Something about tonight's Modern Family is a little off, and I think I know what it is — the confessionals. I haven't minded the confessionals up until now, and I don't think it's a structural problem. But tonight was unusually confessional-heavy, and many of them were solo confessionals. It felt forced, leaden. The characters reveal themselves in what they say to a camera in the presence of others — not in what they say when they're alone.
It's the first day of school in that out-of-order world of network schedules, and Claire is looking forward to a day with a book and a run. (The book appears to be about Umbria.) But Phil uses his ability to listen with his mind to know that what she really wants is for him to challenge her to a race. Manny is looking forward to educating his new fifth grade classmates about his Columbian heritage by wearing a traditional poncho to school, but Jay tries to spare him the taunts of the other children by teasing him until he takes it off. And Mitchell's nervousness about being a good parent isn't helped by an ill-advised dance during which he bumps Lily's head.
The funniest bit of the night was Mitchell and Cam's visit to the pediatrician, during which Cam attempts to prove his parenting credentials by telling the Asian doctor that they intend to raise Lily surrounded by her ethnic heritage. For example, when she starts eating solid food, there's a fantastic pho restaurant nearby. "Am I pronouncing that right?" Cam asks? "The soup?" To which the doctor replies, "I'm from Denver."
In fact, the whole Lily-gets-a-bump-on-the-head subplot outshone the other two. While I just felt sorry for Claire, tormented by a needy husband fooling himself into thinking that he's doing her a favor, and uncertain about how to deal with Gloria's desire to support Manny in his strange cultural affectations, I had no problem finding a point of view from which to enjoy Cam and Mitchell's panic over taking care of their baby. Lily (the calmest baby in TV history, don't you think?) sits there adorably sucking on her bottle and grasping her little toys while her dads overreact in hilarious ways. After accidentally locking their keys in the car with Lily, Cam lumbers across the parking lot with a trash can to smash the window while Mitchell screams at the OnStar lady on his cell phone. When she remotely unlocks the doors, Cam is dumbfounded and instantly mollified: "Did that come from space?"
It's just a mediocre episode, and I actually thought it showed just as much heart as I've come to expect from the show. No reason to panic. The formula just got tweaked in ways that didn't turn out to be so fruitful. I'm sure that the MF I love will be back next week.
- No, I made no comment on the Haley driving lessons. Because someday I'm going to have to sit in the passenger seat while my kid drives, and that terrifies me.
- Luke's summer journal consists of one entry: "June 21 — found a stick." In his defense, it looked like a snake.
- When Cam comes back from the freezer with the Boo-Boo Bear, he has chocolate on his face. "It was under a pie. I made a judgment call," he explains.
- Phil thinks he's fitter than Claire because he takes the stairs two at a time ("ow, gotta fix that step!" he sings out, followed by "I'm already at the top!").
- The poncho plus the flute plus the dance? That's a dealbreaker, ladies.