For an episode that seemed somewhat limited in its scope, tonight’s Modern Family really hit some high notes. While there were great performances all around, I think this was due mostly to Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell as the role-playing Julianna and Clive Bixby.
The three couples, Phil and Claire, Jay and Gloria and Mitchell and Cameron, are dynamically very different from each other. When you boil their relationships down, Phil and Claire play off the traditional married relationship. Jay and Gloria play off the age/ethnic difference between them and Mitchell and Cameron play off their homosexuality and to a lesser extent the fact that they’re new parents. Of course, these characters don’t revolve around these things by any means, but these are some of the basics. A Valentine’s episode seems like the perfect way to showcase some of those differences and for the most part the episode did a good job of it.
Phil Dunphy is an awkward person on a good day, but the fact that he and Claire have been repeating the exact same Valentine’s date for the past 17 years means that trying anything new is going to seriously throw him outside his comfort zone. Of course, he’s too confident in his own abilities as a lover to admit it or even realize it himself. The scenes of them inside the hotel bar were the funniest of the entire episode, and because you knew something would go wrong it was nice to see that it was Claire getting stuck and having to be helped rather than Phil finding some way to screw things up. And while it may have seemed ridiculous that they ran into so many people they knew after Claire got stuck on the escalator, Claire’s, “Are you kidding me?” was one of the funnier beats of the episode.
The Jay/Gloria storyline brought some laughs but mostly retread ground we’ve seen since the beginning of the series. Jay is old and an American. Gloria is young and isn’t. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still funny — especially when Gloria plays on stereotypes (“He doesn’t have a mallet? Then how does he get hit in the head?) — it just isn’t anything new. The beat at the end with Gloria helping out Claire was nice. I like it when the show brings back some of the pairings we don’t see very often, and this was one of them.
I was a little disappointed that Mitchell and Cameron weren’t given any sort of date time, especially given the sort of person Cameron is. You’d think he would have been hurt, or at the very least annoyed at the fact that Mitchell blew off Valentine’s Day just because he was concentrating on a court case. The fact that almost their entire purpose this episode was to facilitate the Manny storyline made it all a little too convenient. I don’t know, maybe the powers that be thought that having two homosexuals show too much affection for one another would make peoples’ heads explode. In spite of this, having Mitchell get some of his groove back by helping Manny out was more or less satisfying, and Cameron posing as a Great Shakes exec was a nice touch.
Overall, a pretty solid episode. While it may not have been groundbreaking, it’s still miles above most other sitcoms on the air today.
Stuff I liked:
- Dylan’s gift to Haley. Did anyone notice his jorts?
- Phil trying to come up with just the right role-playing backstory. “Honorable businessman from Hong Kong.”
- Gloria telling Jay that yes, she could get fat if she wanted to.