Let’s talk about George Segal for a minute. Here’s an actor who achieved unquestionable success early in his career with a supporting role in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the 1966 Mike Nichols-directed adaptation of Edward Albee’s stage play that earned Segal an Oscar nomination. He followed Woolf with a number of dramatic and comedic roles throughput the ’60s and ’70s, including the excellent A Touch of Class and Fun with Dick and Jane. While Segal would work consistently over the years, the ’80s and ’90s resulted in a few dry spells when it came to quality roles. Rather than desperately attempting to hold onto to his youth and leading man status, however, Segal instead decided to embrace his aging persona, becoming particularly adept at playing charming, yet eccentric older characters, most notably in the late ’90s program Just Shoot Me!.
Like Just Shoot Me!, The Goldbergs makes great use of Segal. With his years in the business, the actor carries the gravitas of someone who has led an illustrious life, a quality the show hammers home by positioning Albert as the family’s cool (if frequently reckless) grandpa. That Segal indulges in the show’s more outrageous comic set pieces, including dressing up as a Ghostbuster, only intensifies his charm and likability.
“You’re Under Foot” finds Murray (after some serious suggestion by Beverly) inviting Albert back into the discount furniture store, a place he helped build and establish years earlier. It’s not long before Albert is complaining about Murray’s changes to the store and attempting to restore it to the way it was back in his day. This includes offering complimentary drinks and cigars and spending money on a commercial.
While Murray balks at Albert’s choices, his co-worker Vic (a returning Cedric Yarbrough) is taken in by Albert’s old-school philosophy and supports his decisions full-force. Also, for reasons I can’t quite explain, the way Yarbrough delivers the line, “Ah, charisma!” cracked me up.
In the spirit of switching up the show interactions, Garlin is finally given extended scenes to work alongside Segal. The former’s uptight persona contrasts wonderfully against the latter’s vivacious energy. It’s a great odd couple pairing and one I hope the writers won’t wait too long before exploring again.
The episode’s other plot centers on Adam taking another swing at his neighborhood crush, Dana Caldwell. Under the guise of studying together, he takes her up to his bedroom where she catches a glimpse of his toy collection (G.I. Joe, He-Man—essentially, half of the Robot Chicken roster). After an awkward beat, Dana abruptly excuses herself. Confused, Adam seeks the counsel of his older siblings, who point out that the abundance of toys is what most likely scared her off. “Chicks like water beds and samurais swords that elegantly hang over a fireplace,” Barry insists. “It’s a scientific fact!” (It’s lines like this that have positioned Barry as one of my new favorite sitcom characters.)
A conflicted Adam ultimately decides to give away his toys, much to the concern of Beverly Goldberg who doesn’t want her precious little boy growing up so fast and attempts to steal his toys back. While certainly sweet, this particular subplot feels a bit thin, especially since Beverly’s actions appear to hold very few repercussions beyond Adam seeming a bit annoyed (if not overly surprised) when Dana tells him what happened.
“You’re Under Foot” feels a bit more standard after the double whammy that was “Shopping” and “Kara-tee.” That’s not to say it’s not good, as there were a handful of great laughs, particularly when Albert shows a horribly dated commercial he filmed back in his time at the furniture shop. (“Can you buy on credit? You bet! With your husband’s signature, of course…”) Overall, the episode just lacks the belly laughs that defined those previous two installments. That being said, even if this episode’s not firing on all cylinders, the timing and sharp writing that have defined the best Goldbergs episodes are still readily apparent here. Whereas early episodes felt as though the cast was trying overly hard to be loud and funny, the characters and dialogue now flow much smoother. Often I’m reminded of the later seasons of Happy Endings when the characters’ lightning fast exchanges would come as naturally as breathing. And anything that reminds me of Happy Endings is A-OK in my book.