Greetings! I’m filling in for Donna tonight.
I started watching Modern Family earlier this year on DVD and only just caught up this week. It took me several episodes before I started seeing what everyone thought was so great about the show. This was mostly due to the fact the the sitcoms I tend to watch are either incredibly self-referential (Arrested Development, Community) or are about assholes (Curb Your Enthusiasm, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.) It felt…strange to watch a show about family members that love each other and live in nice houses and have stay-at-home moms and whatnot. But once I got past that incredibly bizarre premise, I was able to appreciate how reliably the show made me laugh.
Reading over Donna’s reviews, I can see how it can be a frustrating show to recap regularly, since the show revisits the same well, frequently, for plot lines. What, Claire is suppressing Phil, again? Jay still thinks Manny needs to toughen up? And Mitchell continues, apparently, to hate his life partner? But tonight being my first night covering the show, I realized for the first time exactly just how many funny little nuggets are packed into this otherwise semi-formulaic show. I had a hard time keeping up with writing them all down.
Big picture, like I said, the show didn’t go anywhere new tonight but it was good entertainment for the night before Thanksgiving. Claire’s making dinner as Luke and Phil make jokes from the turkey’s point of view, but when Claire says “Tell my wife and kids I love them!” when putting the turkey in the oven, Luke says “Ooh, that’s kind of dark, mom.” I love how Luke is mini-Phil (or Phil is mega-Luke.)
Kenneth, an old friend/protege of Phil’s comes over and the two perform a “manshake,” IE a typical brohan overly-long handshake, only in this case it features a portion that seems to come from a fancy gentleman-and-lady ballroom dance. Kenneth reveals that he’s a tech millionaire, which validates Phil almost as much as when Jay told him he liked his massage. “I met a guy who told me that what I thought and said had value,” Kenneth says, referring to Phil. “Ohh,” Luke says, catching on, but before he can say anything else, Phil covers his mouth so Kenneth can keep speaking.
Then we get to the part of the show where all the Pritchetts are jerks. Cam and Mitchell are at the playground with friends and Cameron tells an anecdote from back home that involves throwing a pumpkin across a football field and having it land through “the sun(roof) of a preacher man.” As ever, Mitchell hates Cam having fun an and gloats a little bit when the story lands with a thud. When Mitchell’s single someday, I bet he’ll miss Cameron’s stories.
Meanwhile, Manny makes a crappy-looking centerpiece and Gloria makes a big deal about how beautiful it is and how he’s good at everything. Out of all the Pritchetts on tonight’s episode, Jay bothered me the least. He seemed to have legitimately good intentions when it came to getting Manny used to hearing criticism once in awhile. If anything, Gloria was more obnoxious this episode, although I liked when she confessed to Jay, “I’m a jumble of insecurities!” “I’m not getting that,” says Jay. For such a sensitive and perceptive kid, by the way, how come Manny can’t tell when his mom’s just blowing sunshine up his ass?
While Haley and Alex are looking up Kenneth’s numerous achievements, Haley bangs up the car. Alex is riddled with guilt and wants to confess while Haley, creepily stroking her sister’s hair, tries to convince her sister of the value of letting Claire imagine it happened at some other time. This is totally the crap I pulled when I was Haley’s age, only I hope I didn’t come off nearly as evil.
Full of brio inspired by Kenneth, Phil starts feeling fearless, even stacking a tiny pumpkin on top of something else at the Thanksgiving table. Claire is unimpressed by Phil’s decorating ideas, however, which Phil takes as an attack on his creativity in general. “Honey, you’re folding napkins.” “You’re folding my dreams!” Phil goes over the number of number of ideas Claire’s squelched, including the The Real Headscratcher™, a product he made a video for with Luke, who plays a stressed-out employee at a robot assassin factory.
Finally at dinner, everything comes to a head as Phil, Cam and Gloria accuse the Pritchetts of being dream-squashers (I loved Gloria encouraging Cam’s punkin chunkin story by saying “I love it, with Cody and the friend!”
Finally, the squashers and dreamers go head to head with an actual punk-chunk, and everyone dies in a fiery crash.
Or, maybe not. Even if you didn’t watch the episode you can probably guess what happens.
Big picture, the car accident and Kenneth storylines both seemed a little half-baked (where did Kenneth go?) and I could see the ending coming a mile away (why would you park at one end of a football field and walk all the way to the other endzone?) Still, an uneven Modern Family is still a very good value when it comes to a half hour’s worth of entertainment.
—“Oh it’s Paris. She’s my assistant in Tokyo.”
—“He’s me: And he’s spectacular!”
— “Aunt Betty’s wigglin’ on a piglet.”
—Here’s why I love this show. The line “Cody was KIA in Desert Storm. He’s a hero,” which is not funny at all out of context, made me laugh.
—“I bet this is how the French do Thanksgiving.”
—“Remember that collage I made that helped us get through Katrina?”
—Did it strike anyone as crappy that Claire would just go stealing people’s pumpkins off their front porches?