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The Telefile
Modern Family: Building One Great Episode Out of Last Night's Two

There are so many unique things Modern Family has in its arsenal: a handful of great child actors (one of whom is a genius!), free range and first dibs on material about what it means to be in a gay relationship in 2012, Ty Burrell and a team of writers who are actually able to make jokes around fairly obvious product placement. I think that's why when an episode repeats the same gags we've seen before or doesn't do a storyline justice, it's so frustrating.

And then sometimes I feel like Modern Family only comes to the table with jokes about a mixed race couple or people who gay from the point of view of "normal" white people who can't really get past basic stereotypical behavior of the "other" -- but in a well-meaning sort of way. Watching Gloria mispronounce things or Cam have a rivalry with a lesbian are supposed to be good-natured and playful, but at times the writing feels very short of being progressive, almost as if we're seeing the world of the Pritchett-Dunphy family through Jay's eyes. They're not hateful eyes, mind you, but they're a little antiquated... which would be fine if the show didn't try to be so wholesome all the time. It's kind of like those commercials about parents who were weirded out when their kids told them they were gay, but grew to accept and love their choices and changed their minds. It's great for mankind and everything, but I don't really want to watch a show from the point of view of people who still think not being a heteronormtive white person is a novelty, or at the very least, a little bit wacky.

That being said, when you get past the basic issues that rubbed me the wrong way with last night's "Schooled" and "Snip" (and there were quite a few, honestly), there was some solid writing and funny gags. Dragging either episode out into an hour-long installment would have been a bad idea, but I felt like if you pulled bits from each episode, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Taking a little from here and there, "Snooled" would have been pretty great... I can't really say the same about "Schnip," though.

"Snooled"
- Phil's George Jefferson toast, accompanied by Luke's joke about how we're "already using Chinese money." (Totally a genius thing to say!)
- The Manny being concerned about Gloria and Jay's parenting skills plotline, if not just for the natural chemistry we saw between Ed O'Neill and Sofia Vergara, and: "I know not to embarrass my son as he stands on the threshold of manhood."
- Claire buying Haley condoms, and the conversations that followed, especially: "Why don't you just buy her some fishnet stockings and a nurse's outfit? Not that that's my thing. That just popped into head."
- Phil and Claire (a.k.a. the Haley Dunphy Moving Co.) helping Haley unpack, followed by Haley's bad first few hours (or was it days?) at school and then the sweet moment where she was wearing Phil's shirt.
- Really, every scene with the kids. Alex promising that she's "totally gonna have fun. I'm Iceland in the mock UN," Luke literally masking his emotions, Goth Alex, Luke giving Claire the rose as a thank-you, the video chatting between Alex and Haley about how great Claire really is (but why they can never tell her that) and the general conceit of the vasectomy storyline.
- The set-ups to Cam and Mitchell's problems, cutting off right before they meet the lesbian moms and when we learn the basic premise that Cam has been bored lately.
- Gloria and Jay getting kicked out of the baby preparation class, to which Gloria indignantly points out: "I wrapped my son with one hand while driving a stick; I think I know how to keep my baby safe."
- Gloria's conversations with Manny about how she's going to be a great mother, plus her adorable new maternity dress.
- The one-off jokes of "We're gonna need a bigger belt" and "Post-Post-Office-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder."
- All of the couples just generally getting along and working together instead of bickering about forever unresolved issues.
- The cat mermaid costume.

"Schnip"
- The Phil's-Osophy book, given that back in the '90s we already had Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.
- The aforementioned storylines about/around lesbian jokes and the gags about Gloria's English pronunciation problems.
- The fact that Cam always has several sets of bags packed for both him and Mitch, and yet zero affection ever available.
- Gloria's horribly fake belly.
- The music teacher just getting fired conveniently lining up with Cam revealing how much he used to love teaching music to kids (though at least they spared us an episode of job interviews).
- Phil sitting on his own bench, and the obvious "Not a Real Man" gag.
- Gloria's shirt finally busting open (though, things can only go up from here, right?).

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