If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear? If Alex’s (Ariel Winter) cellphone slips through her fingers and down a sewer grate during her revenge-fueled paparazzi stakeout while she tries to get a bad picture of her sister, Haley (Sarah Hyland), does anybody care? Nope. Why? Because it was a throwaway storyline. Read on! Each episode I’m starting to understand a little bit more what has changed about Modern Family this season. What is bothering me is that, more and more, the show seems to be cutting down on the things that made its original premise great. When the show started, each “modern” family had similar issues despite the differences in their structure and each episode explored those issues in context. The show highlighted how different families faced the same kinds of problems, with their own little twists. The episodes felt more tied together, more seamless. Now that the interviews are dwindling and the plot really seems superficial, it’s hard to pick out a theme. While most stories in the first few seasons used to bring out the best and worst parts of the family as a whole, in Season 4 each actor has to try to shine individually. And not every actor in this ensemble cast is capable of shining consistently.
Plus the writing is just not as sharp and funny as it used to be.
Take this episode, for example. Claire (Julie Bowen) and Gloria (Sofia Vergara) are spending the day together, lamenting Gloria’s “pregnancy brain”. How much more can this show exploit how stunningly unprepared Gloria is for her *second* pregnancy? While they’re out shopping, Claire gets busted by store security in the parking lot for accidentally walking out of the store with a hoodie. While they are in the back office ‘splainin’ their way out of trouble, Gloria comes up with a surefire way of getting them out of there: faking labour. Initially I thought that this was going to be the best/worst lead-in-to-labour ever. Until it wasn’t. Instead we just learn that Gloria has some serious acting chops (acting within acting? Incepti-acting?) and that pregnant women are forgetful and dumb, unless you need them to get you out a jam. Lesson learned?
In a total non-sequitor, Jay (Ed O’Neil), Phil (Ty Burrell) and the boys are out at a picnic. Teasing goes a bit too far between Jay and Phil, leading to a fake boxing match. Oh. Boy. And it gets awkward. So very very awkward, when Phil goes to town on Jay as payback for the ribbing. I guess the writers have run out of Jay themes since – once again – the issue boils down to Jay’ vulnerability and insecurity about becoming a father at this stage of his life. Haven’t heard that one before. Oh wait…
In other unrelated news, the Alex-Haley storyline alluded to above just annoyingly buzzes around the episode the whole time. For some reason, Alex really needs to get revenge on Haley for having had an awful picture of her posted on Facebook (this may just be normal Alex-Haley sibling rivalry, but even Alex suggests she should have better things to do). Why this gets so much screen time, only the writers and producers of the show know. Anyways, she stakes out Haley at her community service, poised to get a picture of Haley dirty, sweaty and picking up trash. But then she drops her phone. And gets covered in mud in a scene straight out of Anne of Green Gables, specifically this one. This storyline ultimately went nowhere. Let’s stop discussing it.
Finally, Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) take a stand by climbing their favourite tree, which is slated to be cut down. The punchline (which I didn’t realize we should expect)? Cam takes over tree guarding detail dressed in a cat costume, executes expert cat movements, gets stuck up the tree and then rescued by firemen. I echo Lily’s (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) sentiment: “Can we stop this and go home?”
Overall, not their best. But what do you think? Is there a palpable difference this season? Is it just me? Am I just being picky because I’m now writing about the show instead of just watching it? Am I expecting too much from a sit-com? Comment away with your thoughts.
Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9pm EST on ABC