Category Archives: recaps/Modern Family

Modern Family, “Strangers on a Treadmill”: Your balls are showing.

There was a lot going on in last night’s ‘Modern Family,’ and the show really handled it admirably. The Mitchell/Cam and Claire/Phil storylines were both competing for first place, and looking back it’s a little hard deciding which one came out on top of the other.

If you were looking for laughs, as I imagine most of you were, then Claire and Phil were definitely the night’s winners. Phil’s been asked to host the Southern California Annual Realtors Banquet, and sees the entire thing as an opportunity to impress the crowd with his special brand of standup. Claire, who realizes what a disaster this could turn into, steals Phil’s note cards he’s written his material on, and leaves him to improv his way through the evening. It’s always nice to see Phil win one, but I wonder how realistic this turned out to be. It’s a little unbelievable that when he’s not trying, he turns out to be quick on his feet and actually pretty funny. Or maybe it’s too believable (?). Another question: How did he know that it was Claire who took his cards? Well, it all worked out in the end, which is more than I can say for my disastrous standup routine I  debuted at a local 9/11 memorial rally last month. How long did it take for AIDS to be funny again, because I obviously jumped the gun on this one.

If you bypass the laughs and go straight to the sweet stuff, Cameron and Mitchell came out on top. And in a lot of ways, their character beats were sweeter last night than they were in “The Kiss” a few weeks back. I was glad to see they balanced the emotion with some laughs, though. Cameron running into the bedroom and crying (because that’s what gay men do), and tipping over the bowl of fruit when Mitchell gives him a look for eating an apple. I especially like the way the whole episode got started, with Mitchell and Claire complaining about their significant others whilst jogging troga-ing. I really like the chemistry between Julie Bowen and Jesse Tyler Ferguson and the show’s done a great job of portraying their relationship.

I thought Jay and Gloria at the quinceanera was entertaining enough, if not terribly interesting. I thought the night’s funniest joke was Jay asking Manny, “Where do you keep popping out of?” I think the show could stand to be a little edgier with how it approaches race. Gloria’s had a ton of great lines about life in Colombia, but it’s beginning to feel a little repetitive. And a lot of stuff at the party really felt like the show was just trying to play it safe. I think they could go a little further without being distasteful.

There are certain things the show does really well, and my biggest fear is that it’ll get complacent in light of its Emmy wins and all the good press it gets. I would hope to see the show grow a bit throughout the season.


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.

Modern Family, “The Kiss”: Who’s the better kisser, me or your dad?

I don’t know exactly how much of a groundswell of support there was for ‘Modern Family’ to portray Cameron and Mitch as an actual gay couple, rather than two guys with good fashion sense who happened to be raising a kid together, but I feel like “The Kiss” was a response to whatever criticism was out there. There was a bunch of stuff tonight that all tied back to kissing, everyone gets together for a big family dinner, the focus is on Cam and Mitch, and then, AND THEN…the camera pans away as the two share a small peck in bad lighting. Ugh. Or, equality!

I’m not saying that I want to catch the two of them dressed up in their gimp-garb (that phrase is considered intellectual property, so hands off) exchanging safe-words, but I’ve always thought that they seemed like a very genuine couple. It was the show’s hands-off policy with the two of them that always kept them from feeling like fully realized characters. They were almost there, but not quite. So I guess I have to give the show, and ultimately the network — because I’m positive that this a problem brought on by ABC and not the showrunners — SOME credit. But the quick pan away really felt like the show fumbled the ball, in the endgame.. .on the sidelines, if you’ll allow me to make a sports metaphor.

I guess we could go into the reasons for a decision like this, but it feels like we’d only be treading over the same old ground. There’s obviously a big reluctance out there in TV land to do anything that won’t appeal to every demographic, as evidenced by this year’s incredibly bland and sometimes cringe-worthy pilot season. But what can you do? Watch AMC and HBO, I guess. Have you caught ‘Rubicon’ yet? Pretty good!

