KIP MOONEY: There you have it, folks. Another season of one of the finest of all television comedies comes to a close. While there were definitely some rough patches, I can safely say this: Whether I continue to review this show or not, I’m still going to watch it every week. Few shows get that kind of commitment any more.
The dialogue (or one-liners in most episodes) is as snappy as ever, many of the characters have evolved–except Cam, what a pity–and the show’s got an even bigger heart. But all of that wouldn’t matter if the performances weren’t so fantastic week in, week out.
This season’s all-star is without a doubt Ed O’Neill. The man once famous for playing every-schlub Al Bundy on Married with Children is now the stoic but often hilarious patriarch of a family that’s equally ridiculous and loving. He underplays every scene to great effect and gets big laughs with simple glances.
While this season’s finale felt a bit anti-climactic (much like last year’s finale “Family Portrait”), it had a well-earned emotional impact, with Manny’s attention to detail finally paying off. Jay’s quest was to fish in solitude, recreating his “best birthday ever.” Of course, Murphy’s Law took over and Jay had to pick up his own cake, pick up the dog from the groomers and pick up Mitch and Claire, who broke into someone’s house (they used to live there, so it’s OK, right?).
The night gets more disastrous from there with poorly chosen gifts, a botched video tribute and a cake ruined by the freshly groomed dog. It gets so bad he keeps getting up to check women’s basketball scores. “Sparks are up by eight if anybody cares,” he mutters. But then Manny, who got in a lot of lines about his passion for cooking, saves the day by putting Jay’s fishing boat in the pool and re-creating Jay’s favorite birthday as best as possible.
That’s a good metaphor for this season, too. Even when everything seemed to be going wrong, the show righted itself and found a way to not only make do, but to also accomplish something even more memorable. Season One made sitcoms look easy. Season Two revealed just how tough consistency is. Ultimately, the show still found ways to surprise me week after week, and that’s why I’ll stick around ’til the very end.
Manny: “I only used it once and that was to take a torte out of the oven.”
– on how often he used his baseball mitt
Manny: “I have a tennis racket that I only use as a bubble bath frother.”
– Side note: You SURE this kid wants to be a ladies’ man?
Jay: “You know what did your job in my day? A hose.”
– on the phone with a dog groomer
TOP 5 EPISODES OF SEASON TWO:
1. “See You Next Fall” (18 May)
2. “Caught in the Act” (19 January)
3. “Our Children, Ourselves” (12 January)
4. “Halloween” (27 October)
5. “Unplugged” (20 October)