KIP MOONEY: One of the most common complaints about Modern Family is that the extended family doesn’t spend enough time together in one giant story. But as evidenced by tonight’s episode (and to a much larger extent, the ho-hum season premiere), bringing them together doesn’t always turn out so great.
That’s not to say tonight didn’t have a lot of spectacular moments. I particularly enjoyed Gloria’s brutal honesty when Claire reveals she thinks Gloria likes Mitchell better. “I do,” she says in that perfect accent. “Tell me, am I your favorite member of the family? I’m not even your favorite Colombian in this family!”
Sometimes this show has moments of genuine emotion, but rarely do we get “ouch” moments like this. But that rarity is part of its effect. We don’t need cutting remarks every episode.
Tonight’s story revolved around the mishaps that occur while trying to gather donations for a neighbor whose house burned down. Most of the family members have ulterior motives: Claire of course wants to look important and helpful; Jay wants to prove he can lug boxes with the best of ‘em—he’s not old, dammit!—and Cam wants to prove his truck-driving skills that defy gay stereotypes.
As to be expected, Claire comes across as conniving and selfish (especially in trying to quash the Mitchell-Gloria friendship), Jay throws out his back and Cam proves he’s a terrible driver (not because he’s gay, just because he’s Cam).
What worries about me about this for the rest of the season is that the show knows how to juggle multiple storylines and deliver great jokes; but it’s in danger of coasting on its back-to-back Emmy wins and efficient punchline delivery. That’s all well and good considering some of the more popular sitcoms can’t do either right (I’m looking at you, 2 Broke Girls). But I’ve come to expect more from television today, and especially from Modern Family. You don’t fall in love with a show just because it’s funny. It has to do more.
Some of the things I did appreciate tonight: Luke being a bad influence on Manny. Luke uses words like “sucks,” much to Manny’s chagrin. (That kid, what a gentleman.) But it’s not long before Manny goes along with Luke’s plan to steal the neighbor kid’s toy helicopter. I also loved that Alex has her own fanboys. Control over men is not exclusive to Haley.
Gloria: “If you don’t want him to lift anything, put all this in grocery bags and put the TV on a football game.”
– after Claire insists Jay not lift any heavy boxes
Manny: “I’m saving my strength. If we don’t find that helicopter, I’m walking to Canada.”
Luke: “Hope you like taxes.”
Cam: “Who drove and parallel-parked a tractor to prom? That was me.”
Mitchell: “At least something got plowed that night.”
Cam, offscreen: “I heard that!”