Starring: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Susan Stamberg, Viola Harris
Directed by: Aviva Kempner (“The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”)
Even before Barbara Billingsly, Donna Reed and Lucille Ball found their way onto black and white TV sets in the 1950s, it was a lesser known entertainer who would pave the way for actresses in a male-dominated industry and help give birth to what is known today as the character-driven sitcom.
Her name was Gertrude Berg and for three decades she was recognized as the First Lady of Radio with her daytime serial drama “Rise of the Goldbergs.” In 1949, Berg, who was the creator, producer, writer, and star of the show, would bring “The Goldbergs” to the small screen where it preceded such sitcoms as “I Love Lucy,” “Leave it to Beaver,” and “The Donna Reed Show.” It aired for seven years on both CBS and NBC.
In the documentary film “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg,” (named after an early-morning salutation given on the show), filmmaker Aviva Kempner (“The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”) captures how “The Goldbergs” transcended race, religion, and economic status to become one of the most beloved shows of the era.
Taking on the lead role of Molly Goldberg, a kindhearted and assertive Jewish matriarch living with her family in the Bronx, Berg became a woman of firsts: the first woman to sign a million dollar contract with a show advertiser; the first woman to win an Emmy. She also strayed from making any of her characters stereotypical.
Through archive footage of past shows, interviews with Berg, and fresh interviews with individuals who grew up with “The Goldbergs,” Kempner doesn’t necessarily have any groundbreaking points to make about Berg’s contribution to the entertainment industry, but there are enough charming (and heartbreaking) anecdotes to make you wonder what other noteworthy programming is out there in television history that we may have missed.