Modern Family, “Earthquake”: You’re not a joke. You’re Pepper Saltzman!

I’ve been thinking about ‘Modern Family’ a bit lately. It’s a show that always makes me laugh, but not in the same way as shows like ’30 Rock’ or ‘Louie.’ It’s a solid comedy, and definitely one of the best currently on TV. And by that I don’t mean to be damning with faint praise. It’s one of the best regardless of the fact that this season’s most promising new comedy is NBC’s (shudder) ‘Outsourced.’

The fact that ‘Modern Family’ centers around a family (I checked) means that it’s particular brand of comedy can only get so edgy. And that’s okay. It’s a broad spectrum and I think there should be shows to fill every level of it. But it also means that ‘Modern Family’ will never be hilarious in the way that ’30 Rock’ is (at the top of its game), or ‘Louie’ (when its not even trying). Of course, lighthearted family fare may be right up your alley, so keep in mind that your mileage may vary before you delete me from your Google Reader.

All that being said, last night’s episode got funnier after a second viewing, with most of the laughs being provided by Cameron and Mitchell’s flamboyant gay neighbor, Pepper Saltzman (a name made out of pure win). I was kind of surprised at how good his bit was, although that may be more in part to Nathan Lane’s ability to make gay people funny than the show’s ability to effectively use its guest stars.

I thought the Jay/Manny storyline struggled the most, and I’m a little worried that Ed O’Neill may become a crutch for the show. A lot of Manny/Jay/Gloria storylines are built around Jay’s hardheadedness and unwillingness to change himself for his wife. That’s okay because it’s true to the character, but it can be a little overdone at times, and doesn’t have the same comedic value as Manny acting 30 years older (his cigar on the golf course was great).

I liked the Phil storyline, although I didn’t feel like it broke out it any huge way. I thought the scenes between Haley and Claire were much more interesting, especially when Haley figured she could sneak out of the house to her friend’s party after Claire got trapped in the bathroom. Have you and your parents ever had that argument where that switch just flipped and you found yourselves screaming at each other…but in a really funny way? I was raised in a foster home.

A pretty good episode all around. And here’s to the speedy return of Pepper Saltzman.

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