'The Goldbergs' EP Alex Barnow on Season 7 & the Premiere's Epic 'Vacation' Homage

Scott Fishman
Preview (ABC/Rick Rowell)

Summer may be in the rear-view, but there is still one more road trip to take with The Goldbergs. Before Erica and Barry head to college, season seven sees the beloved ‘80s fam out for one last bonding experience as they journey to Disneyland in Anaheim.

The half hour of the ABC comedy pays tribute to the 1983 comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation, complete with that film's costars Christie Brinkley and Anthony Michael Hall. For Alex Barnow, an executive producer, writer and showrunner with Chris Bishop, it’s the perfect way to kick off an exciting season. Here Barnow sat down to talk about making the premiere and what’s to come for the Goldberg clan.

This show is going into Season 7, which in today’s television landscape is not an easy feat. What has been the feeling returning to set?

Alex Barnow: I think it’s excitement. The cast has always gotten along and been lovely. They were very enthusiastic that there was a season seven. As our TV family and the real family with the people who work on the show and people on set, we are all excited. It’s a lot of work. It’s so unusual to have 24 episodes in a season these days. It’s so great to have something people enjoy and continue to enjoy at the same level they have all along.

You and Chris took over as showrunners from Adam F. Goldberg heading into this season. Being a part of the show since the beginning, do you feel any added pressure and sense of responsibility in building what has been created?

The real added pressure is continuing the work that Adam Goldberg did and has established, the quality of the show. I think Chris and I have been the only two people who have been on the writing staff since the first episode of the first season. We know the show really well. I think that is part of it.

I was fairly confident we were able to execute the stories and keep it as funny as it is. It’s about Adam’s family. It’s about this real person and real people in his life and to do justice to that experience he went through. We want to maintain that for the fans. I think part of the magic of the show is really this level of honesty that comes from his life. For us to inherit that, I feel the pressure to make sure we can make sure we are still representing that idea.

Season 7 of The Goldbergs will include a mini-Cheers reunion in October with guest stars Rhea Perlman, Kirstie Alley, George Wendt and John Ratzenberger. (ABC)

The show has tackled so much about the '80s, between pop culture and elements that surround the decade. Does it now become more challenging to figure out what you haven’t done already?

It’s getting tough. We continue to have success leveraging the big ideas. We’re doing one of our most exciting episodes ever. We’re doing Vacation for our season premiere. The homage to that movie. We have Christie Brinkley in that with Anthony Michael Hall as guest stars. A lot of the cultural touchstones have been used up. Even a lot of the smaller things. We use a lot of music. There are about 145 songs. I don’t know how many movies we’ve done. We’re doing a bunch of movies this year, and we’re super excited about it. But it is getting harder, and we’re trying to find the more off the beaten path references that people will go, “Yeah, I remember that.”

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You mention the Vacation-inspired season premiere, an episode you wrote with Chris. What was it like to see this episode come alive considering all the moving parts from big guest stars to new locales and even horses?

I wrote the premiere. We do this once or twice a year where it’s this giant, epic homage to something we all love. I think anyone that knows the movie will feel we did a good job representing the film. Christie Brinkley in the Ferrari and the station wagon flying through the air and Anthony Michael Hall and we got to Disneyland. It’s just going to be a super fun episode everyone can get excited about this season…

It was much more like a movie production. We shot longer than we typically do. I think the luxury of doing this as our first episode is everyone came back refreshed and enthusiastic to start the season. They were willing to do these things. They were all around the state driving in the middle of nowhere. We went to a western town and literally jumped the station wagon, which I think people won’t believe we did. It looks so amazing. It’s a really special episode. One of the neat things of being on a network and being successful is we get to do these things that are epic. And we got to do it this year.

The Goldbergs star George Segal and guest star Christie Brinkley behind the scenes of the Vacation-inspired Season 7 premiere. (ABC/Eric McCandless)

The kids are getting older, and that adds another set of issues to touch upon. Then you have the parents growing alongside them, feeling they might be approaching that empty nest syndrome. How do you feel the characters are coming to terms with all this?

It’s true. Erick and Barry are both in college this year. It’s Barry’s first year, Erica’s second year. They are going to college together. That actually happened to Adam’s real siblings with them going to college together, which has all sorts of challenges. Adam is the last kid at home and reaching adulthood, at least in his eyes.

Beverly is very much experiencing empty nest syndrome and trying to figure out the rest of her life when her kids are gone. She wrote a cookbook, so we will revisit that. We’re going to examine her and Murray’s relationship a lot. In the early episodes, he is also going to be confronted, surprisingly, with the kids leaving the nest. We have a lot of characters from the past that people love who will be back.

Pops, George Segal is, of course, part of the whole thing. All the rhythms will be there, but the kids are moving on. [Geoff] Schwartz is back. He has an interesting storyline. He is going to be back and with Erica this season. People are evolving.

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Some of my favorite episodes are the ones surrounding a holiday. What else can you tell us about the season?

This year more than ever we have these huge guest stars. People who are excited about the show are coming aboard. Every week actually we’ll see them. We’re doing a bunch of really giant movie homages. We’re doing one for Halloween that I can’t say yet. We have a super fun Halloween episode.

We have a great reunion episode, which all the shows on ABC are doing a reunion episode. We I think crushed it. It’s an epic reunion. I think we scored a coup with our reunion. Then sort of our hope is through it all to maintain what people love about the show. The basic inter-relationship dynamics that make these characters so relatable and likable. I think people will be delightful with the new stuff, but still find it familiar and enjoy it.

The Goldbergs Season 7, Wednesdays beginning September 25, 8/7c, ABC