Modern Family: Send Out the Clowns

KIP MOONEY: Tonight’s episode suffered from a classic case of Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen. The script is credited to three of the show’s writers, and that leads to a very fragmented half-hour. The problem was not laziness, which can curse so many sitcoms, but cramming too much into one episode.

The entire episode could have been devoted to Cam’s reunion with his former clown partner or Phil’s competition with a cutthroat realtor. Both guest stars played their roles perfectly. Unfortunately, both stories wrapped abruptly, and we were forced to spend the rest of the episode with some bottom-feeder stories about Claire trying to get Alex and Haley to approve her friend requests on Facebook and Manny’s new friend having a crush on Gloria.

But let’s focus on what worked. Cam’s old clown friends get together to mourn the passing of their clown college professor. (I would have loved to see an episode-long riff on That Championship Season, but this is not the kind of show that takes that kind of diversion.) This brings Cam’s old showbiz partner Lewis (Bobby Canavale) out of the woodwork. Cam broke up the act when he got together with Mitch, leaving Lewis high and dry. When they reunite at the funeral, they make up for lost time, doing pratfalls and spit takes for Lily.

All of this sticks in Mitchell’s craw. But as Stephen Colbert once said about himself, he has a very narrow craw. Everything sticks in there. Cam even catches him mid-eyeroll. After this, my mom predicted Cam and Mitch would soon break up. I don’t think the writers would pull off anything so ballsy, but it’s not hard to see why they might be better apart.

Meanwhile, Phil’s attempting to get the biggest listing of his realty career. But Mitzi Roth (Ellen Barkin) tries to snake her way into the deal, even tripping and claiming Phil shoved her. This was another great display of Flustered Phil, one of my favorite versions of him. He’s consistently bested by her trickery, until he cons her into getting the listing by having Luke lay on the water-works in front of her at the grocery store. Scheming Luke always works like gangbusters for me.

If the writers want to keep pushing Modern Family past its current state (and I sincerely hope they do), they need to deviate from the mechanics of the show a little bit. A single episode with a focused, 22-minute story here and there would be much better than making sure every character is featured in every episode. Just some food for thought.

BEST LINES:
Manny: “The librarian said I’m a catch.”

Jay: “Yes, Gloria. Those people were victims of a Fonzie scheme.”

Cam: “It’s seltzer under the bridge.”

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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