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.
A Christmas Story
One of the major storylines in tonight’s episode revolves around Barry and Adam’s annual tradition of watching A Christmas Story together. If you had basic cable growing up, chances are you’ve seen A Christmas Story during its 24 hour marathon on either TNT or TBS on Christmas Day. A Christmas Story is the 1983 movie about young Ralphie Parker and his fervent wish to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, despite repeated warnings that he’ll “shoot his eye out”. Surprisingly, the movie had little success when it debuted, but grew in popularity due to its constant appearances on TV. The movie is now considered one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.
If you’re a fan of A Christmas Story, you can visit the actual Parker House in Cleveland, Ohio. A super fan of A Christmas Story (his day job is manufacturing replica of the infamous “leg lamp” seen in the movie) purchased the home in 2004 and converted the interior into a near replica of the sets used in the film. The home is now a museum, with plenty of props and other artifacts from the movie.
Interestingly enough, A Christmas Story never appeared on ABC despite the “classic” ABC commercial bumpers appearing several times this episode. The movie first appeared on TV on HBO before switching over to TBS and TNT in later years.
Beverly tries to convince her family that her new holiday, Super Hanukkah, will have their own present delivering magical entity named Hanukkah Harry, which Adam points out is a character from an SNL skit. Played by John Lovitz, Hanukkah Harry is a Santa Claus analogue who lives on the top of Mount Sinai (the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments) and delivers presents during Hanukkah, regardless of whether their recipients were good or bad that year. Hanukkah Harry appeared in two SNL skits, in which he assisted Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny complete their annual holiday tasks despite Christmas and Easter being Christian holidays and Hanukkah Harry representing a Jewish holiday.
Revenge of the Jedi
Adam wears a Revenge of the Jedi t-shirt for a decent part of the episode. Revenge of the Jedi was an alternate title for The Return of the Jedi, the final movie in the original Star Wars trilogy. Lucas originally named the movie Return of the Jedi, but changed it to Revenge after his co-screenwriter told him that “Return of the Jedi” was a weak title. Although early promotional material used Revenge of the Jedi, Lucas returned the movie to its original title after deciding that Jedi would seek revenge since it would be against their moral code.
Airing of Grievances
The narrator of the show calls Adam and Barry’s fight while stuck to the tether ball pole an “airing of grievances”. That’s a reference to the famous Seinfeld holiday Festivus (a holiday for the rest of us) which features an annual airing of grievances during dinner. Frank Costanza (father of Seinfeld character George Costanza) made up Festivus as an alternate holiday to the increasingly commercialized Christmas season. In addition to the airing of grievances, Festivus tradition includes the raising of an unadorned Festivus pole and feats of strength after dinner.