Over its six seasons, the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs has paid homage to plenty of 1980s popcorn classics with guest stars who reprise memorable Reagan era roles (Charlie Sheen for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Rick Moranis for Spaceballs, and Robert Englund for A Nightmare on Elm Street, to name a few) but this Wednesday night’s episode and its tribute to Highlander from 1986 is next-level stuff.
Take a look at the short-but-sweet exclusive preview clip (in the video above) from this week’s The Goldbergs and you’ll get a sense of the devotional tone of the episode, which introduces The Highlander as “incredibly bad-ass” thanks to its triple threat of “sword-fighting, Queen music and Sean Connery rocking a ponytail.” As you may have guessed, Highlander is an all-time favorite of Adam F. Goldberg, executive producer and the namesake creator of The Goldbergs, which channels his youth in suburban Philadelphia during the Benatar years.
For the uninitiated, Highlander is a fantasy action film about forever-young warriors who clash in a centuries-old secret war that is waged with gleaming swords, ancient treachery and a half-dozen Queen songs. The movie, released domestically by 20th Century Fox and in the UK by EMI Films, starred Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, and Roxanne Hart, and qualified as a failure on two continents when its original theatrical run failed to cover the $16 million production costs. The movie was destined for an extended life span, however, thanks to the Queen hits and the then-booming rental market for home video.
The stirring, heavy-metal tale of The Highlander won over plenty of dedicated fans (hence the franchise’s five sequel films and three television series) but very few are as impassioned as Goldberg, who says (without irony) that his ABC series has been leading up to The Highlander tribute since its 2013 series premiere.
“Ever since The Goldbergs began, one of my dreams was to write a homage to Highlander,” Goldberg said. “In high school, I was so obsessed with the movie that I started an actual Highlander club with my two best friends, Mike Levy and David Sirota. What began as a few geeks hitting each other with swords we made in wood-shop soon became a school-wide game with 20 people playing. It became so disruptive that the administration had to shut it down.”
Levy and Sirota, by the way, make an appearance at the conclusion of the Wednesday episode, as does a cast member from the original film. “My Highlander obsession never died and it’s why I ended up casting Clancy Brown from The Highlander as Mr. Crosby, the shop teacher, two years ago,” Goldberg explained, referring to the actor who played the hulking villain called The Kurgan in the 1986 action film. “I’ve been a longtime fan of his talent and The Goldbergs marks his first network comedy.“
It was probably a surreal experience for Brown considering the breadth of the homage effort. “We not only perfectly replicated the costumes and sword choreography, we got Queen’s approval to use their song from the soundtrack,” Goldberg said. “It’s one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever made.”
The episode is produced by Adam F. Goldberg Productions, Doug Robinson Productions, and Happy Madison in association with Sony Pictures Television. Goldberg and Doug Robinson are executive producers of the series, which stars Sean Giambrone, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Troy Gentile, Hayley Orrantia, Jeff Garlin and George Segal.