Modern Family: Episode 16

KIP MOONEY: Sometimes I feel like I’m too hard on this show. On the one hand, I want it to knock it out of the park every week, getting witty jokes out of every character. But it’s simply impossible to be on your A-game week after week. And sometimes, being really funny is enough.

Nothing this week was particularly original, especially Phil not knowing what set Claire off during their epic fight. And the writer(s) didn’t even find a fresh way to spin all those clich├ęs, but when it’s this funny, there’s not too much to complain about.

Back to that fight: it was one for the ages, with flying broccoli, a fire extinguisher and a broken microwave door. But the source of fight? That was a mystery to Phil. As he’s explaining this to Gloria, amateur hair stylist, professional butter-in and uncomfortably busty confidant, she reveals at least half a dozen boneheaded moves that could have resulted in Claire’s full-on freak-out.

Meanwhile, Claire vents to Jay at the mall, where he has to pull her away from the massage chair when she gets a little too, um, vocal about her enjoyment. Turns out she’s pissed about one detail in Phil’s story, because apparently he never listens to her opinion but jumps at the chance to try something new if anyone else recommends it. It’s all a little silly, but then again, a lot of couple’s fights are.

Even sillier is Jay’s gift choice for Gloria. He bought her a karaoke machine–which she wanted–and now he’s finding ways to get rid of it because she butchers song after song (“She sang all the way here. We passed two cars. Dogs stuck their heads back in.”). What a schmuck. Gloria can barely speak English and he’s surprised when her singing is awful? That’s not even sitcom stupid. That’s just plain’ ol buffoonery.

But what really worked, what showed glimpses of what Modern Family is capable of when it’s at its peak, was the pairing of Luke and Cam as the world’s most inept party planners. Cam is throwing a musicians’ benefit at his house and Luke is his guy Friday, taking orders from a headset but pointing out that there won’t be any hors d’oeuvres left if Cam keeps stress-eating. It turns out Mitch forgot to mail the invitations (geez, that’s never happened on a sitcom before). He left them under his gym bag and, in classic narcissist fashion, is more ashamed he hasn’t been to the gym in six weeks.

Things resolve in typically amiable fashion, but what caused me to overlook this week’s shortcomings is its perfect use of the kiddos. Manny popped up at just the right time to tear through Gloria’s horrible singing AND call Jay a coward for not saying something sooner. Then Alex hatched a brilliant scheme to bust Haley’s unemployment scam. But best of all was Luke’s suggestion for livening up a party: starting a fire. Maybe that’s a fire that’ll spread and get the weaker spots back up to speed again next time.

BEST LINES:

Phil: “Happy Valenbirthiversary!”

Jay to Claire: “When you get a massage, you sound like a Tijuana prostitute.”

Cam: “Do you want to know the guest list for tonight? Anger, Betrayal, Terror and Sadness. Congratulations, Mitchell! You really packed the house!”

Phil to Claire: “You’re the witch who saved me.”

Manny to Jay: “Keep this up, and this won’t be the last plug I pull.”

HOWARD MEGDAL: Agree with Kip that this was a more pedestrian effort from Modern Family.

Briefly: what makes Luke work best seems to be an understated acknowledgment of his role as an eight-year-old, as exemplified by his calm offer to start a fire.

The Claire massage chair bit actually makes no sense, given her character’s desire much of the time to avoid public embarrassment. I was similarly surprised by Mitchell’s invitation screw-up- it isn’t as if Cam would mention it only once. Just didn’t add up.

But truly, Sofia Vergara on the karaoke machine alone was worth the price of admission.

About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney is a recent graduate of UNT's Mayborn School of Journalism and big-time opponent of going to grad school. Working as a freelance writer in the DFW area, he's always ready to go in-depth with his opinions on film, television, music, religion and the sorry state of politics in America. He continues to work independently, as each of his non-college jobs has resulted in the company experiencing serious financial troubles once he leaves, including Blockbuster and the trashy restaurant D's Country Kitchen. (The lesson here is hire him, but don't let him leave.) His literary heroes include Roger Ebert, Donald Miller and Matt Taibbi. Kip has written for The Dallas Morning News and Pegasus News and served as editor-in-chief for the North Texas Daily, but he is perhaps best known as the inspiration for Christian Lander's well-known blog Stuff White People Like.
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