Set in the nondescript year of 1980-something and narrated by Patton Oswalt, The Goldbergs is a semi-autobiographical sitcom that chronicles the life of a young Adam F. Goldberg. Following not just Adam, but his entire family, the series revolves around the larger-than-life (and sometimes unbelievable) personalities that helped shape him into the person he is today. Offering viewers a nostalgic look back on what it was like to grow up in the 80s, The Golderbergs is narrated in a style that holds a mirror up to The Wonder Years and has kept fans laughing for nearly a decade by weaving together a narrative of loving chaos through rose-tinted goggles. While the series hasn’t won any notable awards, The Goldbergs has become a cult favorite for many over the years thanks to its easily relatable quirks and altogether loveable cast that fit together seamlessly.
How Does Narration Affect The Goldbergs?
Told from the perspective of a grown-up Adam Goldberg, the series doesn’t waste a second of airtime and gets right to telling the audience exactly what The Goldbergs is all about. From the very first minute of the very first episode, Patton Oswalt’s voice-over doesn’t just permeate the narrative but inducts viewers into the home life of a younger Adam.
Like a lot of time-piece sitcoms, the narration is essential to this series because it’s used to do more than just tell us about each member of Adam’s family, but explain how he interacts with them, why they are how they are, and clarify the actual meaning behind what people say. Oswalt’s voice-over does so much more than introduce us to each member of his family; it gives us a crash course to understanding them. Any time there’s a potential miscommunication or seemingly over-the-top reaction from his father Murray, the voice of an older Adam is there to tell us what he actually means, and why it isn’t, well, mean. Whenever his Smother, Bev, goes overboard and tries to interfere with his life or keep him from growing up, Oswalt’s narration doesn’t skip a beat and lets the audience know either where she’s coming from, or why it impacted him, or how she made it right.
One of the most noteworthy observations about how Oswalt’s voice-over affects the story is that without his well-timed insights and liberal use of context, The Goldbergs would be less of a loveable comedy, and more of a tumultuous flashback to a dysfunctional family with a severe lack of boundaries.
The Importance of Patton Oswalt’s Narration
Throwing in not-so-subtle nuances and guiding viewers throughout every key sequence, Oswalt’s voice-over sets an overarching tone and forms the backbone of each installment.
At the beginning of each episode, Patton Oswalt uses his easy-going narration to draw us into the plot and explain the theme of what we’re about to watch; carefully walking the line between nostalgic pop-culture references and informative comedic ambiance. Despite how the characters are portrayed in contrast to their real-life counterparts, the series itself is a love letter to Goldberg’s childhood.
Without the priceless inclusion of Oswalt’s well-timed narrative additions, the series could never reflect the way Goldberg actually sees his family and simply wouldn’t hit the same notes that made it the massive decade-long success that it is today.
10 Years into The Goldbergs: What Patton Oswalt Learned About Narrating the Life of Adam F. Goldberg
In a 2019 interview with GiveMeMyRemote.Com, Patton Oswalt shared some insights on not just his creative process of putting a voice to Adam F. Goldberg’s life story, but what he’s learned to bring to the table. Referencing how his voice-over has evolved over the years, one of the things he understands now as a series veteran is the actual voice of Adam Goldberg. As an unseen main character in the sitcom, he’s learned to embody the voice fluidly and points out that working as a narrator from the perspective of a real person, there are nuances that need to be understood to tell the story relatable.
“If anything, now I really know Adam Goldberg’s voice. He’s looking back in [love] rather than anger. Like he’s looking back and there’s not a gentle tone, because you still get angry but he’s also laughing about it. So get that down, it only took a couple of seasons because the writing was so strong. I could just go in and I could just do it in like half an hour now, not because of any of migrates, but because his writing is just so there and I get it – it’s just really fun to do.
While The Goldbergs itself remained largely free of controversy throughout its decade-long (and ongoing) runtime, Jeff Garlin, who portrays Murray, recently left the series following some on-set disputes with fellow cast members. Despite his departure from the sitcom, The Goldbergs has managed to move forward into its tenth season after a brief stint of television purgatory and has even spawned the spinoff series, Schooled.
What Else has Patton Oswalt Narrated?
With a cozy, everyone’s-buddy voice, his huge range, and a close to perpetually-present comedic thread running through all his characterizations, is it any wonder Patton Oswalt has been cast in a multitude of voiceover narrations? From his first starring film role as Remy in Ratatouille to the newly released Adventures of Wonderpark and The Ghost and Molly McGee to the upcoming M.E.A.D. and The Sandman to the voice of M.O.D.O.K., vocal appearances in Family Guy, Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, and BoJack Horseman, Patton Oswalt is a gifted and prolific voice actor. In the ad world, he’s narrated spots for Marshalls and McDonald’s, and voiced several video game characters.
Kim Handysides is an award-winning voice artist, and coach. Among her 20K+ narrations you have heard her on Discovery, Netflix, and the major networks, in iMax, the White House and the Smithsonian.