Modern Family returns to celebrate ‘New Year’s Eve’ a few weeks late (great scheduling job, ABC!)
Let’s bitch it out…
After some time off, Modern Family returns with an episode that is more heart than ha ha as he three adult couples head to Palm Springs for New Years. Both the Phil (Ty Burrell) / Claire (Julie Bowen) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) / Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) plot lines can be characterized by the recurring line “is this our life now?”
For Mitch and Cam, this mood is represented by their inability to stay up til midnight on New Years. If we’re being honest, this is more symptomatic of their fears that as parents of a young child they no longer have a place in the sexy subcultures of the gay community – hence their Goldilocks approach to choosing a bar that is the best ‘fit’ for them. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of jokes to be milked from this (which is funny considering Happy Endings did the exact same storyline the day before and it was hilarious)
For Phil and Claire, the feelings are similar, though the manifestation comes in the form of a lack of intimacy that has Claire (always the worrier) concerned that they’ll soon be sleeping in different beds (like married sitcom characters of the past?). Their adventures seeking the hot springs behind the hotel is the most ‘traditional’ of Modern Family plots: the intentions of the desk clerk (Kevin Kirkpatrick) is a mixture of the show’s trademark miscommunication (Phil and Claire fail to realize he is interested in indicting them into the Nude Years Eve club) and stranger-danger-humor (see previous brackets…that’s creepy!)
Least successful of all is Jay (Ed O’Neill) and Gloria’s (Sofía Vergara) piece which wanders and ultimately loses its way. The bit about the ancient Palm Springs hotel never truly pays off (there’s little comedy to be mined by left-over socks and Phil refusing to tell Claire what’s behind every closed door). Since the other couples ditch him early in the evening, Jay spends most of his evening in the company of strangers until Gloria randomly rediscovers him playing cards with Billy Dee Williams (gamely playing himself) so that he can parade them around in outlandish product placements.
My continuing issues with Gloria’s pregnancy is that it is employed whenever it becomes narratively convenient. Here she can barely make it through dinner because she is so tired (thereby proving the others a chance to escape) but miraculously turns up energized and able to drive and gondola kiss at midnight. Is it too much to ask for a little more consistency?
The kids’ story lines are a similar mixed bag as the Manni (Rico Rodriguez) story has very little pay-off: he tells off his sullen blind-date. More rewarding by far is the sisters’ battle with Luke (Nolan Gould). Here we see the subtle work of Claire rubbing off on her daughters as they have concerns about Luke entertaining a girl in a closed room at the tender age of
11 13 14. I particularly like the chemistry between Sarah Hyland and Ariel Foster. After so much combativeness between them, it’s nice to see them in a story that doesn’t have them feuding.
- Possibly the funniest bit in an episode that goes for heart more than funny bone is Lily’s ( Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) recurring bit about no one watching her: coloring on the walls, playing dress-up and getting into Claire’s make-up
- As someone who used to celebrate New Years with my grandmother, I can certainly empathize with Mitch in the cold open when he and Cam are astounded to discover that it’s only 10pm. Staying up til midnight can be hard, y’all
- Finally, cherries jubilee = yum!
- Mitch (to Cam about his desire to be Lainie Kazan’s Eleanor, the front desk woman): “You be her and I’ll be whoever left her.”
- Manny (to Joyce, his sullen blind date): “If you’re hungry for broccoli later, you’ll find some in your teeth.”
- Eleanor: “I’m doing a set in the Starlight room and I’m missing a pasty.” It’s funny because she’s old.
So Modern Family is back – what did you think of the episode? Do you prefer the heartfelt episodes more than the funny ones? Did you like Haley and Alex working together? Sound off in the comments below
Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9pm EST on ABC