The Goldbergs, Van People, (2.13) - TV Review



February 18th, 2015, 8:30 PM, ABC

This week the Goldbergs learn that sometimes a little kindness goes a long way. Erica and Murray lock horns for the millionth time over Erica’s forgetting to fill the car’s gas tank (and she has a point; the tank’s half-full when he confronts her with her perceived lack of caring). Both stubborn and seeking to be right in this and any situation they come to loggerheads over, Murray takes Erica’s car privileges away in response to the fight and when Beverly frets about her walking everywhere Erica makes a deal with Barry to go in together on a used car – Barry picks a van, allowing him to live out his fantasy of being in the A-Team and Erica to live out her fantasy of getting back at her dad. But he didn’t count on her suggestion that they live in the van together to really stick it to Murray. With Beverly freaked out that the kids will be kidnapped and murdered but bound to her oath to support Murray in this argument, the Goldberg household soon turns into a battleground, and the big question is: who will cave in first: Beverly, Barry, Murray or Erica?

Meanwhile, Adam is disappointed to be voted “Nicest Guy” in the school yearbook when he really wanted to be named funniest guy. After being told by his siblings that he employs the kind of humor that encourages people to laugh at instead of with him, he turns to Pops for advice and Pops encourages him to be funny without being mean. Adam decides to ignore this advice and emulate the popular insult and prop comics of the time, then when this doesn’t work he tries to cement his position as class clown by pranking his sensitive science teacher Mister Woodburn with a hatbox frosted to look like a cake, bringing Adam into conflict with his girlfriend Dana and making him realize that sometimes it’s better to be kind than funny.

I don’t speak often of Hayley Orrantia’s skillful portrayal of Erica, and I feel as if I should rectify that now. She does a very nice job of making us understand the girl’s rebellion while keeping her sympathetic – sometimes the show works against her writing-wise, making her too much of a bully to her brothers, but most of the time she’s extremely enjoyable and relatable. The sight of Barry and Erica trying to share a rusting van followed by Barry frantically sucking down a brisket dinner will inspire a few giggles, and watching Erica and Murray’s stubbornness play out against the backdrop of Barry and Bev’s indecisiveness makes for an ultimately fun little contest of will.

Adam’s storylines continue to be driven by his quest to find his true adult self, and they do the best job of keeping the audience entertained. The funniest moment of the night comes when little Adam models a series of stand-up routines for his grandfather, culminating in his getting sent to his room for emulating Andrew Dice Clay. Ultimately the episode dovetails into a surprisingly touching conclusion, the Erica and Murray reconciliation being especially enjoyable and well-acted. Another sweet-tempered episode with good-natured family fun, if not a particularly challenging outing.

The Roundup

  • Nitpick: It’s hard for me to imagine that young Adam would be allowed access to HBO with Bev being who Bev is. The kids sneak-watching stand-up comedy makes a lot of sense but I can’t imagine Bev lacking the ingenuity to at least try to block it and hide the code (It’s also weird that he thinks fart humor is low-brow considering what Clay indulged and indulges in).
  • Adam’s friend Dave Kim wins “Best Hair on a Man”.
  • David Sirota, master of fart noises, ends up winning Adam’s coveted funniest guy title. He was a class clown at the real Adam Goldberg’s school, and grew up to be a highly praised political commentator and author.
  • The show generally tends to air episodes set in the same month as their air date; this episode is a rarity, set in May and airing in February.
  • This episode….is definitely set in 1985-something, which was when the A-Team reached its zenith in the popular culture.
  • ”It’s about freedom, honor, and rubbing it in Dad’s face when I win!”
  • The actual home video footage this week is dedicated to David Sirota, shown side-by-side with his TV counterpart, and gives an update on who he grew up into.
  • Hannibal is, naturally, short for Hannibal Smith – leader of the A-Team.
  • Next Week: Inspired by the classic 80s movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Barry tries to sneak his way into a wild day off from school by pretending to be sick, but when what was supposed to be a day of supreme goofing off turns into an exercise in futility Pops and Adam step in to help make it awesome in “Barry Goldberg’s Day Off” !< /li>

Another sweet and funny Goldbergs episode that’s not quite remarkable enough to stand out from the pack. There’s nothing wrong with the episode itself, it’s just a little tad bit average.

  • GREAT 8.5

About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of, 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.