The rest of the show had a lot of good beats, so I’m a little hesitant to dock the whole thing too many points. Like I said, I feel this is more of a problem with the network than anything else. So, what about the episode stood out? Phil’s jokes about why the tupperware containers would get separated from their lids. One thing I don’t think will ever get old is Gloria talking about Colombians living up to Colombian stereotypes, which is to say that if you ever cross one, they’ll kill you and use your body as some sort of coke mule. Funny stuff, right? There was also some good stuff in the Alex/Haley story, but not necessarily in the resolution with Alex’s crush and the (not so) surprise discovery that Claire was a real wild child. I’m thinking more of the back and forth between Alex and Haley, specifically Haley’s line about Alex and her lesbian sandals. It only recently occurred to me that, because ‘Modern Family’ will probably stick around for a while, we’re going to be there to watch these kids grow up, at least a little bit, just like we saw with Walt on ‘Lost.’ I’m seeing that with Alex already. Maybe it’s just the age, but her character seems a lot more introverted this season, much more than she was in season one. What does it all mean?

My final post-mortem: It felt like the episode was split into two pieces, and because that second half was so clearly building up to the Cam/Mitch smooch, it came off as really anti-climactic. Some good beats in there, but not enough to overcome the overall “meh-ness” of the episode.

Modern Family, “The Old Wagon”: Old clunker.

Well, you’ve had quite the run of things, ‘Modern Family.’ Critically lauded, an impressive night at the Emmy’s, and looking around the internet, one of the only comedies no one really seems to be worried about this season. So, my question is: When’s the other shoe going to drop? How long will it be until the show runs out of the steam, the jokes becomes tedious and repetitive, and disappointed, we all turn to ‘Running Wilde’ on FOX?

After tonight’s premiere, I’m guessing that particular nightmare is still a ways off, as it looks like the show hasn’t skipped a beat during its hiatus. The titular (if you will) Old Wagon has been sitting in the Dunphy’s garage for years, and Claire’s finally come to the conclusion that they need to sell it. As a salesman, this sort of thing is Phil’s bread and butter, and it was really funny seeing how little faith Claire had that he could actually do it. While there are obviously many, many laughs to be had over how bumbling Phil can be, I think it’s just as funny to see him with his ire up.

So Claire realizes what an important part of her life the car represents and that getting rid of it is going to be a little harder than she thought, so Phil plans a picnic with family, in the old car, of course. Luke having to throw up and Haley getting scared by the spider didn’t really have me rolling on the floor, but I thought the set up and execution were pretty spot on, and showed us just how well these actors work in a  group. Phil jumping on the hood of the car was a lot funnier, for my money, anyway. As was the car sliding over the side of the mountain and Phil deciding that they were going to have to lower their asking price. Good stuff all, but Phil’s real funnybone moment came during his “what you don’t say is more important than what you do” speech at the end. Phil is kind of like Michael Scott in that he lack’s self-awareness, but is consistent with it. And also he’s funny.

With Cameron and Jay teaming up to keep Mitch away from anything with points tonight, I think the show may have found one of its highest yielding relationships (in laugh dollars, I mean). And I’m not sure if I can put my finger on exactly what it is that makes it work. Normally I’d say that it’s just funny putting the gay guy together with the guy who’s uncomfortable around gays, but I’m really trying to think of something smarter. But maybe that’s just it. Or maybe we’ll have to wait for the episode where Cameron dresses Jay up in drag and they both enter a dance competition. If I’m still laughing then, then I’ll know I was right. While he was being made fun of, Mitch had some nice beats, too. Tripping over the rock and the call-back to last season’s finale with the bird flying into the castle.

The Gloria and Manny storyline gave us all the laughs we’d expect from it, but there was something about it that felt a little stale to me. We’ve seen Manny worrying over girls before, and I think it’d be interesting to see him dealing a girlfriend, rather than trying to win one over. If you break it down, Manny may be a character without a tremendous amount of depth, but Rico Rodriguez plays him almost to perfection. I think there’s a tendency among the writers to believe that’s he going to be funny almost no matter what he does, so some of the same beats are being hit over and over again. It’s early days yet, so we’ll see if this really turns into a problem.

