That '80s Show: Is 'The Goldbergs' the New 'Wonder Years'?

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Ah, nostalgia! In 1988, a TV series that told the story of an American boy in the late 1960s and early 1970s became one of the most beloved coming-of-age comedies of all time. ABC's "The Wonder Years" won its first Emmy Award just six episodes into its six-season run, and nabbed 13-year-old Fred Savage a history-making nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

The show, which depicts the life of suburban teen Kevin Arnold (played by Savage) from 1968 to 1973, starred Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Olivia d'Abo, Jason Hervey, Josh Saviano, and Danica McKellar. It dealt with everything from the Vietnam War to the 1972 presidential election. (Kevin and his girl-next-door crush, Winnie Cooper, were Team McGovern!) The series was narrated by an adult Kevin Arnold, voiced by Daniel Stern, and it featured Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help From My Friends" as its theme song.

Watch "The Wonder Years" pilot:

Twenty-five years later, ABC's "The Goldbergs" has that same '70s show feel -- except it's set in the '80s. The new sitcom -- a semi-autobiographical look at exec producer Adam F. Goldberg's childhood -- is narrated by "King of Queens" alum Patton Oswalt and stars Jeff Garlin, Wendi McLendon-Covey, George Segal, and Sean Giambrone as a loud (literally, their voices and their '80s outfits!) Philadelphia family whose lives are taped courtesy of the youngest son's video camera.

The opening lines of the pilot say it all about the '80s: "The age of E.T., Mr. T, and MTV," Oswalt says in a voiceover. "Back then, the world was still small: no cell phones or Internet or Twitter. Your friends lived on your street, and your family were the people at your dinner table."

Cue up the J. Geils Band, because "Centerfold" is in the house. And everything from Rubik's Cube to REO Speedwagon has a cameo, too.

But don't expect a timestamp on the show. Goldberg told TV Guide, "What we realized in the [writers'] room telling these stories is that we have no idea when these things actually happened in the '80s. Our title sequence is popping in a video tape. It's basically you pop in a videotape, and this is a memory. I just say every episode is set in 1980-something. To me, it's like, you don't remember that exact date; you just know it's the general time of the '80s when you were growing up. So we're not doing 'Mad Men,' where it's like, 'We are in 1985 now.'"

Still, what's the deal with exploring a decade 20-something years after the fact? In 1974, "Happy Days" went back to the mid-1950s, and "The Wonder Years" followed suit in 1988 with its look back at 1968.

"The Goldbergs" executive producer Doug Robinson told The Hollywood Reporter, "Enough time has gone by that you look back fondly on it. What's old becomes new again; themes become relevant. Every 25 years, people are ready to look back."

Maybe so, but let's keep the passion for '80s fashion to a minimum, because some trends needs to stay decades away!

Speaking of fashion, McLendon-Covey told Entertainment Weekly that she's sometimes thrown through a loop by the big hair and ugly sweaters she has to wear for the show: "I try to keep it realistic -- like, this is what a woman of that age in that era would've worn, and sometimes, the jumpsuits are a little bedazzled. I forget when I'm on the Sony lot that I'm dressed like that, and I go walking around in my wig and my jumpsuit … and people look at me like, 'What is your problem?' And I think, 'Oh, I forgot, I should've probably thrown a robe on or something.' People throw shade at me. It's very rude. It hurts my feelings. But we'll see who will have the last laugh accepting her Emmy -- meeeeee!"

Time will tell if ABC can strike gold again for a third time with a retro coming-of-age comedy, but if it's anything like the network's past sitcoms in this category, Emmy nominations may be part of "The Goldbergs" future.

See "The Goldbergs" trailer: 

"The Goldbergs" airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC. 

Check out photos from Season 1 of "The Goldbergs":

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