Aaron Kaczander writer for The Goldbergs

Kaczander uses his dad’s experiences for Feb. 20 episode.

By Suzanne Chessler

Featured photo courtesy of Aaron Kaczander/ABC.

Some Michigan men with grown children could very well be reminded of the kind of friendship group they shared in their younger years as they watch an upcoming episode of “The Goldbergs.”

Bruce Kaczander will definitely be one of them.

His grown son, Aaron Kaczander, a writer and co-producer for the ABC sitcom, has taken elements from his dad’s stories of fun experiences with lasting buddies and added them to the mix as writers were working on a related fictional episode.

Tentatively titled “The Highlander Club,” the episode airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.

“My dad’s group of guys called themselves The Jokers,” explains Aaron Kaczander, who has worked on the series since its pilot episode and has been employed by its creator, Adam Goldberg, for nine years. “I heard about The Jokers here and there. Adam’s dad had a similar group that he heard about.

“The idea behind the episode is that one son, Barry, has this really close-knit group of friends who have been characters on the show for five years, and they’re really funny together.

“Barry is going to be graduating, and the prospect makes him wonder if he’s going to lose his best friends because they’re all going to different colleges. Barry discovers that his dad had an old group of friends, much like my dad did, and he thinks if he gets them back together for great times, then there’s much more of a chance they’ll stay together.”

The series, set in Pennsylvania, is narrated by a grown son remembering his family during the 1980s. The family is recalled through videotapes the son made as a youngster.

“I’m a very nostalgic person,” says Kaczander, 35, who grew up in West Bloomfield, graduated from Groves High School, attended Temple Beth El and spent summers at Camp Tanuga in Kalkaska. “I was born in the 1980s, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider it my decade.

“I love the idea of one person talking about his childhood and watching himself grow up through videotapes. I just love that we can have fun and do lots of jokes in episodes that also end with a lot of heart. I think that’s really important. I love coming to work and joking around.”

Achieving this work goal followed a longtime interest in television and comedy. At the University of Michigan, Kaczander had a double major in English and film and a minor in screenwriting.

After accepting temporary jobs for film festivals in Utah and New York, Kaczander decided to seek opportunities in California.

Finding Opportunities

“When I moved to Los Angeles in 2007, it was the beginning of the writers’ strike to make sure they could be properly compensated for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that are so huge today,” Kaczander recalls.

“It was pretty ironic because I moved right down the street from where all these writers were picketing. I used that as an opportunity to meet them.

“I picked up a picket sign and started talking. Through that, I got my first internship for Scott Free Productions started by Ridley Scott. I met a few more people, and a friend pointed me toward a job at a literary agency, where I got a real crash course in how agents work and how the business side of TV works — all the time knowing I still wanted to be a writer.”

While taking improv and sketch classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe, Kaczander moved on to become a production assistant for Sean Smith, who created a show called Greek for the ABC Family Network. Next came working his way up for Adam Goldberg.

“We don’t go out of our way for specifically Jewish storylines on “The Goldbergs,” but viewers might find a Jewish tone in the show,” Kaczander says. “The grandfather character, played by George Segal, uses Yiddish words.”

Kaczander also brought his own experiences into a Chanukah episode with a suggested scene related to his Michigan years. It has to do with a game of pennies, Chanukah gelt, played at holiday gatherings attended by Kaczander family friends.

“The episode was about Beverly Goldberg desperately trying to keep her son celebrating Chanukah even though he is going to marry someone who is not Jewish,” Kaczander explains. “She does everything she can to make him continue to celebrate the holiday, and he assures her he will do that while starting his own traditions.”

Besides impacting Kaczander’s professional life, “The Goldbergs” has had a strong impact on his personal life.

“I have Adam Goldberg to thank not only for this part of my career, but also for meeting my wife, too,” says the writer/co-producer who visits family and friends in Michigan about three times a year and has built a collection of Piston T-shirts.

“I met Maggie Lyons while working on the pilot for the series, and we were married last October.”

The Goldbergs airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.