“The Old Wagon” didn’t get very crazy with the family combination’s. With the exception of Jay, everyone stayed in their respective corners. And maybe for a season premiere, you’d expect a little more interaction, but it still all felt right. Chalk it all up to a cast with genuine chemistry and a writing staff putting together a show that can live up to its hype. And without it, how would we get the taste of ‘The Middle’ out of our mouths? I’ve missed you, ‘Modern Family.’

Random thoughts:

  • When will Sofia Vergara’s breasts get their own guest credit? Seriously, there was a moment tonight when she was stirring her chocolate milk and my wife and I just burst out laughing.
  • Judging from tonight and last season’s “Starry Night,” I’m convinced the show’s writers have yet to completely plumb the comedy depths of the Dunphy’s garage.
  • Phil thinking that maybe, just maybe he could figure out a way to make a wormhole collapse in on itself was comedy gold, worth their weight in laugh dollars.
  • Did Rico Rodriguez put on a couple of pounds this summer? Pleasantly Plump Manny, I love it. Type 1 Diabetes Manny makes me sad.
  • “That was my Vietnam. And I was in Vietnam.”

Modern Family, “Family Portrait”: I wound up with this sorry bunch.

We had some highs and we had some lows, but overall Modern Family was probably the most solid comedy to along in a while, and the first that’ll give shows like 30 Rock and The Office any serious competition at the next round of award shows. But while there’s a lot to say about the show as a whole, I’ll try and keep my comments here limited to the season finale, which aired a few weeks ago, but, what’re you gonna do.

While there was a lot to like about “Family Portrait,” the episode didn’t really feel like a season finale. Claire wanting to take a picture of the entire family was a good way to bring everyone together, but felt a little watered down because the characters spent so much of the episode apart from each other. As I’ve mentioned before, it seemed like “Airport 2010” and “Hawaii” would have worked much better as an endcap to the season.

Even Jay’s short monologue about the family at the end of the episode didn’t feel in any way different from the several others we’ve heard throughout the season, especially when you consider that it isn’t a monologue like we’ve seen before — in which the characters speak to whoever it is filming them — but an interview he’s doing with Luke for a school project.

Comedy aside, at the heart of the show are the family’s relationships with each other, and it would have been much more fitting for that to serve as a centerpiece to the episode. Instead it was the centerpiece of about five minutes toward the end when Claire is finally able to ease up a bit and everyone has a good time throwing mud at each other.

So while it didn’t work for me as an end to an impressive first season, it offered up a lot more when taken as a regular episode. Phil asking Kobe Bryant if he liked being a basketball player was hilarious and was probably the best part of the entire basketball game. I thought the entire Kiss-Cam thing was a little played up in the promos, and didn’t really seem to go anywhere. Next we had Mitchell running from a pigeon that had somehow gotten inside the house. Him chasing after it with a tennis racket — all set to Cameron’s rendition of Ava Maria — may have been the funniest scene in the entire episode. I didn’t think the scenes between Claire and Hailey were comedy gold, but it was nice to see them get some one on one time, and it’s always nice to see Hailey not act like such an airhead.

The episode may falter a bit once you start picking at it, but it was still enjoyable in its own right. I’ll definitely be looking forward to this one returning in the fall. With The Office and 30 Rock both taking dips this season, Modern Family has been one of the only reliably funny shows this year

Stuff I liked:

  • Gloria’s inappropriate dress?! Surely not.
  • I don’t think “The Squirt Locker” works as a joke anywhere outside this episode.
  • “Actually, Where’s Waldo doesn’t stand out. He’s super hard to find.”

Modern Family, “Airport 2010” & “Hawaii”

Because these two are essentially the same episode, I decided to review them both together. It was a little surprising that Modern Family’s first two-parter, which took the family across the Pacific, wasn’t used as the season finale. While they may not have been the season’s funniest episodes (I thought “Hawaii” was right up there with the best), they were definitely among the most solid, and would have served as a great cap to the year.

