Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: In honor of Love Week, we’re revisiting our favorite television episodes featuring a marriage proposal.

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Modern Family, “Suddenly, Last Summer” (season five, episode one; originally aired 9/25/2013)

Modern Family isn’t known for its topicality. It’s still a groundbreaking show, but mostly in as much as it portrays its diverse group of characters as a family just like any other, save for its willingness to accept every one of its members just as they are. Modern Family is built for syndication in perpetuity, with stories so evergreen they could be plucked out of any episode and dropped into another without much impact. From its title, “Suddenly, Last Summer” seems like it’s going to be just another interchangeable Modern Family season premiere, nearly all of which summarize what the Dunphy, Tucker-Pritchett, and Pritchett-Delgado families have been up to during the hiatus. But “Suddenly” immediately dates itself. It begins on June 26, 2013, the day when California’s elimination of its ban on same-sex marriage—first issued more than five years prior—finally stuck as the opposition ran out of legal options.

It’s a momentous occasion for Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who have been waiting years to legally formalize their durable relationship. Modern Family certainly didn’t have to delve into Cam and Mitchell’s desire to wed. After all, the show has always portrayed Cam and Mitchell’s relationship in as non-threatening a manner as possible. There’s almost no physical intimacy between them, save for a subtle peck on the lips in “The Kiss,” which came about as a result of a fan petition after Modern Family became a monster hit. The easier choice would have been to continue with business as usual, insulating the family from current events to comfort viewers who were fine with Mitch and Cam so long as their relationship was inherently unequal to the others. Instead, the show embraced the idea, making Mitch and Cam’s wedding the focal point of season five.

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Step one is the proposal, which lends “Suddenly” one of the sweetest moments in Modern Family’s history. After celebrating the announcement, Mitch and Cam get right to work on crafting the perfect proposal, but in classic sitcom fashion, both men are unaware the other is doing the same thing. Meanwhile, the rest of the family goes about trying to recreate one of Mitch and Cam’s earliest romantic moments, a picnic in the living room of their first apartment where they noshed under a galaxy of glowing star decals on the ceiling. None of Mitch and Cam’s other attempts to propose has gone right, and the comedy of errors continues when they blow a tire driving home and team up to change it. They reminisce about their relationship as they work on the tire, then notice they’re both on one knee and recognize the perfection of the moment. Unlike most Modern Family episodes, “Suddenly” will look dated years from now when the show migrates to TV Land, but its attachment to the historical moment is precisely what makes it so special.

Availability: “Suddenly, Last Summer” is available for purchase through Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Google Play.

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