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How Real Is The Goldbergs?

The Goldbergs is based on Adam F. Goldberg' s childhood, but how much of Season 1's wacky adventures really happened? A lot. "In a lot of ways, I have to...

Sean Giambrone, Troy Gentile | Photo Credits: Tony Rivetti/ABC

The Goldbergs is based on Adam F. Goldberg's childhood, but how much of Season 1's wacky adventures really happened? A lot. "In a lot of ways, I have to pull back because some of the stories are so crazy," he tells TVGuide.com. "Even with the [home] videos at the end of the episodes, people still don't believe me." We caught up with Goldberg to get the true story behind on some of this season's most memorable story lines (ironically, the Goonies worshipper never did his own treasure hunt as a kid, but he "really hope[s]"Goonies 2 happens), what you can expect on Tuesday's finale and what he hopes to do in Season 2.

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"Daddy Daughter Day," Episode 2

What happens: Barry (Troy Gentile) asks Murray (Jeff Garlin) for $20 to fund a demo for his hip-hop group, where he performs under Big Tasty. Big Tasty has since debuted a music video and attempted a rap in French.
What really happened: It was Goldberg, not his brother Barry, who was Big Tasty. While Barry had a Grateful Dead knockoff band, Goldberg was the one "obsessed with rap." But after casting Gentile, a fellow rap aficionado, Goldberg rewrote faux Barry's music tastes. "[Gentile] started to rap for me and I was like, 'Oh, my God!'" he says. "It was one of those things where your actor informs who the character is. My rap name as a kid was Big Tasty. My other ones were Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys. One of the things I want to do next year is a full-on Beasties episode. My middle school years were defined by memorizing every single word off License to Ill and Paul's Boutique."

"The Ring," Episode 5
What happens:
 After Barry and Erica (Hayley Orrantia) find love letters that Murray wrote to a woman named Anita, Murray reveals that the woman was his former fiancée... and that he re-gifted the engagement ring to Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey).
What really happened: The engagement to Anita and recycled ring are true, but Beverly found out when she and Anita sat next to each other in a college class by chance. "Anita would stare at her ring all the time, and my mom thought, 'Oh, she's just jealous I have this amazing engagement ring,'" Goldberg says. "We didn't do that because obviously that would seem broad." And why didn't pops get a new ring for Bev? "Why? He had a perfectly good ring!" Goldberg says with a laugh. "We would always do this joke about what it would've been like had he married Anita. Maybe we would have a normal mom and we'd fantasize what life with Anita would be like. That would drive my mom nuts. We'd be a quiet family. I think that conversation is even in the show. They're all wondering what their life would be like."

"Shopping," Episode 10
What happens:
 Bargain shopper extraordinaire Beverly, who stacks a bunch of mattresses onto the family car after seeing a good deal, abuses Erica's employee discount at a department store. Erica in turn frames her for shoplifting.
What really happened: Real-life Bev is a "competitive shopper," according to her son. "Her entire existence was finding deals. Discounts are her favorite thing, like at Filene's Basement. Expiration dates to her were just put on the coupon as a general guideline for the decade. I've seen her use coupons that are like 15 years expired." But has she ever been arrested by mall security? "If I were to say yes, it would her seem nuts and it would make her angry, so let's just say maybe," Goldberg says.

But you can bet the mattress story is 100 percent true. "My mom found a deal that she couldn't turn down, which was like buy one mattress, get two free," he says. "So she ended up strapping like six to the top of the car. Over the next decade, she'd just offer people who'd come over mattresses because she had them in the attic. She still has them to this day, so if anyone needs a mattress, you can give her a call! ... ABC had the most concerns about this because Beverly seems crazy. I don't know if they really wanted me to do it because it was early in the season, but this is something that defines my mom, so I was really happy to do it."

"Lame Gretzky," Episode 17
What happens: Adam (Sean Giambrone) takes up hockey to please Murray and ends up scoring on his own goal. Meanwhile, after Erica wants to go to Stanford, Beverly makes up fake SAT words ("torculent," "flimjam," and "plorpf") so she won't have to send her baby across the country.
What really happened: Goldberg's dad made him play hockey to help with his hand-eye coordination. He did score on his own goal — and if you don't believe him, just ask his teammates. "On Facebook, these people from my team have all found me because of that episode. Our coach was talking about how terrible I was. It was great! ... I have no idea if we won or lost. It didn't matter. I was the big loser," Goldberg says. As for the SATs, Goldberg's mother never made fake words for him, but he's pretty sure she would've. "[My mom] said, 'Adam, go study for your SATs' to me so much that I recorded her and edited it on a loop and played it for her because I was a wiseass. I would joke with my brothers that she would teach me fake vocab words, so I made it real for the show," he says. "I ended up going to NYU for film school — close to Pennsylvania — but we talked about what if I went to UCLA or USC, and my mom's whole world was caving in."

But even New York is too far for Bev. One of Goldberg's favorite tales — that he can't do on the show (yet) — is his mother sleeping in his dorm the first weekend of his freshman year. After delivering groceries, she refused to leave when it got dark. "She was like, 'Oh, it's dark and I have bad night vision. I can't drive home or I'll die. Do you want me to die?'" Goldberg says. "My roommate had a girlfriend and wasn't there, so she slept in his bed, and that's when I knew there was a problem. I remember vividly telling her that if anyone came to the door, she'd have to hide in the closet. My friend Kevin, who's now an editor for Top Chef and Project Runway, came to the door, and said, 'When are we going out?' And I cracked open the door a little bit and he thought I had a girl in there. But no, just my mom! That story is my example for when people think [the show] is exaggerated."

