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.
Mork and Mindy
During the opening montage, Beverly wears a Mork costume to go with Adam’s Indiana Jones outfit (she thought he said “Mindy” instead of Indy”). Mork and Mindy was an ABC sitcom starring a then unknown Robin Williams as an alien sent to Earth to observe human behavior. He meets a human girl, played by Pam Dawber, who helps him hide his true identity and acts as a guide to some of Earth’s more bizarre customs. Mork and Mindy was a spinoff of the popular series Happy Days, which featured Mork/Robin Williams in a single standalone appearance. Viewers enjoyed Williams’ performance so much that ABC created a new show to feature the quirky comedian. While Mork and Mindy only lasted four seasons, the show did launch Williams’ career, making him a household name.
Alien and Predator
Adam and Dana dress up as Ridley and the Xenomorph from Alien, while Beverly dresses up as the Predator in an attempt to match her son’s costume. Alien and Predator are two of the greatest science fiction films of the 1980s and crossed over several times. As pointed out by Beverly this episode, the Xenomorph and the Predator first clashed in Dark Horse Presents #36, the culmination of a three part series which first mixed the two 20th Century Fox movie franchises together.
While initially conceived as a one-off comic story, Fox liked the idea of a crossover between the two movie franchises and included a Xenomorph skull in Predator 2. Fox later released two Alien vs. Predator movies that explained that the Predator race hunted Aliens as a rite of passage. Dark Horse released several other comic crossovers featuring the two creatures, including a 2007 crossover that pitted the aliens against the DC superheroes Batman and Superman.
Dark Horse Presents #36
Beverly flashes a copy of Dark Horse Presents #36, which featured the first official crossover between the Alien and Predator franchises. Although The Goldbergs is set in the 1980s, Dark Horse Presents didn’t appear in comic stores until January 1990.
Adam hopes that the haunted house he and Dana are about to visit have friendly ghosts, like Casper. Casper was a ghostly cartoon character that first appeared in several short animated films in the 1940s. Despite his friendliness and charm, Casper has few friends as most humans are frightened by Casper as soon as they see him. Casper has maintained at least some popularity throughout the decades, appearing in cartoons as recently as 2012. Dreamworks Studios recently bought the rights to Casper, although they haven’t pushed a Casper film or TV series into development.
As Adam races through the haunted house, he passes by a wall with the word “Redrum” painted on it. “Redrum” is a recurring word that appears in The Shining and is “murder” spelled backwards. Danny, the young boy in The Shining, writes “redrum” on the door of the bathroom in his family’s hotel suite, foreshadowing his father’s descent into homicidal madness a short while later.
In an attempt to cheer Beverly up, Murray dresses up in a cheesy alien costume and says “na-nu na-nu” while trying to explain his costume. “Na-nu na-nu” was a popular catchphrase used by Mork in Mork and Mindy.
One of Beverly’s many “couples” costumes is a ED-209 robot from Robocop. The ED-209 model was Omni Consumer Product’s first attempt at automating law enforcement, although ODM scrapped the robots as they couldn’t separate innocent civilians from criminals. One ED-209 model later fought Robocop, but Robocop escaped the giant robot when it stumbled on some stairs and couldn’t stand back up (just like Beverly when she fell down wearing the costume at the end of the episode.)