The Goldbergs take on their criticism head-on in the somewhat meta “The Kremps.” The episode seems squarely aimed at reviewers like myself who complained about the “shout-friendly” nature of the central characters. Well, the joke really is on me—with one or two quibbles, “The Kremps” stands as one of the strongest episodes of the season so far.
The plotline begins with Adam finding a companion in the form of Chad Kremp, whose family lives across the street from the Goldbergs. Bonding over their extreme love of Tron (Chad has seen it 16 times, adding, “my mom’s actually kind of worried”), this looks to be the start of a beautiful friendship. The one downside—Chad’s family is the polar opposite of the Goldbergs in every way—quiet, conservative and highly cordial to one another. What’s more, mother Virginia does not care for Beverly and her oversized personality.
Unable to cope with the fact that there’s someone who does not like her, Beverly goes on a mission to win Virginia’s approval. This culminates in a disastrous BBQ where Beverly not only makes things worse but also frightens Virginia to the point where she forbids Chad from hanging out with Adam.
One of the main problems I had with The Goldbergs initially was that the characters seemed to occupy their own small world where every emotion and thought had to be broadcast via a forceful bray. Though I still wish the family had some semblance of a normal character to relate to—the closest we have is Erica—I gradually learned to appreciate the way Adam Goldberg and his team so effortlessly shift between angry mugging and heartfelt character moments. With the introduction of the Kremps, we finally have the family placed in a sort of context. We know the Goldbergs are a dysfunctional family, but now they have characters to react to their dysfunction. Furthermore, what’s great about the Kremps is that they’re a straight-laced family who, nevertheless, do not fall into the “overly prudish” territory. Considering the tone of the show, it would be tempting to make the Kremps the polar opposite of the Goldbergs, but the writers luckily resist that urge.
Most of the episode centers on the dynamic between Beverly and Virginia. As the button-downed mother, actress Jennifer Irwin acts as a nice, subtle counterpoint to McLendon-Covey’s broader tendencies. Moreover, the way the writers ultimately land on reconciling the two’s differences—Beverly helps Virginia be more forceful and assertive with a grocery store employee who is treating her poorly—feels like the kind of conclusion that seems organic without being overly predictable.
This emphasis on the women, however, also creates one of the episode’s bigger downsides. As Kremps patriarch Charles, the show casts actor Tom Cavanagh, best known for his lead performance as the titular character in NBC’s Ed, as well as a recurring role as Zach Braff’s rambunctious older brother in Scrubs. As an actor, Cavanagh effortlessly blends an expert sense of comedic timing with a radiating sense of likability. The idea of him sharing the screen with Garlin’s grumpy Murray provides an endless stream of possibilities. Perhaps in the interest of time, however, the two only share a brief scene or two. Being that the families are neighbors, here’s hoping this won’t be the last we see of Cavanagh for the foreseeable future.
“The Kremps” marks a nice detour from the typical Goldbergs episode where the family tends to act as a more insular community. Hopefully, should the show stick around, they can make great use of the Kremps as recurring characters. If nothing else, I’d pay to see any semblance of a face-off between Cavanagh and Garlin. Seriously show, make that happen….