The Goldbergs: you'll wonder where you've seen it before

Sitcoms about quirky families: <i>The Goldbergs</i> may or may not be for you. Photo: Seven Publicity
Sitcoms about quirky families: The Goldbergs may or may not be for you. Photo: Seven Publicity

Remember the 1980s, when sitcoms were about quirky families where the kids got up to mischief, the parents were eccentric and old people were amusingly sexual?

Imagine a sitcom set in the 1980s that was exactly like that, except with no laugh track. If your response to that premise is, ''Um'', then The Goldbergs (Prime7, 8.45pm) may or may not be for you.

The first episode of this show, created by Adam Goldberg (not the famous Adam Goldberg, another one) and based on his own family, begins with a montage of 1980s cultural artefacts and a voice-over reminding us that in the '80s, we didn't have the internet. The Goldbergs, pictured, is willing to make whatever reference possible to keep the decade at the forefront of your mind.

We might now be so far removed from the golden age of multi-camera family sitcoms that making a single-camera version represents a clever twist. In this day and age, what TV comedy is willing to feature a family that continually fights but - wow - still loves each other? A family that learns an important lesson at the end of the episode?

A family with a gruff, shouty father and an over-protective mother, and children yearning to assert their independence but more dependent on their parents than they realise? The presence of Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey - stars of more hip, edgy shows - heightens the contrast between modern comedy fashions and The Goldbergs' throwback wholesomeness.

But it's Patton Oswalt, providing narration as grown-up Adam, who makes it quite clear what this show is: it's The Wonder Years. We're listening to REO Speedwagon instead of Joe Cocker, but this show is, in fact, that show, and therefore provides a multiple nostalgia effect: the nostalgia one feels for the time in which the show is set, and the nostalgia one feels for another show from the time in which the show is set, which was set in another time which the audience felt nostalgia for. It's kind of like a Happy Days reunion special. But it does have its own appeal, to those who remember the 1980s, and those for whom it'll seem like a whole new way of making TV.

The Good Wife (SC10, 9.30pm) is based on a conventional template, but manages to be far better than its ordinary legal drama facade might suggest via some impressive writing and acting, which perform that trick that's always harder than it looks: making one care about characters.

It's also upped the ante plot-wise, and so good wife Alicia finds herself dealing with the aftermath of the shooting, while Lockhart-Gardner ponders how to go on. As do we all.

This story The Goldbergs: you'll wonder where you've seen it before first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.