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Modern Family goes a little baby crazy

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Modern Family has gone through a lot of change over the years. New kids, new grandkids, changing careers, and more than a few unexpected life events. Those changes haven’t always resulted in the show adapting very well, and that’s been a problem. While Claire, Jay, Cam, and everyone else have encountered new joys and challenges, the characters seem largely the same. The show has struggled to use new situations to tell different stories.

“Perfect Pairs” both underlines that, and offers up some slight opportunity for variation. It’s a busy week of stories. Every single character is involved, and that means that no one storyline truly gets to shine. There’s a lot of hopping around, so it’s really a mixed bag this week.

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I hate to repeat points that I’ve made in previous reviews, but that’s pretty much impossible when you’ve been on this beat for so long. But still, it’s frustrating to sit through Claire’s storylines every week and see the exact same issues popping up. “Perfect Pairs” begins with a simple but effective cold open. Haley is taking the twins off Dylan’s hands and heading out for a run, and she notices that lately nobody has really been around. The baby enthusiasm seems to have worn off, and now the family isn’t helping out as much. While Haley muses on this point, we see Alex hiding under a table and Clair disappearing behind a coat rack.

Eventually though, everyone realizes that they can use the babies to their own ends. Alex can take them to the DMV and the post office and use them to skip ahead of the lines so that she can apply for a job at NASA. Luke uses them in lieu of a fake I.D. to buy booze because he hasn’t told his much older girlfriend—I still can’t believe this is a storyline, and that the show barely even touches on it—that he’s not of age. Phil eventually uses them for a magic act at a realtor banquet where he feels the need to really impress. Then there’s Claire, using them to get into a “Mommy and Me” yoga class to meet with a potential client that she’s been trying to land. Claire’s determination, at the cost of everything, is so tired at this point. The whole thing isn’t even bad per se, so much as it’s more of the same we always get with her.

There’s a similar feel to Gloria derailing her sister’s potential marriage, and Jay trying to prove he’s a blue collar guy by bonding with his gardener. Gloria is a one-note character at this point. I have no idea who she is or what she wants. Stephanie Beatriz turns in a wonderfully unhinged performance as her sister, but that’s the only notable thing here. There’s so much potential for the show to explore who Gloria is: a woman who left Colombia, married rich, and now, as she’s getting older, is trying to figure out a career and a life that’s not defined by her family. That’s totally possible within the confines of the sitcom, and yet Modern Family never goes there. It just keeps hitting the same notes before occasionally dedicating a small portion of an episode to her career pursuits.

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I do, however, think that Cam and Mitchell actually get the spotlight this week, and their storyline is filled with real, relatable moments that make sense for those characters. The two finally get some renters that they’re excited about. Brad and Paul have a daughter around Lily’s age, and the idea that they can interact with a gay couple in a similar stage of life is exciting. The thing is, Brad and Paul are seemingly younger, definitely fitter, and more attuned to the lifestyle that you’d associate with an Instagram influencer. They’re cultured, either truly living that way or in an attempt to look impressive, and Cam and Mitchell feel pressure to keep up.

That means that Cam pretends to go to an art gallery, and Mitchell makes a fake trip to run some stairs. They both get caught, and they both have to fess up to not wanting to be those people. It all feels real, and it makes the spare jokes land better. Getting older comes with a feeling of losing one’s self, of looking back on younger days and wondering how that person had so much passion and energy. Brad and Paul amplify that feeling, but what Cam and Mitchell realize is that they can embrace where they are. They don’t need to pretend, and they don’t need to impress anybody. It’s a moment of self love that feels remarkable in an episode defined by familiar narrative beats.

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Stray observations

  • I’d love to see Alex land a job and the show actually do something with it. One of the most underserved characters on Modern Family.
  • “Every Cher experience should be a shared experience.”
  • “Even if you mean ‘kill them,’ I’m in.”
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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.