Although it was pushed back about 20 minutes to make room for President Obama’s national address regarding the Tuscon shootings, Modern Family still aired a new episode last night (unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Cougar Town), and I have a review of it after the jump.
Last week, the Dunphys’ story line was based entirely in a classic sitcom misunderstanding that could have been easily remedied had Phil just told Claire or his client what was actually going on. The miscommunication lasted the whole episode, and wasn’t all that funny by the time it reached its conclusion (which didn’t even happen on screen).
This week, the other two families get wrapped up in sitcom-y misunderstandings, while Claire and Phil start to worry they aren’t smart because of an offhand comment Alex makes while cramming for a test. It was good to see the two parents on the same team, since it is often fun-loving, goofy Phil against serious, make-sure-everything’s-right Claire, but the story didn’t quite click for me. It made complete sense that Phil would be eager to see Croctopus 3-D, but that Claire was just as crazy about hybrid animal schlock struck me as out of character. Claire is always very focused on appearances, so it makes sense that she would decide to see the acclaimed French movie instead, especially when the Patels show up at the same theater. However, I would expect her to always choose that kind of movie, even if she hates it, because it boosts her image. The banter and camaraderie between her and Phil was a nice showcase of Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell’s chemistry, though, and reminiscent of last year’s great Valentine’s Day episode.
I thought Cameron and Mitchell had the strongest of the three plots last week, but this week their story was on the bottom of the pile for me. We got some revelations about Mitchell’s past, both before and while he was out (“I wanted to see if I could… Turns out, I could”), and some affection between him and Cam, but the fact that the “boy” wasn’t Mitchell’s illegitimate could be seen from a mile away, which stripped it of any real stakes or tension. True, it provided for nice scenes when Mitchell first told Cam about the possibility he had a son, and then when Cam told Mitchell it wouldn’t change anything between them, but ultimately, as a plot device, it didn’t work. I’m all for character and environment over plot (really, that’s what most of Mad Men is), but when that character action is wrapped up in a silly, obvious misunderstanding, it loses much of its impact. Mary Lynn Rajskub was also pretty wasted in her role as Mitchell’s ex-flame, but her awkward banter and goodbye to Cam and Mitchell at the mall had me flashing back to Chloe in 24.
Jay and Gloria were also in the middle of a sitcom-y misunderstanding, but I was okay with it in this instance because it was grounded in good characterization and, frankly, was very funny. Jay acted bluntly, as we’d expect him to, when he told the Hoffmans how boring they were at dinner, and Gloria was understandably upset. She found a way to cover up for his behavior, though, by telling the Hoffmans that Jay’s mind was starting to go. Outsiders thinking an old man has dementia isn’t all that original, but Ed O’Neill was great at playing oblivious, and the dribble glass joke paid off perfectly. I hope the writers don’t keep using this plot device, but if they do, they should at least make it as funny as they did this time.
Once again, I’m disappointed there wasn’t any crossover between the families (except for the coda between Mitchell and Jay, where Mitchell nicely reused Cam’s fake musical girlfriends), but I was at least glad to see some conflict within each family. Cameron and Mitchell and Jay and Gloria both had some real issues to deal with, and although they were resolved rather quickly and without much consequence, it was still good to see their respective relationships go a bit deeper. And while this episode wasn’t filled with laughs, it had some good ones, especially whenever Manny was on screen.
Bits & Pieces
- “She’s gotta eat. I did it out of love.” Luke only had one scene, but he stole it, as usual.
- Haley was in last week’s episode, but Alex was absent, and the two characters switched last night. Alex didn’t get a whole lot to do (her plot ended up being more about the parents), but her jumping on the trampoline cross-armed was a good sight gag.
- “I love to listen. It’s my hobby.”
- Manny’s attempts at being popular: a walking stick, business cards, and now a dribble glass.