In some way, shape or form, the Philadelphia Flyers are part of every episode of the hit sitcom "The Goldbergs," which is now in its sixth season on ABC. The next episode of the show, which will air on Wednesday (April 3) at 8 p.m. EDT, is set against the backdrop of a mid-1980s Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival at the Spectrum.
As diehard and even casual fans of the show know, show creator and executive co-producer Adam F. Goldberg has been a hardcore Flyers fanatic since his childhood growing up in the 1980s in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown.
He has special memories of attending the Carnival.
"Going to the Carnival was special to me. It was a place where we could meet and interact with our heroes on the Flyers," Goldberg recalls.
"My brother was a huge Tim Kerr fan. He loved the way Kerr would power to the net and he related to that playing style. We had a reference to Kerr in one of the episodes, and that wasn't just random. I pick the references based on my favorites or my family's favorites. For me, I have good memories of meeting Ron Hextall during his first stint playing for the team."
The upcoming episode, entitled "This Is Spinal Tap," is a homage not only to the Flyers Carnival but also to the classic 1980s comedy movie.
In explaining the title, Goldberg said, "The style of the episode is a mockumentary, and there are some Spinal Tap-ish moments that take place at the Spectrum."
The Spectrum, of course, is no longer standing. In its place, the show was filmed in Anaheim. However, the look and feel of a 1980s Flyers Wives Carnival at the Spectrum was painstakingly recreated for the show.
"We turned another NHL team's building into Flyers country for the episode, and I got a kick of that," Goldberg said with a chuckle.
Every episode of the show features semi-fictionalized versions of a youthful Adam (portrayed by Sean Giambrone) and an accomplished cast of actors portraying characters based on members of Goldberg's real-life family.
Older brother Barry (Troy Gentile) sports an omnipresent Flyers shirt. In one episode, which Goldberg dedicated to the memory of Ed Snider, Barry becomes highly distraught when his beloved Flyers shirt is ruined. Grouchy and sharp-tongued but caring father Murray (Jeff Garlin) is a devoted fans of all of Philadelphia's sports teams, but especially the Flyers and Phillies. Adam is not as sports-oriented as the other males in the household.
This backdrop is based on real-life.
"My brother Barry was into all sports, and so was my late father. For me, hockey was the one sport I loved and played. I didn't really pay much attention to the other sports. As a family, we all loved the Flyers. To me, rooting for the Flyers were how I bonded with my dad especially. We'd go to games or watch the Flyers on TV in the '80s, and it was the only time my father wasn't calling me a moron [as Garlin's character often does on the show]," Adam F. Goldberg said.
Behind the scenes of the Goldbergs show, the real-life Adam F. Goldberg is the only one who is a Flyers fan. Most are not hockey fans. An exception is the sports-loving Garlin, a native Chicagoan who is a diehard rooter for all the pro sports teams from the Windy City, including the Cubs, Blackhawks and Bears.
"I like to torture Jeff by making his Murray character profess his undying love for the Flyers and Phillies in as many scripts as possible," Goldberg laughs.
Turning serious, Goldberg said that he is very grateful for the relationship the show has developed with the Flyers' organization and Flyers' fans.
"The Flyers have been amazing to us. Not every sports team and sports league is nearly that easy to work with as the Flyers and the NHL. We have a lot of creative free reign in how we incorporate the Flyers. I can't even estimate how many Flyers fans have told me they were drawn to watch the show because of the Flyers references, and then came to love the show in its own right. That's been very gratifying," Goldberg said.
As part of the current season, Adam's older sister Erica (portrayed by Hayley Orrentia, and based on Goldberg's real-life brother Eric) joined a local band called "The Dropouts," and has become a wannabe rock star of sorts.
In the current episode, her band has an opportunity to play at the Spectrum during the Flyers Wives Carnival; their big opportunity to play a gig at a major arena at which a who's who of famous rock stars performed through the years. The Adam character is enlisted to create a documentary of the whole experience.
"The style of the episode is a departure from our format. Every episode is typically done in the style of an 80s sitcom. In other words, it's self-contained. Even if any given episode is the first one you've ever watched, you can figure out right way what's going on and what the characters are all about. This is the first one we've done like it's a documentary, and we're tying up a storyline from the season," Goldberg said.
Apart from the Carnival at the Spectrum and the Spinal Tap inspirations, there are other 80s-themed references sprinkled throughout the episode. For example, there's a direct homage to the Run DMC/Aerosmith rap/rock remake of the latter's "Walk This Way." There's even a subtle costuming inspiration drawn from the design of the yellow-and-red Huk Hogan "Hulkamania" shirt that was all over the American landscape in that era.