8.8

Goldbergs Review: “I Rode a Hoverboard!”

(Episode 2.08)

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<i>Goldbergs</i> Review: &#8220;I Rode a Hoverboard!&#8221;

Let me say for the record that my inner child will never accept—despite all evidence to the contrary—that the hoverboard Michael J. Fox used in Back to the Future II was not real. As such, it has been comforting to have two different sitcoms this year (A to Z, and this one) inform me that I’m not alone in my illogical beliefs. Beyond continuing this strange, seemingly random trend in sitcoms, however, “I Rode a Hoverboard!” marks the strongest Goldbergs installment since “The Facts of Bleeping Life.” Like the show’s best episodes, it expertly melds more generalized sitcom topics (lying about an injury, a mother acting out after feeling under-appreciated) with an ‘80s-specific sensibility (the aforementioned “hoverboard theory,” the rise of electric food establishments in suburban areas) to deliver its own special brand of humor.

Here, the existence of the hoverboard is employed as part of an elaborate lie by Adam to explain how he broke his arm. In reality, he was videotaping himself replicating George Michael’s “Faith” music video, and accidentally crashed into a bookcase. Not exactly the coolest story. When the other students dismiss this hoverboard version, Adam goes down a dark path by swearing to his closest friend, Emmy “Muscles” Mirsky, that the story is true. Believing Adam would never lie to her, Emmy defends him against the doubters. Knowing he’s far from the best at lying, Adam also seeks counsel from the best liar he knows—Erica. This promptly leads to one of my favorite, albeit random, exchanges of the night. For practice, Erica orders Adam to tell her a lie and Adam instinctively responds, “I’m a fish!” It’s a small gag, but one that had me howling on first watch.

Adam finds himself buried even further when he accidentally blurts out that he has video of the hoverboard incident, and his science teacher calls his bluff and asks him to produce it. Desperate, Adam enlists Erica to help fake a video of him falling off the board. It’s at this point that Emmy comes over for a surprise visit, and sees that Adam has been lying the whole time. Realizing the damage he’s done, Adam decides to show the classroom the embarrassing George Michael video in an attempt to resurrect the status quo. The strategy works, and Emmy forgives him, saying that after that presentation he’ll need all the friends he can get.

I’m glad that the series already dismissed any notions of an Adam/Emmy romance back in Season One, because this episode is a great demonstration of their (platonic) friendship. Moreover, the writing gets a lot of poignant mileage out of the trust that comes with such a relationship, and how monumental breaking that unspoken vow can be.

The other storyline finds the family looking to try something else besides Beverly’s cooking. They end up heading out to a new Chinese restaurant owned and operated by Dave Kim’s Mom (she’s never given a proper name). Naturally, they love it, and begin eating there with great regularity, much to Beverly’s fury. The restaurant even names one dish “Big Tasty Pork” after Barry’s rap moniker. Determined to win her family back, Beverly first attempts to have her family banned (Dave Kim’s mom refuses), and then begins luring Dave over to her house with her own cooking, including shrimp parm, and threats of serving cheese-covered watermelons (I’m still on the fence about whether that’s disgusting or the best idea ever). This drives Dave Kim’s Mom crazy, but they eventually settle their differences, and the rest of the family agrees to eat at the Chinese restaurant every Friday as a new tradition.

While is show is never starved of “Beverly-gets-jealous-of-other-mothers” storylines, this one marks perhaps the strongest, most unique take on this particular brand of subplot thus far. Of particular note is an amazing bit of comedic editing where, in an attempt to cook Chinese food at home, Beverly buys a wok and proceeds to dump a brick of frozen broccoli in the stew, only to have the scene abruptly shift to the family outside attempting to douse the smoking pot.

Certainly, when the only serious complaint I have of an episode is that Barry takes more of a backseat this time around (and that’s only because I’m a professed Barry fan), that’s a strong sign that there’s a lot to love here. “I Rode a Hoverboard” continues the show’s trend of churning out consistently funny and entertaining episodes while also showing that it’s still capable of trying out some new variations on old topics.

Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.