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Modern Family rolls out the clichés in an episode about pregnancy and periods

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Man, the closet business really doesn’t seem all that fun. Apparently Jay’s been at it for 30 years, and Claire for some unknown amount of time, but all I know is that every time there’s an episode that involves spending time in that workplace, I want to immediately change the channel. My fingers get twitchy and I have to remind myself that I can’t flip to another show because this is my job and, quite frankly, the people demand these reviews. So, I persevere, and deal with yet another workplace storyline that simply doesn’t work.

Alright, I’m being a touch ridiculous, but these workplace stories really are frustrating. They’re like Therese in Carol, just seemingly flung out of space. There’s no rhyme or reason to the storytelling, and it’s pretty much impossible to understand where everyone’s career is presently situated or heading. What I mean is that it seems like Claire has been battling it out with Jay for respect and control at the company for what feels like decades at this point. That’s a storytelling problem; Modern Family is just repeating itself with Jay and Claire.

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There’s some hope here at the end of the episode, as Jay insists that he’s retiring for good, leaving room for Claire to run the company the way she wants to. It’s even kind of sweet to see him say that he’d have quit years ago if Claire wasn’t there to make coming into the office enjoyable, but it’s a sentiment that rings hollow because we’ve been over these emotional revelations before. Modern Family can’t keep using this same power dynamic between Jay and Claire and expect it to resonate every time.

“Red Alert” isn’t much better elsewhere. The major plot of the week sees Lily getting her first period, and locking herself in the bathroom while Cam and Mitchell run around completely unprepared for this moment. They’ve basically ignored any awkward conversations leading up to this, meaning that there’s little they can do here. So, Cam sends a group text (because that’s a fantastic idea) and Haley, Alex, Gloria, and Manny all arrive to give advice.

The advice ranges from the scientific (Alex) and mythical (Gloria) to rebellious (Haley) and downright creepy (Manny, of course). None of it helps Lily, and it certainly doesn’t help the episode. Every single joke is cliché, every punchline the most obvious thing you can think of. It’s beyond frustrating because this does feel like an opportunity for the show to add some depth to Lily’s character while also meaningfully exploring the relationship she has with her dads. There’s a struggle here that the show could dig into, with Cam and Mitchell wading into territory that’s unfamiliar to them and the challenges that arise from that. That makes it all the more disappointing to see “Red Alert” take the easy way out.

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Similarly, there’s not much to latch on to when it comes to Haley and Dylan this week. Despite the pregnancy being a nice change of pace for the show, “Red Alert” puts the couple through their own set of clichés. The two are taking a parenting class, where Dylan is thriving and Haley is failing miserably. She can’t swaddle, she doesn’t remember how to burp the baby, and that means she’s starting to panic.

It makes all sorts of sense that Haley would be worried about becoming a mother, of twins no less, but there’s simply nothing here that feels very fresh. If you were to read an episode description of “Red Alert” that said it was an episode about Cam and Mitchell not knowing how to deal with Lily’s first period while Haley struggles in a parenting class, you could conjure scene after scene in your head that would probably match what’s on screen this week. “Red Alert” is predictable and dull.

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Stray observations

  • “Allow me to talk to the Earth Goddess.” Ugh, Manny.
  • “It could be worse. If she were a sheep, she’d be dealing with this every 17 days.”
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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.