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‘Dinner With the Goldbergs’ Is a Masterpiece of Cringe-Comedy

Two food comedies, one restaurant drama, and more TV recommendations for the weekend 

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Ron Tom/ABC

This post originally appeared on January 19, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV . Browse the archives and subscribe now.


Welcome to the weekend, a time when the world is your oyster and there are literally dozens of hours to catch up on all the great TV you missed during the week. I’ve got a few recommendations for what to stream this weekend. First up: a sitcom episode that might be my favorite TV moment of 2018, so far.

A spectacular tribute to awful family dinners

ABC

The next time you’re at dinner with your family and somebody at your table does something annoying, just be glad that you’re not part of the Goldbergs, the stars of ABC’s hit sitcom of the same name. As last week’s episode, “Dinner with the Goldbergs,” proves, this family embodies all of the worst traits of all restaurant diners — and it’s a blast to watch them fumble their way through a meal from hell.

The meal where everything goes off the rails is actually a surprise birthday feast for college-age daughter Erica (played by Hayley Orrantia) at a location of now-defunct chain Beefsteak Charlie’s (the show’s set during the ’80s). Erica’s boyfriend, Geoff (Sam Lerner), put the dinner together knowing nothing about how the rest of the Goldbergs behave in restaurants. “You’re going to break up with me,” Erica tells him right before they walk in. “You’re never going to want to stay after the horrors you see tonight.”

I think the reason why this episode works so well is that it accurately portrays how family members develop weird rhythms and ticks while dining out together at restaurants. After a host shows the Goldbergs to the dining room, mother Beverley (Wendi McLendon-Covey) insists that they’ve been given a “garbage” table due to its location right next to the kitchen. Several table choices later, the clan finally settles down at a seven-top, where Beverly begins to fill her purse with rolls and dad Murray (Jeff Garlin) explains the Goldberg family ordering rules to Geoff. “Remember: no prime cuts, no fancy sides, no out-of-season vegetables, no ‘market price,’ no salad bar, no items in French, no dry-aged anything,” he says. “And most importantly, no appetizers of any kind because that’s how they screw you.”

All of the Goldberg family’s orders are weird — and Murray can’t even remember his choice when the waiter asks — but Bev takes the cake with a request for “the hanger steak, Pittsburgh-style, but instead of the béarnaise sauce, I would like crab cakes.” After accidentally stealing another family’s food (and then requesting to take it home in a doggy bag), the Goldbergs’ actual order finally arrives from the kitchen, at which point Erica accurately predicts, “Oh, it’s all going back.” The meal ends in a near-choking experience, a meltdown, and a “triple check” of the bill using a big white calculator from Bev’s purse.

The home movies that roll during the closing credits show that all of these things really did happen when creator Adam Goldberg’s family went out to eat. Your family might be better behaved than the Goldbergs, but there’s bound to be at least one detail in this 22-minute gem that will have you nodding your head in recognition.

“Dinner With The Goldbergs” is available to watch on Hulu and ABC.com.


Streaming selections du jour

Easy/Netflix

Easy, “Brewery Brothers,” “Hop Dreams,” and “Spent Grain”

Stream it on: Netflix

The gist: Joe Swanberg’s Netflix anthology series Easy includes three episodes that, when watched together, constitute a 90-minute movie about two Chicago couples who start a pair of artisan food businesses.

Jeff (played by Dave Franco) is an impetuous coffee nerd turned IPA wizard who goes into business with his risk-averse brother, Matt (Evan Jonigkeit). While the bros fight over the beer-making operation, Matt’s wife Sherri (Aya Cash) becomes fast friends with Jeff’s girlfriend Noelle (Zazie Beetz), and they eventually decide to use the spent grain from the brewery to make fancy dog treats — which ultimately prove to be even more popular than the beer.

The show completely nails the intense and at times silly ways that coffee and beer people talk about the things they love. Easy steers clear of satire or outright mockery, but if you know some beer or coffee obsessives, you’ll likely chuckle at the lingo used in a few of these scenes. As is the case with most Swanberg movies, all of the interactions feel genuine, and the story’s main themes reveal themselves in unexpected ways.

These three episodes are a good introduction to Swanberg’s endearingly low-fi style. And if you’re looking for another food-themed episode of Easy to watch, check out “Vegan Cinderella,” about the ways that new love can inspire people to do (and eat) things they’ve never tried before.

The Chi, “Alee”

Stream it on: Showtime

The gist: The second episode of Lena Waithe’s Showtime drama ups the stakes a bit for the chef character, Brandon (played by Jason Mitchell), who gets a crack at a catering job outside of the kitchen. He also serves his boss an original creation that the chef/owner really likes and says, affectionately, that he might steal for the real menu. These are really the only good things that are happening in Brandon’s life right now, but I continue to love the way that this show portrays a popular restaurant as a place where our young protagonist can find encouragement and inspiration.

In this installment, we also learn that young dad Emmet (played by Jason Latimore) works for a local take-out place called Sonny’s Chicken Pit. When he comes to work with his baby in tow, his boss tells him to leave work to sort out his day care situation. “Take the day and handle your business like a man,” Sonny says. It’s a stern bit of business, but it’s also clear that Sonny wants the best for his employee.

This show has a lot of plates spinning in the air right now, but I can’t wait to see how these two plotlines, in particular, play out over the rest of the season.


And one more streaming note:

Drunk History, one of the most consistently hilarious shows on television, returns for Season 5 on Comedy Central next Tuesday, January 24. The food episode — starring Michaela Watkins as Julia Child — is a straight-up riot, and a great one to revisit before the new season kicks off. It’s available to stream right now on Hulu.

And in other news...

I hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re looking for something hearty to cook, perhaps consider frying up some Federal Donuts-style chicken, using this nifty recipe.

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