For the most part, episodes of Modern Family have paid equal attention to whichever storylines it’s juggling that week, but Phil was definitely carrying last night’s episode on his shoulders, and not only by virtue of being front and center through almost the entire thing.The writers really took him through the gamut of emotions, from giddiness at finally getting his hands on an iPad (I suppose that if product placement is something that’s foisted upon popular shows like Modern Family, this is the way to handle it) to his slow spiral into self pity after realizing that his birthday just wasn’t going to come off the way he had planned.
And throughout it all, the show was able to keep things balanced. Scenes like the one with him eating cake at Little Phil’s birthday party provided good counterpoints to others — blowing off steam at the batting cages — and kept things from going over the top. Modern Family feels despite existing in a sort of goofier-than-we-know-it-should-be universe, but that begins to slip when it brings out too much slapstick.
One thing the show has done that I’ve really appreciated — as I’m sure countless other married men also appreciate — is show that it’s not always the wacky husband who makes stupid mistakes for half an hour before having to go and smooth things out with his ever-forgiving wife. Sometimes the ladies screw up too. After realizing what a dud present her light-up barbecue tongs were, Claire was more than happy to get up early and wait in line to pick up Phil’s iPad. But when five in the morning proved to be just too much for her, she slept in and spent most of the day scrambling to find a store that still had some left in stock. Oh, marriage. I guess men really are from Mars, and women really from Venus. But luckily Luke was there to tell Phil’s geek friends that he was dying and have one of them send an extra iPad over in time for the party.
Cam finding some excitement from another couple’s marriage travails he could listen into through his daughter’s baby monitor offered up some laughs, especially that beat in the end when he hears them wondering out loud if he was really an angel for helping them or some sick, psycho pervert for listening into their conversations. But I think it was Manny having to hold back his chess skills so as not to embarrass Jay that really brought the funny. It only makes sense that Manny would be a master at the game, and that only made beats like Jay egging him on by printing off a kids’ guide to chess that Manny could color with his crayons even funnier. And watching Manny beat the Jay in only a couple of moves? Mmm. Satisfyin’.
Another solid episode. And with only a handful of them left, the show looks on track to finish a very strong first season. I would still like to see the Dunphy kids used more, as the actors and characters are all strong enough to do more heavy lifting, so the show still has plenty of room to grow.
Stuff I liked:
- “Was Cam the Indian?”
- “It’s like God and Steve Jobs got together to say, ‘We love you, Phil.'”
- Manny telling Gloria that he didn’t think his teachers were trying to trick him.