Crossing the Stream: Day 2 - "The Goldbergs" Sn 1, Eps 5-8

Some progress! Today I switched to the stationary bike, and it resulted in less of a sweaty mess of a person in the end. Things feel like they already got easier. Or maybe I just like the bike better because part of it is a comfy chair. I'm not going to question that further. But I'm here to tell you this, folks...lunchtime gym sessions are terrible. I only get 30 minutes for lunch, and I'm a large mammal who is going to sweat something terrible. So my 30 minutes turned into about 20 minutes with five minutes to change in the locker room. I hate locker rooms. And I hate locker room guys! Why does every locker room come with some dude who wants to engage in small talk while I'm struggling with my zipper and staring at the wall?

I'm proud to say that my food intake has dropped dramatically. The office candy bowls are staying full, and I haven't set foot in the cafe yet this week. I've even scaled back to black coffee. Dinner last night was a mixed bag of success and failure; a nice salad with bean sprouts, cabbage, mushroom...and steak. But thin steak! And a lot less of it. I'm working on it. But I'm also starting to salivate a little when I drive past a billboard with a gigantic taco platter on it. This is some kind of torture that has to violate the Geneva Convention, but at the same time it's teaching me the difference between being physically hungry and psychologically hungry. I'm always psychologically hungry. I'm always physically thirsty, though. I've had a lot to drink in the last 24 hours, including a big ol' bottle of flavored seltzer water.

Seltzer water is my friend. I think. I bet there's someone out there shaking their head and shouting at me that seltzer is going to turn my stomach inside out or something heinous. Don't care. It's a perfect weaning system to get away from soda pop. It's bubbly, so it's satisfying. It's water, so it's kind of a necessity being fulfilled. And most importantly, the flavors satisfy my palate. You know that joke about how La Croix is like drinking water while someone shouts a flavor at you from another room? Well, I say drinking these seltzers is like going to a wine tasting and using the spittoons instead of swallowing. Is that what those are called? Spittoons? Look, I've never been to a wine tasting.

As far as the binge watch, it's going fine. Starting with a sitcom was smart. A nice, leisurely show has given me a sense of casual surrender. But in order to keep things interesting, I'm going to change shows every week. I hope to cover a full season of television a week, but I reserve the right to give up on a show if I'm not feeling it. Some things don't work out with a workout. I somehow think I'd do poorly with, say, something hard to process like "Twin Peaks."

Also, some additional content is probably ahead. At the suggestion of a friend, I think I may incorporate some video segment into this project, perhaps on Friday or Saturday of every week as kind of a check-in. Also, as a way to grab people and get them following along. Five-minute videos are easy enough for people to glance at, right? Hopefully the more people start watching me do this, the more confident (re: cornered) I'll feel to actually keep doing it. I'm trying to out-think my own terrible habits and rationalizations that have caused me to quit when things are hard and no one else seems to care. If you are reading this, this is your official guilt trip to keep reading this. You have been served.

Now, how about some more "The Goldbergs" discussion?

"The Goldbergs" Season 1, Episodes 5-8

The first Halloween episode is a special time for sitcoms.

Right out the gate, can I just say that Hulu's laser-focused marketing is really working on me this week. A King's Hawaiian Rolls commercial? And Red Robin burgers? Come on. Not in the gym, Hulu. Burgers are meant for happy spaces, and this is not a happy space. You wouldn't bring a big cheeseburger to the DMV, would you?

These episodes see the series settle in to some familiar ground. An honest-to-goodness family of "normal" neighbors caps off Episode 8. Be careful with that plot, it's an antique. Meanwhile, a Halloween episode provides some easy costume humor, and then there's the Lloyd Dobler riff.

Episode 5 has a pretty sharp deconstruction of the "grand romantic gesture" that was popular in the 1980s, and has since been reframed by television writers as the stalker behavior it really would entail. Adam's attempts to chat up and then eventually blast Peter Gabriel at his new crush is the comedy centerpiece of the episode, and proves that Sean Giambrone fits the bill for awkward teen romance. It doesn't hurt that they keep stuffing the poor kid into increasingly goofy outfits that range from a Rubik's Cube to a glowing Grid leotard from Tron. This Adam plot pairs nicely with possibly the meatiest Murray plotline to this point, where we finally get some insight into the perpetually pantsless, bellowing father. I like Jeff Garlin as Murray, but that joke about him living pantsless at all times in the house is wearing thin. I bet that's gone within a season or so.

Murray's big box of love letters to his former fiancee succeeded in providing a precedent for a much softer guy underneath all the screaming. His grand romantic gestures are long behind him, however, and Beverly's discovery of her wedding ring being a leftover from the previous engagement forms a negative outlook on the grand romantic gesture when Murray ends up buying an expensive replacement ring out of spite. Then she wears it...out of spite. By the by, this new $5,000 ring would be the equivalent of $10,040 in 2018. That's epic spite.

Maybe I'm just woozy from the bike ride, but I really enjoy when the show wades deep into the sentimentality. Adam and Murray make the case for small, mundane romantic gestures, and all is well, except for Barry and his fake Canadian girlfriend.

Barry has quickly taken cues from the Ashton Kutcher school of sitcom characters. There's still an earnest streak built into the character, how he buys into every dorky fad the decade could come up with, or how he insists that ALF "speaks the truth." That's cute, and it feels genuine. But by the end of Episode 8, he's dippy enough to climb up a tree and get stuck. The show is quickly becoming the Barry show, if not for Wendy McLendon-Covey as Beverly. The Halloween episode extends her clingy mom radius to going to teen parties in disguise for her "delicious" children, and eventually by Episode 8 she's obsessing over and stalking her neighbor. She'd be so very unlikable for her behavior if it didn't ring true to anyone with protective parents in a era where very few parents cared to that level. And if it weren't for McLendon-Covey being confidant in her expert timing and grasp of the archetype.

I'm still having fun, and it still fits the workout pretty well. All the rough edges of "The Goldbergs" are being sanded away, but then again that will play well as I establish my routine and my soft edges are hopefully reduced.

Rating: B-

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