The Goldbergs have found a very strange way of coping with Jeff Garlin’s absence.

Last week, while my wife and I were cleaning up our DVR, we started catching up The Goldbergs, an ABC sitcom that we’ve been watching for almost a decade now. Throughout the show’s final season, I’ve been fascinated and amused by how the producers have worked around the absence of one of their stars, Jeff Garlin, who had reportedly become so unwelcome on set that he had his scenes separated from the film. included. rest of the cast. On the March 2 episode of “The Wedding,” the solutions were so ridiculous that I shot a short video with my phone the next day of one of the weirder moments. I uploaded it to Twitter thinking some of my followers might find it funny.

That one tweet — something I pretty much posted on a lark — dominated the rest of my week and eventually became real showbiz news.

Unless you follow the TV business, you might be surprised to hear that The Goldbergs is still in the air. As the ninth season draws to a close, the show debuted in 2013 and was part of a wave of modern familyinspired ABC family comedies that were fast-paced, funny, and tapped into the experiences and concerns of a middle-aged audience. (Also see: The middleblackishand Hot off the press.) Except blackish-broadcast of the last episodes this spring-The Goldbergs is the last of those mid-2010s ABC hits that are still ticking.

Due to Garlin’s unplanned absence, Goldbergs viewers were treated to a minute of television that, even by this season’s eccentric standards, was real bizarre.

News broke late last year that Garlin, who plays the outwardly grumpy but generally mild-mannered father Murray Goldberg, had been repeatedly investigated by the network’s human resources department in recent years over complaints about his behavior on set. He had been accused of making cast and crew members uncomfortable, both with fits of rage and — more worryingly — an urge to touch people and make sexualized comments, even after being asked to stop.

ABC and The GoldbergsProducers (including the company that makes the show, Sony Pictures Television) have generally declined to comment on the record. The only person who wanted to tackle the whole Garlin problem was Garlin. Before the story went wide, he agreed to interview Maureen Ryan of Vanity Fair, who has been one of the most thorough and astute journalists to cover Hollywood’s #MeToo bill. In Garlin’s version of the story, he just acted “dumb” because the show itself is so boring; and while some sensitive types complained, others enjoyed it.

Garlin reportedly negotiated with the producers to minimize his time on set, and also agreed to step away at the end of this current run. look sharp Goldbergs viewers (like myself) had already noticed during season 9 that Murray has been absent from entire episodes, or has only appeared in shots on his own, with short bits of dialogue clumsily cast into scenes. But according to TV Line reporter Ryan Schwartz, Garlin left the show before its scheduled end date. This posed a problem, as the final scripts for the season had already been written, including those for the highly anticipated “The Wedding,” which marries Murray’s daughter Erica (Hayley Orrantia).

And as a result of Garlin’s unplanned absence, Goldbergs viewers were treated to a minute of television that, even by this season’s eccentric standards, was truly bizarre. In the scene, the Goldbergs’ matriarch, Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey), has just scrapped almost every elaborate plan she had for Erica’s wedding—with the exception of booking 80s soft rock favorite Richard Marx to perform— in favor of a stripped-down ceremony held in the Goldbergs’ own living room. In what should be a sweet and sentimental moment, Murray hugs his daughter, calls her “my little peanut” and “sweetheart,” then escorts her to the makeshift altar, before taking his place next to his son Adam (Sean Giambrone). .

But Garlin was clearly nowhere near the set that day — or, if he was, The Goldbergs editorial team certainly made some weird choices about when and how to show it. What we seem to see at the beginning and end of the clip is a stand-in with Garlin’s bizarrely grinning face digitally superimposed. In between, we see the back and side of the stand-in – the face carefully kept out of view – while Garlin’s voice is clumsily recorded.

Why make this choice? Why don’t you drop Murray for good? As hard as the show’s producers and editors have worked to prevent Garlin’s absence this season, it was much more distracting to squeeze him in than it would have been to eliminate his character altogether. And if the responses to my tweet are any gauge, I’m not the only one feeling this way. Within an hour or so, my Goldbergs clip had been widely shared by hundreds of bewildered people, many of whom had never seen the show before and recognized it immediately, even in a low-quality video I shot with my grubby old phone of my grubby iPad screen, which this scene was pretty janky.

Towards the end of the day, I saw entertainment news sites posting items about the video (for an episode that, again, aired about 10 days before my tweet, without much commentary). I even saw a few memes with the digital Garlin face. The video had taken on a life of its own. And then, just as things were starting to get a little quiet, the tweet got a second wind thanks to an unexpected response.

A day after my first tweet, McLendon-Covey responded to me on Twitter: “This season threw us for a loop because a.) It’s hard to include someone who doesn’t want to be there and leave in the middle of the scene; and b.) We had no intention of rewriting the second half of the season. We do our best.”

McLendon-Covey’s tweet, the first public response from anyone still involved with the show, sparked a new wave of news items and a new wave of response — this time from fans who disagreed with my suggestion that it time to end the series. Why would I want to put a bunch of talented comedic actors and experienced crew members out of work just because of the one man issues?

Considering that The Goldbergs, like any other Hollywood production, has been dealing with pandemic disruptions for the past two years, the thought of having to rework the plotlines on the fly to abruptly kill the show’s patriarch must have been a non-starter . It made sense to make everything run as smoothly as possible so that everyone continues to work and get paid until the end of the season. The Goldbergs isn’t as popular as it used to be, but it draws over 3 million viewers per episode, which isn’t bad these days. And each new episode adds to the overall value of a series that’s already sold in syndication — and will live on in streaming, where “comfort TV” like The Goldbergs blossomed.

I’ll also add this: If all you’ve ever seen of The Goldbergs is that clip, you should know that this isn’t a bad sitcom at all. I wouldn’t have seen that horrible wedding scene if I wasn’t a fan myself. But while it’s still viewable, The Goldbergs has clearly deteriorated in quality in recent years. Creator Adam Goldberg based the show on his own childhood and even cast childhood friends in cameo roles, but his quirky personal touches, like ending episodes with clips from his actual teen home videos, are gone and he hasn’t been given a single writing credit for the current season. . (Goldberg only had one “story by” credit in Season 8.) Aside from the Garlin problem, the show just looks a bit haggard. When The Goldbergs debuted, Giambrone played a junior high schooler. In this season, the 22-year-old actor only plays a high school student. The character’s siblings Erica and Barry (played by Orrantia and Troy Gentile, both 28) are stuck in college. The original gimmick of rooting stories in various fads and trends from the 1980s is still part of the show, but the plots are more detached from Goldberg’s personal experiences and more general.

The problem with Garlin is not The Goldbergs‘ first hitch, either. Comedian Bryan Callen, who played a demanding gym teacher on the show, left after season 6 to be a regular on the show. Goldbergs spin-off Skilled but didn’t return after that Skilled was canceled, in part because he had been charged with sexual assault. (He has vehemently denied the charges.) When George Segal died last year, The Goldbergs lost the sweetness and great comedic timing he brought to his role as Beverly’s father. But in both cases, although the problems broke out unexpectedly, the writers quickly resolved the distortions in the show’s narrative continuity. Garlin has apparently been a problem for years; and while it’s not the cast and crew’s fault that he made their job more difficult, attempts to keep his character close have become increasingly laughable.

There are six more episodes of The Goldbergs to go into season 9; it has not yet been extended by a tenth. And while I still have some fun watching the show, it might be for the best for everyone involved if they stop. No offense intended to McLendon-Covey or anyone involved in making the Goldbergers, nine years is a good run. Even a decade as great as the ’80s must come to an end. Don’t let your comedy become a joke.

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