal's fun granddad and the young Adam, or Garlin's gruff Murray with Moody teen Erica. But the heart of the show belongs to McLendon-Covey, whose warm yet fiery Beverly can alternate between an appropriately 1980s-style "hugs and lessons" comfort and a sharp mama bear authority.

Drawing on past period pieces like "Freaks and Geeks," there's an authenticity to some of the era-specific references and gags, notably the pop music sprinkled through the episodes. Much like early episodes of "That '70s Show," before they were staging musicals and revealing secret bio-dads, a lot of good mileage can come from mundane realities of being a teen of the given decade. Topher Grace's Eric Foreman suffered through masking his weed symptoms and pleading for a cassette deck instead of 8-Track, whereas Adam Goldberg has to fight for his right to party in his day-glo and watch scrambled nudity between early-era cable channels.

It's fun. It's one of those nice shows, where family is important and everyone's problems are lower stakes than mine. I just hope the references don't get more broad than this, and I hope the standard dumbing down of the clown character doesn't immediately take hold.

Rating: B-


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