KIP MOONEY: You know there’s a problem with a show when the one episode featuring all the characters in the same location is the season’s most disjointed and inconsistent.
Aside from The Simpsons, I’m usually not a fan of sitcoms’ travel episodes. They pick the low-hanging fruit about wherever their destination is and throw in more broad comedy than usual. These episodes rarely work, and there’s a good chance you won’t remember them either.
This week’s Modern Family found a new, cynical nadir for these episodes. The ABC sitcom found its three families traveling to Disneyland, a sort of crass synergy that doesn’t sit well with me. The fact that the episode occasionally doesn’t feel like a half-hour ad for Disneyland (featuring an ad for the new attraction Cars Land during the commercial breaks) is a testament to the solid cast. But this episode really undersells their skills.
Of the 50 or so plots in this week’s episode, the only one I really enjoyed was Claire trying to set up Haley with Ethan, an overachieving musician, only for Ethan to find his perfect match in Alex. Plus, Dylan makes his grand return, having lost his job at the dude ranch. I knew right away he’d be working at Disneyland but seeing him dressed as one of the Dapper Dan quartet on a tandem bike, then wrecking that bike, gave me the biggest laugh of the night, at least until he showed up in a Little John costume.
Nothing else really worked for me, because it was too tired, too pointless or too ridiculous. We’ve got Phil getting sick on roller coasters, Manny stressing over a school project, Gloria walking in high heels around Disneyland and Lily on a leash. None of that was funny and it seems like the writers expected the setting to make up for the lack of quality jokes.
But one segment of the show really stood out: Jay’s interviews about Dee Dee. We haven’t seen Shelley Long as Jay’s ex all season, and her presence is sorely missed. Still, Jay’s interviews about their big fight the last time they all went to Disneyland really felt special. There was no cloying narration at the end, but a solid, heartfelt through-line.
Maybe the crew should try that next time, instead of dropping them someplace and hoping it’ll do all the heavy lifting.
Jay: “It’s a small world. You see what I did there? Because it’s a song.”
Mitch: “I haven’t been judged this much since I forgot my canvas bags at Whole Foods.”
Mitch to Cam: “It’s Toon Town, not Toonton. You’ve been watching too much PBS.”