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Modern Family can't muster any laughs throughout a one-note episode

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After a final season premiere that, for the most part, hit all the notes it needed to, and did so in a way that was largely entertaining, this week’s episode settles into that reliable Modern Family groove. And by that I mean it’s the show we’ve come to expect, the one that’s seemingly out of ideas and can’t muster more than one or two mild laughs across an entire episode. “Snapped” is the antithesis of funny. It’s a forgettable, painful half hour of one-note gags that never seem to end.

I wish that could be the entire review, but I guess it’s time to dive a little deeper. As I noted above, the main issue with this episode is that each of the plots comes down to one single joke, and then “Snapped” spends its entire runtime beating that one joke into the ground. There’s no variation, no sense that the episode has any interest in not just hitting the same point over and over again. It’s truly astonishing. It’s like the writers came up with the premise of each plot, and then decided the rest of the episode would be reminding everyone of that premise during every second of screen time. Where are the jokes?

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Let’s begin with Claire. She’s all set to be interviewed by Corner Office Magazine, which is a huge deal for her. She needs this to go well because...well, she never really says. I guess it could be important for the business, but more than anything it feels like vanity for Claire. She loves the attention, and that means she needs to make sure she’s never, ever presenting the truth during the interview. So, she lies to her family to get them out of the house, and then transforms her life into something it’s not.

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So, not only are her children and grandchildren gone because they’re apparently embarrassing, she’s also adorned the house with new things to signify her status. A globe, a chess board, paintings, and a fan to give her cover photo that blown-hair look. She does everything she can to come across a certain way, and when her kids finally clue in, including a returning Alex, she reminds them that they were often embarrassed of her when they were younger and that she deserves this one day. Why is this the lesson? Why is Claire, yet again, so cruel, and so easily put into the box of “crazy woman”? Claire raised a family, then stepped into a CEO position, and is handling all that while also helping out with twins, and she needs to somehow not acknowledge all of that? She has to pretend to have another life because that one isn’t impressive enough? The motivations here make no sense, and the repetitive nature of the gag—continually turning her kids away when they come to the house—is exhausting.

That’s the worst part of the episode by far, but the rest of “Snapped” isn’t much better. The least annoying of the stories involves Phil being too hard on Gloria in his real estate class, and that’s mostly because Ty Burrell is too charming to let the bad writing bog everything down. Still, this is pretty bad stuff, as Phil starts to believe that he’s pushed Gloria too far, to the point of her hitting another star student with her car. There always seems to be two types of Gloria stories: there’s the ones that actively trade in racist stereotypes about her Colombian upbringing, or the ones that passively trade in racist stereotypes about her Colombian upbringing. Gloria winning the internship with Phil is interesting because it could actually give Gloria something to do—remember when she sold sauce for a hot minute?—but that would mean Modern Family would have to dedicate time to fleshing out that story.

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Then, there’s Cam and Mitchell. Cam buys them a new smart fridge, and it comes with an Alexa-like assistant named “Bridget” (“Fridget” was right there, guys). The two end up forming a strange bond with her, a bond that’s ominous because they recently learned that Pepper and his husband have welcomed a woman into their relationship, only for it all to result in disaster. They compete for “her” attention; Mitchell sings “Shallow” with the fridge, and Cam drinks martinis and makes pasta. It’s all excessively fine. Some of the physical comedy is good, with Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson committing to the ridiculousness, but it’s still the same one-note storytelling that dominates the episode.

Simply put, this is a dud.


Stray observations

  • Alex, you really should have stayed in Antarctica. There’s nothing here for you.
  • “I just wanted everything to be perfect.” Yes, Claire, we know.
  • “Everyone has a breaking point. But she’s probably okay; she’s not Lily.”
  • Apologies for the generic photos, but the ABC press site has also given up on Modern Family.
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About the author

Kyle Fowle

Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.