Pop Culture References in The Goldbergs – Jimmy 5 is Alive

ABC’s The Goldbergs is a love letter the 1980s and contains a veritable cornucopia of pop [...]

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.

Short Circuit

Adam tries to convince his father to purchase a model robot based on Johnny 5 from Short Circuit and its sequel Short Circuit 2. As mentioned by Adam, Short Circuit stars Johnny 5, a military robot that gained sentience after getting struck by lightning. While the Army wanted to dissemble Johnny 5 to duplicate him, the robot managed to evade capture and went on to open a toy company with his human friend. As most of Short Circuit's budget went towards building and maintaining the Johnny 5 model, I'm surprised Adam's version of the robot only cost $100.

Phil Donahue

Barry uses a recording of Phil Donahue to hide that he erased a recording of his fifth birthday party. Phil Donahue was a popular day time talk show host whose Phil Donahue Show ran on television for over 25 years. Although Donahue was a fixture on daytime television for decades, one of his most notable accomplishments was hosting the hip-hop group UTEO on his show, helping to grow the then fledgling rap movement.


Adam threatens to build his robot made of adamantium, the indestructible metal that covers Wolverine's skeleton and retractable claws. Although adamantium is a supposedly rare metal, many of Marvel's superheroes and villains enjoy weapons made of adamantium because of its indestructible and impenetrable qualities.

Strawberry Shortcake

Erica reveals that she had obsession with Strawberry Shortcake dolls when she was younger, although she gave the dolls up to appear more cool. The Strawberry Shortcake toys were a major fad in the 1980s, all centered around a young girl who lived in an oversized pastry. Strawberry Shortcake first appeared on greeting cards in the early 1980s, but it was the doll line that really pushed the character into immortality. Although the Strawberry Shortcake fad eventually faded, the doll line recently received an update for modern audiences and now a whole new generation can learn about the trials and tribulations of living in a baked good.

Charles Barkley

After learning that he doesn't have any real basketball skills, Barry opines to a Charles Barkley basketball poster that he'll never play alongside the famous NBA superstar. Barkley first played in the NBA as a member of Barry's beloved Philadelphia 76ers and stayed with the franchise until 1992. After leaving Philadephia, he earned an MVP award while playing with Phoenix and also was a member of the famous 1992 Olympic "Dream Team". Currently, Barkley appears as part on TNT as part of that network's NBA coverage. In addition to his Hall of Fame caliber basketball skills, Barkley is also known for his frighteningly bad golf swing.

Did you spot any other pop culture references in this episode of The Goldbergs? Let us know in the comments!