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"For Your Own Good," Episode 18
What happens:
 Adam recruits Barry to be his bus bodyguard when eighth grader J.C. Spink (Cooper Roth) starts bullying him.
What really happened: Spink, now a manager and producer on We're the Millers who made a cameo as the bus driver in the episode, did bully Goldberg, but he doesn't remember it. "On Facebook, people reached out to me after the episode, like, 'Hey, J.C. picked on me too!' So that was vindicating for me. I was starting to think it didn't happen, but I knew it happened," Goldberg says. "I love that they become friends because Barry becomes bus lord and J.C. sees the error of his ways. J.C. and I did become friends. ... I was a little punk, so I wouldn't blame him for picking on me. It's one of those things where you remember when you get harassed. That's why I'm not surprised that he doesn't think it happened."

"The Presidential Fitness Test," Episode 19
What happens: Fearing that he'd be lumped with the girls for the Presidential Fitness Test, Adam has Beverly write him a note to get out of it, and she goes as far to get it "stamped" by Ronald Reagan. Adam eventually does the test after getting a pep talk from Murray, who never learned to swim.
What really happened: After having to do the flexed arm hang with the girls the year prior because he couldn't do a pull-up, Goldberg asked his mother to write a note to get out of the test, and she was always more than happy to oblige. "My mom was always writing me notes to get me out of stuff. Famously at camp, she wrote that I had swimmer's ear so I wouldn't have to in the lake," he says. "But I always felt bad. I had Adam learn the lesson that you have to show up because I didn't learn it! My dad was a doctor so it was a note from a doctor. It was legit. It's either smart or a wussbag move. That's why the gym teacher says in the episode, 'That's a case of the wussbags.'"

"You're Not Invited," Episode 20
What happens:
 Barry convinces Adam to turn his laser tag party into a make-out party. When Beverly gets wind, she hides in the closet and disrupts Adam and Dana's (Natalie Alyn Lind) Seven Minutes in Heaven. They later kiss outside after Adam saves her from a shot in laser tag.
What really happened: As seen in the home video tag, the make-out party was real (though the laser tag did not happen), but Beverly didn't know about it. "She did not know ... or she would've been all over it," Goldberg says, adding that he did have his first kiss there. "For a lot of people, it was our first kisses. I had to reach out to the girls that were in [my video] on Facebook for clearance [to use their image]. This party was a long time ago and they were all, 'Oh, I remember that party!' It was a straight-on make-out party. I remember asking Barry for his advice, like what game we should play."

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"A Wrestler Named Goldberg," Episode 22
What happens:
  Adam convinces Erica to wait in line with him for Return of the Jedi. She ditches him for her friends, but later takes him. Barry secretly joins the wrestling team to Beverly's dismay, prompting her to wrestle him in front of the whole school.
What really happened: Goldberg camped out for Return of the Jedi (though not with Erica since she doesn't exist in real life) and recreated his hometown theater in Jenkintown, Pa., on the show. "I think Bradley Cooper helped restore it. He's from the same town," he says. "I reached out to them to use their name and shot a thing for them that they're going to use as a promo before their movies. The authenticity I didn't have to do, but I feel like it matters." Barry, however, never joined the wrestling team, but "my mom totally would've wrestled Barry if he did," Goldberg says. "The thing that was true from that episode was my mom always had a story for how we were going to die for every little thing. ... I think it's really relatable. Moms are overprotective and they'd tell these tragic stories and you never knew who the people were." 

The episode also featured a dedication to one of Goldberg's childhood heroes, the Ultimate Warrior, who died in April. When the WWE wouldn't release images of him for the show to use, Goldberg sought help on Twitter and eventually got in touch with the wrestling icon's family. "His wife was like, 'We are obsessed with the show!'" Goldberg says. "His daughters got on the phone and said he had dad goggles. She said, 'We feel like this a coincidence. It's his way of reaching out to us from the beyond that it's going to be OK.' I've invited them out to the set next season. To know that one of my heroes actually watched my show is crazy."

"Livin' on a Prayer," Episode 23
What happens:
 On Tuesday's season finale, Murray attends an event after his high school free throw record is broken, while the kids throw a party and end up in Beverly's fabulous sweaters.
What really happened: Real-life Murray, an aspiring NBA player who went to college on a basketball scholarship, did in fact have a free throw record, which his kids did not know about for the longest time. "My dad was a private person, and you didn't know these things about him, and he'd drop these bombs," Goldberg says. "I was with my wife once and we were talking about a plane crash and he was like, 'Oh, I was in a plane crash.' Never once came up. Just said it casually and walked out. It was always stuff like that; he'd open up for a second and you're like, 'Who are you?' In high school I found out that he had this free throw record that still stood at Central High School in Philadelphia and I had never seen my dad watch basketball or touch a basketball. It was crazy. I asked him and he was like, 'Uh, it's a different game now from when I played.'"

The sweater party also took place either in Goldberg's high school or early college years, but don't expect to see footage of it on the episode. "Someone got a hold of my mom's sweaters and I have pictures of it, and we all started wearing my mom's sweaters," he says. "I was supposed to put that photo at the end and I forgot. Dammit."

The Goldbergs airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC. Catch up on the season here.



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