Why The Goldbergs Couldn't Make A Michael Jackson Thriller Episode

The Goldbergs is a period comedy set in the 1980s, which means ABC’s show gets the unique opportunity to reference 80s pop culture and fashion in a way that most shows never get to (Rest in peace That '80s Show). Recently, The Goldbergs creator Adam F. Goldberg revealed that the series had an idea for an episode that would have blown pretty much every other plotline the comedy has attempted out of the water. They wanted to do a version of Michael Jackson’s famous “Thriller” music video on the series, but the creative team’s planned was foiled when they realized they would have to pay out a boatload for the creative rights to the choreography in the video. Yes, seriously.

According to Goldberg, if the team had been able to come up with the money to include the “Thriller” dance moves in an episode of The Goldbergs, it would have cost them $100,000 just to secure the rights to the dance moves, and that’s before securing the rights to the song. The TV producer told THR that he really wanted to do a Halloween episode of the series based around “Thriller” but it just couldn’t happen due to all the legalities.

We broke out a whole "Thriller" episode — which would be amazing — but it's so heartbreaking. Then you get into the nuts and bolts and you can't do it unless the Michael Jackson Estate says yes, which I don't think is possible, and unless the choreographer says we can use the moves for free, which I think is impossible. Hopefully if this is printed, they can read it and come back to us!

While it sucks that a “Thriller”-based Halloween special is probably not in the cards, the show has nodded at plenty of other pop culture icons in the past. The best recent example of this is probably the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off episode, which featured Barry and Adam’s love for the John Hughes classic morphing into the two young men taking their own day off of school in order to get into shenanigans. That episode even saw Charlie Sheen returning to TV to reprise his role from the original movie. It was an epic and valiant attempt for the half-hour comedy, and I can only guess the “Thriller” episode would have been equally likable.

Even though a Michael Jackson tribute might not be in the cards, The Goldbergs also has a Princess Bride-based episode and a tribute to Dance Party USA in the works. Tune in for new episodes on Wednesday at 8:30, only on ABC.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.