It’s no surprise that this week’s episode of Modern Family didn’t quite reach the giddy heights of last week’s Mother’s Day episode. In a way, that’s OK – I don’t believe those almost perfect episodes of a TV show are always attainable, certainly not in the format that Modern Family seems to adhere to.
Perhaps if they didn’t insist on giving each family group some kind of storyline, the plots would have a little bit more room to breathe. That’s certainly one criticism of the Cam/Mitch/Lady GaGa thread, that it didn’t have the screen time to play to the couple’s nuances that would have made it even funnier.
If we’re reviewing the episode in terms of comedy, then the Dunphy family has to be front and center. Tired of being an insufferable nag, Claire tells Phil they’re reversing roles: he’s going to be the bad cop while she takes Luke and Manny out for some fun. Of course, easy-going Phil doesn’t realise exactly what’s involved until Alex and Haley hoodwink him into thinking that their chores are done. And when he finds out, he turns…a little bit psychotic.
And Julie Bowen manages to make Claire’s highly-strung, hyper-intense ‘day of fun’ into something slightly deranged. That’s something I love about the character of Claire – she takes everyday parenting situations and blows them out of proportion. Like last week’s “I sometimes want to line them up and slap the first one and watch them all fall over, but that would deny me the satisfaction of slapping all of them”, her railroading the kids’ cars at the track and “making them eat like Vikings” backfired drastically, but was such good fun to watch.
I think with the Dunphys, there’s so much for the typical young family to relate to – Phil trying (and failing) to be a supercool dad, Claire lamenting for her youth after spending so long raising a family. This week, watching both parents floundering to manage their roles in the family was so satisfying. I’m sure there are plenty of parents who can relate to Phil and Claire’s (albeit exaggerated for comedy effect) frustrations. The notion of role reversal was doomed to fail, but it was great fun watching the two trying to handle different situations.
In the Pritchett-Delgado household, eccentric Gloria has brought the latest in a string of charity cases back home for her and Jay to ‘fix’. In this case, it’s a wannabe inventor with a pet training toy that’s absolutely rubbish. The episode takes a bit of a Dragon’s Den turn as Jay listens to Guillermo’s (guest star Lin-Manuel Miranda) pitch. Jay’s tough but firm with Guillermo as he points out the flaws in his business plan, but Gloria roasts him for being so mean. However, her inability to refuse anyone means that she ends up adopting Guillermo’s dog – which Jay manfully decides they’re not keeping.
It’s a nice throwback to the Mother’s Day episode where we got a glimpse of the softie underneath Jay’s gruff exterior. Ed O’Neill plays very nicely off Sofia Vergara in these scenes – I don’t get much of a passionate vibe from them as a screen couple, but it’s funny when Gloria tells Jay that she needs a strong man in her bed…and it doesn’t necessarily have to be him. This is perhaps the most unconventional coupling in Modern Family – the significant age-gap between Jay and Gloria means that the relationship shouldn’t work, but it does. And of course, I could listen to Sofia Vergara recite the phone book in that accent all day!
Less successful is the Cameron and Mitchell storyline. It instantly annoyed me because Mitchell wanted to go toa Lady Gaga concert. In pop culture, there appear to be only two artists worth mentioning on TV: Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. I know that producers want to relate to the wider audience, but FFS at least pretend that there are other artists out there you could namedrop. It’s not like Gaga needs any extra publicity after mentoring on American Idol.
The thrust of their story was that Cam was bedridden and Mitchell desperately wanted to go to the concert. It’s a neat little follow on from last week’s theme that Cam is the nurturing ‘motherly’ type while Mitch is the more detatched, logical one. He’s not naturally given to nursing someone who’s sick, which makes the scenes in the house so uncomfortable to watch. But what’s a nod to a clever bit of character development is how well Claire and Mitch relate to each other when they’re trying to plot a way for him to care for Cam and still get to attend the concert.
In the end, some industrial strength medicine knocks Cam out for long enough that Mitchell slips out to the concert. But he’s not smart enough to remove the glowing necklace from under his shirt, getting him caught out by Cam.
By the way, did anyone else think that Eric Stonestreet looked exactly like Mitch and Cam’s gay friend Pepper when he was sick?