TV Recap: The Goldbergs: Baio and Switch (03.12)

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January 13th, 2016, 8:30 PM, ABC

Bev volunteers to take part in Hands across America in the hope of impressing Barry and Erica – and in trying to capture a tiny fragment of the joy the Kemps have recently experienced while appearing on the front of their local paper, hoping to get a picture with her own kids on the front page. Bev ends up finagling her way from volunteer to head of the program by convincing an overwhelmed Coach Mellor, the original organizer of the Jenkintown chapter of HAA, and immediately gets in over her head by promising her kids and the committee that she can pull in Scott Baio. Her kids’ original hopes for the event change pretty quickly – Barry’s enthusiastic about meeting the town’s celebrity guests, Erica’s hopes of changing the world continue to be more altruistic, but their plans immediately end up going to pot when they realize their mom’s involved. Bev lies that she got Scott Baio to “ditch Philly” to appear at the event, raising the kids’ hopes and leaving her scrambling to produce the star while her kids compete for the right to hold Baio’s hand. It all blow up in Bev’s face when the kids learn the truth and refuse to hold hands at the event, breaking the chain, ruining Bev’s efforts and leaving her heartbroken and Barry and Erica searching for a way to make things right with her. Meanwhile, Adam deals with double trouble when he agrees to take both Emmy and Dana to the Harvest Hop; platonically escorting Emmy when her crush continues to ignore her existence and she’s the only one who doesn’t get invited to the dance, and romantically taking Dana when her grandmother breaks her hip and she ends up temporarily in town for the week. Pop’s advice leads Adam toward that old sitcom plotline, the notion of bringing both girls to the dance and lying about the existence of the other date, but even after every single sitcom in Adam’s collection proves how terrible the idea is he still persists in trying the experiment out. In determination he turns to Pop and Dave Kim, both of whom try to help him plot out the perfect “Brady Bunching” – only to have Emmy and Dana figure out all by themselves that Adam was planning on taking them in tandem. The girls exact their revenge with silence and surprisingly sharp grips at Hands across America – and only Murray’s advice can salvage the whole situation for Adam.

The fun thing about a sitcom like The Goldbergs – which alternates between genuinely celebrating sitcom tropes and taking the piss out of them – is that the show always tends to have its heart in the right place no matter what tone they’re shooting for. It shows an unusual wiseness tonight as it tries to navigate the line between knowingly joking about tropes and delivering on them wholeheartedly.

There’s a level of brains going on that’s rather appealing, and enjoyable – the amount of lampshading going on in the Adam subplot is actually appealing instead of annoying, which in the wrong hands it would definitely be. A valuable lesson about honesty is delievered to the audience, and Adam’s eventually success –or failure – centers not around whether he can “Brady Bunch” his two dates, but how truthful he can be about his motives. For once, Pops dishes out the wrong advice, and Murray’s the wise one, a nice change-up from the show’s usual formula.

I often offhandedly praise the show’s teen and child actors, but this episode in particular bears some nice, strong acting. Specifically, Stephanie Katherine Grant‘s performance as Emmy was really heartbreaking and funny – she’s a good casting find. Just as good is the recurring Bryan Callen as Coach Mellor, who nails all of his scenes as he tries to scapegoat his managerial inabilities off on Bev.

There’s only one minor flaw in the A-plot; It’s perhaps strange that Bev continues to envy the Kemps, especially because she now knows the secret behind their perfection, but acceptable in that their general happiness provides a goal for her to strive toward.

“Baio And Switch” is The Goldbergs at its best; sunny, fun and just a little silly, with a core of self-depreciating humor that manages to keep things from getting too sweet.

The Roundup

  • Hands Across America was indeed a real one-day charity event where Americans tried to form a human chain across the country to raise awareness for homelessness, holding hands for fifteen minutes and paying $10 for the privilege to do so, with all the money going directly to benefit various charities that aided the impoverished. The real chain had several major gaps in it, and completely neglected the entirety of New England, but that ultimately made no difference as the objective of the project was reached – they raised 34 million dollars. For those who weren’t alive back then, it took place on May 25th, 1986.
  • Bev catches Barry and Erica creating handprint – shaped decorations for the festivities. ”Oh my God! Are you two crafting together…by choice?!”
  • A list of people Barry hopes to holds hands with during Hands Across America: Heather Locklear, Alyssa Milano and K.i.t.t from Knight Rider (“I’ll hold the antenna!”)
  • ”Scott Baio? From Happy Days and Chachi in Charge?!” The real Baio appeared in Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia during the event.
  • This episodes……definitely takes place in 1986-something, when Hands Across America took place. The series plays fast and loose with the event, and in fact it transposes it into the fall, “The second Wednesday of the Month” (Oh, and Like a Prayer by Madonna has apparently been released
  • The Kemps continue to appear on the show as regulars and as foils for Bev’s insecurity with the joy they continue to take in togetherness and the accomplishments they garner.
  • Bev is here to help. ”And by help, I mean push you aside and take over entirely.”
  • Musical motif: “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlise plays, a number one hit in 1987.
  • Coach Mellor freaks out: ”Philly is the Paris of Pennsylvania!”
  • This week’s Actual Home Video Footage is of Adam Goldberg not holding hands with Scott Baio – he was apparently all the way across the street from the celebrity during the Philadelphia Hands Across America event.
  • Pops verbs the Brady Bunch: “I Brady Bunched two ladies at a USO Dance in ’41 – never felt so ALIVE!”
  • Murray tries to help: “If you know the advice, why aren’t you following it?”
  • Adam can apparently juggle three grapes at the same time.
  • Bev will wear white at Erica’s wedding, and that’s non-negotiable. Barry eventually wins her support by offering to create a mother’s bedroom right off his own master suite. Good luck, kid.
  • Coach Mellor doesn’t have any fancy celebrity connections. ”I’m a gym teacher! I rotate two pairs of shorts.”
  • Emmy is offended. ”Did you make me the Hulk?” Adam: “Yes, but only because I don’t like you when I’m angry.”
  • Bev cursing moment: “F***k off, Ben Franklin!”
  • Barry on meeting “Ben Franklin”: “I hate this president!”
  • Next Week: Adam and Emmy compete to become part of a famous Nickelodeon game show when auditions hit their school and Barry thinks Bev’s a good luck charm for his favorite sports team in “Double Dare”.
9.7 MASTERFUL

Touching, tropey and unafraid to keep its heart on its sleeve, Baio and Switch scores!

  • 9.7
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About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of Firefox.org, has been watching television for all of her thirty-plus years, and critiquing it for the past seven. When she's not writing, she can be found in the wilds of the Northeastern United States.