“The Goldbergs” addressed a big void in the show brought on by the death of George Segal earlier this year, and the series handled it admirably in the ninth season premiere.
The episode opens with adult Adam Goldberg (narrator Patton Oswalt) looking back at the death of his grandfather, Pops, recalling that during the 1980s “my grandpa Pops was the greatest guy ever. He was my partner in crime — sometimes literally — and was always up for an adventure. Everyone loved Pops, which is why we had such a hard time when he passed away. But months later, we were finally moving on. Sort of…”
From there, viewers witnessed the Goldbergs in mourning, of sorts, with each member of the family reacting to their grief differently.
Beverly (Wendi McClendon-Covey) has been referring to herself as an “orphan,” while Adam (Sean Giambrone) is masking his grief by becoming obsessed with completing his “Bill & Ted”-inspired movie “Pops & Adam’s Excellent Adventure”, while Barry (Troy Gentile) is prone to angry outbursts, and Erica (Hayley Oriantha) has taken to avoiding any discussion of her upcoming wedding.
Murray (Jeff Garlin), as usual, doesn’t notice that his family’s in crisis until his pal Bill (David Koechner) opens his eyes to what’s going on. Bill then helps Murray concoct a plan, forging a fake letter from Pops instructing that his ashes be buried in his favourite place.
The rest of the episode features the family visiting some of Pops’ best-loved haunts as they try to figure out which was his favourite, ranging from the racetrack to a jazz club to a diner, which each visit unearthing information about Pops they probably would rather not have known.
Finally, Beverly discovers the letter was fake, and comes to an epiphany. “It’s supposed to be hard. We lost somebody that we love,” she says, and the family is finally to grieve and move on with their lives.
The episode concludes with a dedication to Segal, followed by behind-the-scenes footage from the set of the late actor singing and playing banjo.
In an interview with ET, McClendon-Covey opened up about how hard the cast was hit by Segal’s death, and why it wasn’t able to be addressed in the previous season.
“All I can say about that is the news was devastating. We did not find out, he passed two days before we stopped filming season 8. So, you know, there were quite a few fans who were saying, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t do a tribute to George Segal yet.’ It’s all been in the can. We finished filming and this was not the thing that we thought was gonna happen at the end of the season,” she explained.
“Our first episode this season is such a tribute to George Segal and the character of Pops, and yet it is also a movie tribute, because that’s what we do our first episode of every season,” she said of the season premiere. “So this is an homage to ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ and we go on our own excellent adventure, trying to figure out where Pops would have wanted his ashes spread. So it manages to be funny and heartwarming and tear-jerking, but it’s a tribute to the character of Pops, what a beautiful man George Segal was. And we will never stop mentioning him.”