S02E17: Ever woken up from a hard night of partying and look over to find the smoking babe that some how was also into James Joyce is actually the creepy mouth breathing girl that sits behind you in English and always smells like vinegar? Last night you could have sworn you found the one that was different, but in the harsh, hung over light of the morning you see what you really home with and it is not pretty. I’m starting to worry that this is beginning to happen with Modern Family. Perhaps not this hyperbolic, but still the sentiment is there.
"If you don’t use them, all of our money goes to charity." - Phil
The biggest compliment Modern Family received during its stellar first season was that it took the conventional norms of the family sitcom and twisted them. This isn’t bad, but this week’s episode showed the problem with trying to rehash the old. Phil has a spa certificate that is about to expire so he takes a day to pamper himself. Meanwhile Claire is stressed out (shocker) and when Phil tries to help she lashes out. The ladies of the spa overhear and offer advice. He heeds their advice and saves the day with Claire when he gets home. This is an old sitcom trope just gender swapped. And that’s the problem. It’s the exact same boring story! Making it a guy doesn’t make the story any more interesting in the end and if the writers are stretching this hard in the later half of the second season, Modern Family’s charm might be wearing off.
While the writing wasn’t there, this story was saved by Ty Burrell’s acting. That man can do so much with so little, its glorious to watch. He has the perfect amount of self awareness and obliviousness that he’s able to say that Claire doesn’t think he’s smart and call his new friends “girlfriends” sincerely in a hilarious manner both times. This show has one of the strongest casts on television these days and the writing is capable of being great. I’d just like to see the writing prop up the actors, not the other way around.
"We need to talk about this ta-da." - Gloria
Perhaps my biggest complaint about this story was the ending. It felt off to me and open-ended, like the ending was cut off. Every other story this week had a nice resolution with the couples making up, but Phil storms off from Claire and that’s how we’re left. I know it was supposed to be funny that Phil gets upset that Claire didn’t notice what he did, but that’s no way to end a story! It’s flat and unresolved, that’s not how sitcom plot lines are supposed to end. Granted, this could be them playing with sitcom norms and twisting them, but if that’s the case this is a horrible experiment and needs to end.
"Adopting! *clap clap*" - Cam
Then there was Mitch and Cam. Now these two have gotten into some questionable situations before and while their hearts have always been in the right place we’ve never thought of them in a negative light. Until this week. Holy shit did Mitchell ever pull a DICK move. Not including Cam’s last name on Lily’s adoption papers? That is just WRONG. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why Mitch did it and it is completely in line with his character, but Oprah-be-praised that showed a severe trust issue. And what bothered me further was Mitch gets off simply by writing a children’s book. Come on writers, the punishment has to fit the crime! But then Lily claps when she hears the word adopted and oh my god that was so cute what were we talking about again?
Strangely enough, Jay and Gloria had the strongest story this week. It was boring as hell, but it twisted enough and resolved more nicely than anything else this week so it gets the prize. Jay buys a spot in a huge mausoleum; Gloria doesn’t like it; the two people they’re buying the spots from don’t like Jay being married to someone so young; Jay gets all bothered by the age difference again and after talking to Manny he rectifies things with Gloria. Again, boring, but it had Manny pretending to be a bartender and making jokes about a girl not getting a Wiggles joke so it gets the prize for the week.
‘Relax, half the eleventh grade has been in this sweater.’ - Alex
Also this week we have a small story about Alex borrowing Haley’s sweater and then accidentally tearing it. Claire tries to help, but she ends up having ink sprayed on it after the store forgot to take the tag off it. I’m all for sibling bonding and all that lovely dovey new age jazz shit, but holy hell Alex and Haley trading barbs is the best thing ever. They’re both really smart characters so the writers give them fantastic lines and it's delicious. They need to get into more fights and have Luke run color commentary. If they made an entire episode based on that it would be the greatest thing ever. It’d be like Luke running into a wall for 22 minutes. I just got goosebumps thinking about it.
Now, for all my complaining I have to admit that I’m not complaining that much. Modern Family is still a funny sitcom. It delivers enough laughs on a consistent basis that I am no where near giving it up. But last year I saw a show that had potential to be something bigger than a normal family sitcom and this year it seems content with being the norm. I’ll stick with it because the mocumentary style is a thousand times better than a laugh track and multi-cam set up, but I’d like to see it try a little harder. I’m not giving up on you Modern Family, don’t give up on me either. (See? That’s how you end on a sentimental note! Booosh!)