A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Gertrude Berg didn't invent the sitcom -- that happened on radio, where she starred since 1929 -- but she invented its television look. That usually means the living room of the series star, where the supporting characters pop in and out as if through revolving doors. From her TV series "The Goldbergs" in 1949, there is a direct line of descent through "I Love Lucy," "The Honeymooners," "All in the Family" and "Seinfeld," down to the present.
The documentary "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" salutes Berg and her far-reaching influence. Berg not only created the form, but starred, produced, wrote all of her own scripts and, for that matter, did the cooking and served the table in the Goldberg household. Her husband, Louis, did his bit by making a fortune in the instant-coffee field. "The Goldbergs" always drew top ratings but was forced off the air for 1½ seasons after McCarthyite witch hunters accused her TV husband, Philip Loeb, of being a communist.
There was no evidence Loeb was a communist, and Berg stood by him. But sponsors wouldn't come near the series; she eventually had to return to the air without him. (The 1976 film "The Front" with Woody Allen is based on Loeb.) The show was successful again, until the sponsors and network execs advised moving the Goldbergs from the Bronx to the suburbs, a transition that never worked.
The program, which ran on TV until 1956, was treasured by a large audience, but especially embraced by Jewish Americans; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and NPR reporter Susan Stamberg recall its role in their younger lives.