I am of two minds on this Apple-fueled Modern Family fest. On one hand, it reads like nothing but a gimmick/giant infomercial for all Apple products. On the other, it’s one of the most entertaining episodes in recent memory, as it actually does what I’ve been missing over these past few weeks: throwing all of our players together. Here we even get them all on the same screen, and that chemistry is exactly what Modern Family has been lacking.
We all know from the get-go that there’s no way in hell that Haley is married to Andy, but I’m enough of a technophobe to be impressed by technology that can zoom right in on the wedding chapel sign. For a micromanager like Claire, we see how the Internet is basically a land mine full of things for her to worry about: her daughter not texting her back, fire in the dryer lint trap, missing her brother’s birthday. Her to-do list offers the hilarious slash listing “Meditate/buy wine.” Really, it’s the same thing.
The technological asides like that are pretty fun throughout the episode and, dare I say, even innovative for a mainstream big network sitcom? Claire buying Mitch a last-minute birthday present from RalphLauren.com, Mitchell texting Claire while she’s onscreen with Cam, Lily demanding more iPad time: These are all things that happen every day now that we are all addicted to screentime. When Steve Levitan announced this episode, he swore that it wasn’t product placement, but a setup inspired by the way we live now: “There’s no product placement or anything… This just came from life, and it made sense.” So when we see Claire go off to the “porn” section on her MacBook Pro and it’s all organizational shelving, as Levitan told The Hollywood Reporter, “That’s a type of a joke that you just couldn’t tell within a normal show that we get to tell here.”
The 2-D adds on the screen also offer fun details to notice on rewatch. How Claire immediately pulls up screens on how to file a missing-person report and how to find an iPhone via GPS so that she can look for Haley. Alex’s additional comments on her essay include lines like, “I know you’re not reading this, Mom.” It’s also interesting to note how each of the family members uses the technology: Phil only wants to play Halo. Alex wants to perfect her college essay. Jay is this side of a luddite. And Claire uses it for everything.
But as is so often with Modern Family, the best moments, the ones that land, are the ones that are absolutely sincere. That the show is able to pull this off even through a technological filter is even more impressive. But the emotional touchstone of the episode is not Claire realizing that her daughter might have done the same thing she did, but Jay telling her that if so, it may not be the worst thing that’s ever happened, and she might look back and think “the best thing that could have happened was that dipstick knocking up my daughter” and whether it’s due to Jay’s technological ignorance or Phil’s own sneakiness, a tearful Phil learns that Jay really does appreciate him. They’ve had these moments before, but as I said, it’s been awhile. When’s the last time Claire and Gloria had a conversation? And Luke is at Jay’s house? It’s magnificent!
But although Levitan pooh-poohs the suggestion of product placement, the show’s producers did call Apple, and thus received tons of equipment to use to make this particular episode. Levitan simply states, “We have an ongoing cooperation with Apple.” It seems like a dangerous line for an entertainment product to walk, and one that it’s walked before (remember Phil waiting in line for the very first iPad?). But if this is an Apple promo, still, it’s a pretty entertaining one, and one that accurately reflects the “modern” in the Modern Family. I’m writing this on a laptop right now, as the rest of my family plays Mario 3D World. Hey, at least it involves them talking to, or, more accurately, yelling at, each other in person.
Early on in the episode, when Phil reveals that he’s not really sure where the kids are, Claire cautions, “When I’m not there, I need you to be present and keep track of everyone.” (Phil’s clueless response: “Love you too.”) That is the big danger of the screen, and maybe this Apple business holds a small parable here. Communicating with a screen is less valuable, and effective, than communicating with a human. When Phil’s playing Halo, he’s not present with anyone except his fellow Halo shooters. Without all the technology, without the ability to track Haley’s phone to Vegas, the Dunphys probably would have checked Haley’s room within minutes and found her asleep. Jay succinctly points out, ““The minute they got rid of rotary phones, everything went to hell.” Even though my job involves actually filling your screens full of stuff, maybe Grandpa’s right on this one, at least from a personal communication standpoint. And yet, the technology did pull all of Modern Family together this episode, with primarily successful results.
- Modern Family MVP this week: Dylan! Leave it to Dylan to totally bring it to his way-too-brief guest spot. “Are you with Haley?” “In what way?” I could watch that guy twirl a Cash For Gold sign for hours.
- Love Claire’s Facebook photo. Also her following searches: “moms who raise their daughter’s baby” and “andy bailey arrest record.”
- “Friend request pending.”
- For some reason, I love the way Ed O’Neill delivered the phrase “I’m afraid to wear short pants.”
- Also Aubrey Anderson-Emmons’ Lily, when she reports that “was in the other room… behaving.”
- Those were some cute baby pictures of Sarah Hyland to the tune of Kenny Loggins’ “Return To Pooh Corner.”
- Phil has magician contacts in Vegas, but they are better at making girls disappear than finding them.
- Brody Kendall is the perfect fake Facebook name, even with Chachi picture.
- The whole popcorn thing just seemed like a contrived way to keep Cam in the FaceTime loop. But in Cam’s defense, if you’ve never had Garrett’s popcorn, it is really frickin’ good. In the summer in Chicago, tourists wait in shockingly long popcorn lines to get it.
- I also liked how Jay referenced the family’s previous vacation in Hawaii.
- “It’s called privacy. Google it.”