ABC’s The Goldbergs is a love letter the 1980s and contains a veritable cornucopia of pop culture references and jokes about decade in each and every single episode. While it’s next to impossible to list every single 1980s reference on The Goldbergs, we’re going to run down some of each episode’s geekier and more obscure pop culture moments. Please note that this column tries to cover only the “unique” references that appear in each episode, while passing on the posters, toys and other background pieces that appear in every episode and are irrelevant to the plot.
Much of the episode revolves around Barry’s love of Top Gun and his decision to join ROTC in the hopes of emulating his favorite movie. A heartpounding two hour advertisement for the Navy, Top Gun starred Tom Cruise as Maverick, the hot shot fighter pilot unafraid of inciting international incidents with the Russians or hitting on his flight instructors. Not only was Top Gun one of the seminal movies of the 1980s, it also was a major recruiting tool for the Navy. The Navy claimed its recruitment numbers went up by 500% after the movie came out in theatres.
Great Goose’s Ghost
Upon seeing the ROTC table at his high school, Barry exclaims “Great Goose’s ghost!”, a reference to the ill-fated pilot “Goose” from Top Gun. Goose was Maverick’s best friend and RIO (the guy who sits behind the pilot in a fighter jet) and acting as Maverick’s conscience for much of the movie. During a training mission at the Top Gun Flight Academy, Maverick’s recklessness causes their plane to stall out. Goose dies when he hits the canopy of the plane while ejecting, leading Maverick to become depressed and nearly drop out of the flight program. Goose left behind a wife, a young son and one hell of a moustache.
Barry makes several references to one of Top Gun’s most iconic scenes, a shirtless volleyball scene featuring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. Cruise and Kilmer’s characters become rivals, leading to an intense volleyball game about halfway through the film. Although the volleyball scene contributed nothing to the plot of the movie, it did introduce millions to Tom Cruise’s toned physique and rippling back muscles.
Adam and Pops play several rounds of Final Lap throughout the episode, with Pops winning every time despite his awful “in real life” driving skills. Final Lap was a popular Namco arcade game in the 1980s which featured players racing Formula One cars. The game was the first arcade game to allow up to 8 players to compete at one time, making it a mainstay in many arcades throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Novice players typically spun out on Final Lap during the first few turns, although the game had a mechanic that made it impossible to ever fall too far behind from the leader.
Mad Max: Thunderdome
Pops mentions that he’ll sit through the time-share presentation so he and Adam can catch a screening of Mad Max: Thunderdome. Clearly Pop’s old age is getting to him, as he’s probably referring to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, the last of the Mad Max movies before the release of last summer’s Mad Max: Fury Road. During the movie, Max fights a giant enforcer in the Thunderdome, a cage like arena in the center of Barter Town, on behalf of Barter Town’s leader, Aunty Entity (played by singer Tina Turner). Although Max beats the giant, he refuses to kill him after discovering the giant is developmentally disabled.
Frankie Says Relax
Adam convinces Pops to wear a “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirt to show off how young and hip he was. “Frankie Says Relax” refers to the British band Frankie Goes to Hollywood and their debut single “Relax”. Although “Relax” quickly rose on the charts in both the US and Britain, the BBC banned the song after one of its DJs declared the song’s lyrics to be “obscene”. Ironically, this caused both “Relax” and Frankie Goes to Hollywood to become even more popular, leading to the band becoming a household name for several years.
Adam and Pops fight for their friendship over a game of Ms. Pac-Man, which Pop ultimately loses because he thought he was playing as one of the ghosts. Ms. Pac-Man was one of the most popular arcade games of all time, appearing in thousands of arcades across the country. Midway, the producer of Ms. Pac-Man, released the game after discovering the original Pac-Man was popular with female gamers. The game improved on the original Pac-Man, with more mazes, clearer graphics and cutscenes that explained the relationship between Ms. Pac-Man and her male counterpart. The game remains popular among both casual and hardcore gamers and many restaurants, arcades and amusement parks still have a working version of the game ready to be played for just twenty-five cents.