The first half of the hour, “Airport 2010,” showed what it took just to get the family on its way, and it was sort of fitting that to take up its own episode. And while most of the family can roll with the punches and take everything as it comes, for Jay, the entire ordeal serves as a sign of things to come. While he expected to spend a nice, relaxing birthday with Gloria in Hawaii, she surprised him by inviting the entire family along. Between them and all the funtivities she’s got planned, it doesn’t look like he’s going to get the R&R he was looking forward to. For a while, at least, that ends up working in his favor.

While at the beach, Jay’s brother calls to wish him a happy 63rd birthday and reminds him that their dad was the same age when he died. Now Jay’s an overnight health guru, trying to whip himself back into shape, with Gloria wanting to relax and sit by the pool.

After a rocky start to the trip, Phil aims to use his time with Claire in Hawaii as a second Honeymoon. Claire isn’t really having it, saying that because she’s a fulltime mom, this isn’t really a vacation, it’s a business trip. I couldn’t help but feel this was partly a response to Phil leaving her at the airport when he drove Mitchell back home to get his wallet. But eventually, Phil is able to drag her away from her motherly duties, leaving the kids more or less to their own devices. Of course their alone time is short-lived. After Haley goes off with some kids she’s met and gets drunk, Claire’s again pulled away.

I understand that Phil and Claire are very easy-going parents. They kind of have to be, but I didn’t really buy the two of them going so easy on Haley after her little episode. Still, when Haley – who looked more coked-out than anything – asked her mom if this is what happened every time you got drunk, Claire telling her that yes, yes it was, more than made up for it.

During all of this, Cameron’s trying to tell that he may have overstated his love for adventure by implying that he had a love for adventure. I thought there was a lot of good stuff here, especially the two of them looking for Lilly, who got lost in the underbrush wearing her jungle-print outfit.

Of course, Manny considers himself a man of the world, so a trip to Hawaii is a perfect opportunity to get out there and spread his wings a little. He finds that he’s going to have a hard time picking up ladies with Luke as his wingman. I guess you could probably write a Perfect Strangers-type sitcom with the two of them as roommates. Luke is funny, but I feel Manny would still carry it, like he does so much of Modern Family.

Things I liked:

  • Dylan “breaking out” of the Dunphy’s.
  • “We can drink lavender tea and eat lavender scones.”
  • “I’m just a boy trying to bring style back to travel.”

Modern Family, “Travels with Scout”: I’ll send you a link.

Claire warming up to the dog Phil’s dad unexpectedly brings by has a sort of special resonance with me right now. Now that we’re in the new house, the next thing on my wife’s list is getting a dog. So we’ve spent afternoons visiting shelters and looking around online, and I’ve found that the one thing we can do for hours is find reasons not to get this or that dog. I think that eventually, we’ll have to find one we like and just go for it (update: she’s coming tomorrow). It seems like it worked just fine for Claire, and she didn’t even want a dog to begin with.

Casting Fred Willard as Phil’s dad was absolutely brilliant, but I was a little disappointed with how his character turned out. By making him emotionally distant from Phil, they basically reduced him to a cardboard cutout who’s sole purpose was to spit out one-liners. It works great in Christopher Guest movies, but not giving him a little more depth here felt like a missed opportunity. While he had me my wife peeing her pants in A Mighty Wind, his stint here left me wanting a lot more.

Dylan’s drummer having to quit the band because his parents got back together seemed like a perfect setup for Cameron, who really relishes the spotlight. It may have been a little out of character for him to expect to actually keep the position once the gig was over, but his extra long drum solo, and his tryout with the “mismatched” sticks in the beginning was spot on. Haley and Mitch watching their boyfriends up on stage was an especially nice beat, and reminds us that as far characters go, there’s still so much territory for the show to explore.

But still, the highlight of the night was Manny. While he’s usually the most mature one of the bunch, it’s always nice to see him act like a kid again. Telling Jay that it was probably a demon causing their doorbell to ring over and over again, and brandishing his fencing sword and telling his parents, “It’s going to be a long night,” were some of the funniest lines all night.

Stuff I liked:

  • Luke acting like a dog may have become a little predictable by the end of the episode, but it was still funny.
  • “I smoke sausages. I’ll send you a link.”
  • Claire delivering Luke’s papers.