Crossing the Stream: Day 4 - "The Goldbergs" Sn 1, Eps 13-16

Maybe I'm getting a little too extreme about my calorie reduction. In truth, I'm not having too hard a time skipping a meal here or there. I'm having trouble reducing meals and snacks to sensible sizes and ingredients. It's really difficult to find cookies waiting for you somewhere, but it's not so difficult to just say, "Hmm, it's noon. I'm not all that hungry. Maybe I'll get a fruit smoothie or a seltzer and call it good." But it wasn't good. I'm not proud of it, but the image is just too evocative: I leaned down and smelled those store-bought cookies for every cubic centimeter of flour-enriched oxygen hovering over them. I sniffed. I gathered the bouquet of sugar cookie into my sinus and tried to carry it around all day. But I didn't touch them. Because that might be weird.

The gym went well enough, with a solid pace and heart rate throughout, and good. Freaking. Lord. It is so much better to do the locker room routine and the gym after work, as opposed to on my lunch break. No time clock means I have the freedom to push myself an extra five minutes, I can take my time wrestling in and out of my trademark red hoodie, and I don't have to worry about going back to my desk and pretending I'm not totally done with the day. Of course, it does mean that if catastrophe strikes, I'll be largely alone to deal with it.

After barreling through a few episodes of "The Goldbergs" and returning to the locker room, my key would not fit into the lock. Just wouldn't go in. The shape was right, the lock seemed solid, the cylinder wasn't stuck or anything. It was as if, when I wasn't looking, some Ocean's Eleven pickpocket replaced my ancient MasterLock key with a perfect fake. After five minutes of trying to mate the key and the padlock, I started to get worried. I had my keys, so I could just drive home and deal with it later, but the locker contained my pants. My wallet. My glasses. My dignity. I started to desperately wonder if the security desk downstairs in my office had a pair of bolt cutters for just such an embarrassing, stupid problem. I would have gone next door to K-Mart and bought some, wallet. I did the only thing that everyone will tell you shouldn't ever be done...I tried to force it. I pushed down on that key with a kind of panic I usually reserve for clown nightmares, and it budged. I got dressed, and went to the movies.

The movie theater is its own little adventure when you can't eat a single thing served there. That hot-dog-and-melting-cheese smell mixes quite well with the buttered popcorn smell. And this theater serves big scoops of Tillamook ice cream, which I used to eat as a light snack. I was offered a free crack at some Sour Patch Kids. The watermelon ones, which I dig. I dig them plenty. But I declined, and instead sipped water throughout Ready Player One. It's sad. I need to find a theater that allows me to bring in a salad, with a nice vinaigrette. Maybe they should make diet theaters. This auditorium has cardio machines instead of seats! Buy yourself a salad in a cup! Add dressing, pop on a lid, shake it up, and get your greens on in the dark! And don't forget your collectible bucket of raw mushrooms.

"The Goldbergs" - Season 1, Episodes 13-16

Never show 12 year olds When Harry Met Sally, incidentally.
First thought: the writing staff for this show are so very fond of any joke involving a jockstrap, and you'd never know the extent of this obsession if you didn't watch four episodes of it a day.

I feel like I've finally found the point where this show fires on all cylinders, and I assumed that they went through the typical sitcom dance of producing the first twelve to fourteen episodes and then getting picked up for the back nine or ten later. Turns out, "The Goldbergs" was picked up for a full twenty-three episodes after the first six were aired. At any rate, something I've been grousing about all week is finally being corrected: the tragic lack of Erica as a character with things like traits, agency, goals, etc. I also have fully committed to how much I uncomfortably identify with the fictional young Adam F. Goldberg, especially in Episode 13.

The very apt series of guest stars continues from Dan Fogler and Tim Meadows in previous outings to Martin Starr, in a perfectly fitted character for him. I was the pre-teen who haunted the local video store, trying to dodge such unsolicited pretentious diatribes as the ones Starr offers here in his acerbic monotone. But while Murray and Adam quarrel about their misplaced video rentals, the episode's A-plot surrounds Erica's extracurricular activities, or rather the ones she pretends (really extensively) to participate in. It's an inspired bout of nonsense, her writing full speeches for a debate team she isn't a member of, and carefully concocting huge lies that are far more trouble than actually just participating. It finally shows a side of Erica that is funny, and also true to life. Safe to say, she's inherited her mother's penchant for elaborate ruses.

This motif, of the Goldberg children inheriting their parents' oddball qualities, continues into Episode 14 with Murray and Barry screwing with each other over the "birds and the bees" talk that never happened. The fact that Barry acts completely cluelessly about how sex and procreation work is a little wonky, thanks to how far the character has been dumbed down so quickly. When it's revealed that he knows all a 16-year-old should know about the subject, and is just playing moron to spite his dad, I almost didn't believe it. But then again, he's Murray's son; spite is the most efficient fuel for them both. Meanwhile, with Adam plotzing over his upcoming dance with his now sort-of girlfriend Dana, it falls to Erica to play interference with Beverly's lack of boundaries. The fact that the Goldberg kids can watch out for each other in this way is a charming device when it happens, and Erica's plan to shanghai her mother with a box of old baby photos and a tease of making a scrapbook is a page right out of Beverly's playbook.

I was comparatively lukewarm on the introduction of Adam's childhood friend "Muscles," and the series of odd non-sexual tension it brought. This feels like an episode either scripted, shot, or otherwise conceived before Adam's courtship of Dana Caldwell. It's a true-to-life premise (I too was a platonic"wing-man" to neighborhood girls as a boy), but the When Harry Met Sally connection is a weak one that doesn't really pay off enough. Erica's battle with Beverly over trust and privacy has a similar listlessness to it. And maybe there's just no love for The Goonies in me, but Episode 16's extended treasure hunt and loving riff on the much loved film felt contrived even for a sitcom, even if it did involve some fun costumes and that catchy Cyndi Lauper tune.

Overall, the screws seem tighter on these entries. The resolutions seem tidy, and always hit that warm and fuzzy apex for me, and there is even more of a plot or character purpose in the typical "Barry is overly confident in his dancing" or "Beverly follows her kids to school to smother them" gag.

Rating: B

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