Male friendships can be a strange thing. That’s the primary focus of “Bill/Murray,” a title which references the in-show pairing of Murray and Bill Lewis, Lainey’s Dallas Cowboys-loving father. Certainly, Murray is the last person in the show who would actively seek out a friendship, making his unexpected bromance with Bill a fun bit of character-based comedy. Again, it helps that returning guest star David Koechner has such great chemistry with Jeff Garlin.
The main plotline commences when the two are brought together by Principal Ball after Barry and Lainey are caught making out in the supply closet. From here, the duo starts recognizing that, aside from opposing football loyalties, they have a ton in common (most notably, their love of Bill Murray movies). To the delight of their children, the men begin hanging out together, which basically consists—via a humorous montage—of sitting together on a couch watching TV and occasionally napping. This friendship takes a sudden dive, however, when Bill has an emotional outburst on the anniversary of his wife abandoning him. Murray, being the closed-off, non-sentimental being that he is, gets predictably freaked out and tries to cut things off. It’s only after a pep talk from his other friend, father-in-law Albert, that he realizes he is capable of close friendship.
With Garlin and Koechner bantering off each other, the extremely heightened material comes with the episode’s other plotline, which finds Erica attempting to make her own music video with Adam and Beverly’s assistance. Granted, it’s not exactly her idea. Rather, it’s Beverly’s attempt to get her daughter into Juilliard, which is both a prestigious institution and (more important) within driving distance. And though Erica tries to convince her mother that getting into Juilliard is all but impossible, Beverly is never one to let logic dictate her actions.
As the video’s director, Adam decides to throw in everything but the kitchen sink—blue screen effects, wind machines, fog machines, animation and a chorus of dead-eyed, “Addicted to Love”-esque background singers. It’s about as epic a disaster as it sounds. All in all, this plotline appears to exist for the sole purpose of cobbling together Adam’s ill-conceived version of a music video. Luckily, it’s definitely a gag worth building a plotline around. Not only are the blue screen effects terrible, with Beverly holding a Garfield plushie to replicate Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” video, but Adam’s attempt at making his own “Take On Me”-style animation results in a series of sloppily drawn stick figures that would make a toddler shake his head.
Luckily, Beverly eventually comes to realize that Erica is talented enough without all the bells and whistles and lets her daughter simply record her song for the Juilliard admissions board. It is a slightly forced emotional conclusion to the episode, especially since this season already featured a plotline where Murray grew to accept his daughter’s talent and ambition to be a singer. Yet, this coda is never too sappy that it distracts from all the good stuff that came before it.
“Bill/Murray” finds the show back again on very strong footing. It benefits from exploring new relationships via guest stars (the Murray-Bill subplot) and exploiting a ubiquitous cultural element of the decade (the extravagant, often cheesy, music videos). Sprinkle in a bit of the show’s traditional warm and poignant sentiments and you have a really solid Goldbergs episode, which makes me even more sad that the show will soon be off the air for an entire summer.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.