Modern Family does well with backstories -- especially when it includes adding insult to injury. "My Hero" may have had a contrived and predictable framing device with Manny's school assignment, (though I like that Luke had the same essay to write) and the Phil-Gloria subplot was pretty much a huge waste until its genuinely hilarious conclusion, but it was a solidly funny and sweet episode. I credit that in no small part thanks to the writers getting the entire ensemble of "jumpy Protestants" together in a believable way (even Cousin Pete!) and to Eric Stonestreet's physical comedy. Before we get to the highlights, I do want to point out that Happy Endings had a similar storyline in its recent Season 3 (and perhaps series) finale this past Friday, "Brothas & Sisters." If you enjoyed "My Hero," I definitely recommended giving that episode a whirl -- you don't need much context going into it, either. Now, let's get to it:
"Flip Flop" really wasn't so bad. I don't entirely understand why the conceit of the plots were "women intimidate each other and constantly feel inadequate," and "gay men are serious about buying houses," but whatever, both storylines were entertaining enough, I laughed out loud at the reveal of Workaholics' Anders Holm as the cool put-together young man interested in settling down (since his character on that show is the polar opposite) and it's always fun to see where Rob Riggle (who played Gil Thorp) is going to pop up on TV next. The two-month time jump bothered me since baby Joe did not age (good thing he was huge to begin with), but on the bright side, the house drama is over and we got a nice callback to Barkley. Here are the best lines of the night, since I am actively trying not to be the biggest grouch ever about this show, I swear:
"The Future Dunphys" wasn't the worst episode of Modern Family ever, and I really enjoyed the visual gag of the titular future (and past) Dunphys. Manny and Jay's storyline was as predictable as it was humorless (though the actors are at least trying), and the Mitch, Cam, Lily and Gloria plot was terrible, but at least it acknowledged that these two gay parents with an adopted Vietnamese daughter don't know how to teach her about her culture or the very basics of her own body. I would have hated if that were the subtext, since it'd lead me to dedicating yet another whole piece about how problematic it is for a show that's supposed to be pro-gay to portray this family as grotesquely as it does -- but that being said, I've read convincing arguments in its favor, and maybe I would have even liked it if it was given more time to breathe instead of being stuck as one of three plotlines in a 22-minute episode. And besides, I really, really did like seeing future Luke, Alex and Haley, even if I was hoping for a just a bit more payoff. Here are the best lines of the night:
When did Modern Family start regularly making tasteless jokes at the expense of Asian people? The writers have always felt just a bit too comfortable making off-color jokes about gay people -- tonight, we got Elizabeth Bank's Sal delivering a quick line about Mitch and Cam's sex life ("Oh, well, this is a mystery solved," when Mitch was on Cam's back) -- but the jokes about bad drivers and serving cats for dinner seem relatively new, no?
"Fulgencio" had lots of fun twists at the end -- the only problem was getting there. The first two acts of the episode dragged on in the same way the entirety of last week's "Party Crasher" did, but in the third, we got the Godfather homage, the reveal that Claire was feeding Lily her snarky lines and the conceit of the plot about Gloria stealing her sister's life -- all the type of gags that reminded me of why I used to consider Modern Family mandatory viewing material. After so harshly (though I think fairly) slamming the show last time, tonight let's look the best moments of the episode... and you'll notice that none of them include the unsettling jokes made at the expense of the unseen lesbian neighbor Lee or Jay's weirdly homophobic rant at his son in front of his entire family at church, nor the quips about how impoverished Colombia is:
"When a Tree Falls" was Modern Family at its most mediocre. The jokes didn't hit and the storylines were predictable, and even the highlights of the episode -- some of the interpersonal moments between the characters and the presence of guest star Paul Scheer -- weren't enough to make this an installment worth watching. I'm really hoping that Gloria has her baby next time so that we can finally have a new dynamic on the show to play with, because lord knows the writers aren't trying to come up with anything fresh. Actually, that's not true: there's obviously a little bit of playfulness coming from cut-away gags (like in this episode, Haley's mugshots), but they don't jibe when the rest of the show is exactly the same. At this point, Modern Family sometimes reminds me of the part of the E! True Hollywood Story about Full House when John Stamos said "I wanted some of the stuff to be a little more organic and not about, you know, poop jokes and let's bring a pig on and we'll have five laughs on that," only instead of a pig, we got a cat suit and an inflatable boxing ring.
I honestly didn't laugh very much during "Aunt Mommy," but I still thorough enjoyed it. It displayed how well-oiled of a machine Modern Family can be, especially thanks to a few of the biggest elements of the episodes:
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