Modern Family continues its recent winning streak with another solid episode. What starts out as a rocky offensive ethnocentric stereotype manages to redeem itself thanks to a truly inspired homage.
Let’s bitch it out…
Admittedly I was ready to write off ‘Fulgencio’ less than five minutes into the episode. Between the tired “sassy gay” jokes at Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam’s (Eric Stonestreet) expense and the over-the-top ethnocentric racism of Gloria’s (Sofía Vergara) sister, Sonia (Stephanie Beatriz), there isn’t much lower for the episode to sink to. Even Phil (Ty Burrell) and his bright and shiny naivety can’t rescue things.
Until, that is, he does.
Phil realizes that being nice isn’t getting him anywhere and he turns mean. And suddenly the episode becomes absolutely hilarious with a very clever homage to The Godfather, as Luke (Nolan Gould) goes on a revenge-fueled rampage against those individuals who have wronged the Dunphy clan. Rats are released at 60s-themed birthday parties, stuffed zebra heads are discovered in beds, balloons are shot and popped in front of realtor billboards and lemon trees are crushed beneath the cruel wheels of an RV. No bastion of suburbia is safe, and it all takes place under deliciously inappropriate pretenses as Phil simultaneously agrees his role as godfather at newborn Fulgencio Joseph Pritchett’s Christening.
This sequence in a word: fantastic.
Not that one amazingly clever joke renders obsolete the less than stellar material that comes before it. It does help, however, that half of the offensive storylines – Gloria’s visiting mother and sister from Columbia – improves over the half-hour. In true Modern Family tradition, the show works best when it slips-in heartfelt moments among the humour. The idea that Gloria has to make amends for literally stealing her sister’s life (leaving her in poverty back home) wraps up nicely as she and Jay offer to host Sonia. Not that it excuses the character’s initial cluelessness (Sonia is so stupid that she asks where the corn field and river are and she doesn’t understand what a closet is. Memo to Modern Family writers: this is not humour; it’s just offensive).
Alas the Mitch and Cam storyline is less successful. These two have long been my least favourite part of the show due to the cheap, tired stereotypes that crop up in their storylines. Tonight the guys are struggling to repress their bitchiness after Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) picks up a new catchphrase: “Does somebody need a wah-bulance?” This leads to disastrous martyrdom when they are uninvited to “the party of the century” (with shirtless valets!) by a petty friend after they fail to mock the not-quite-as-disastrous-as-they-want-us-to-believe perm of another friend. Of course this exercise in shallowness is redeemed when it’s revealed that Claire (Julie Bowen) is revealed to be the “bad parent” who taught Lily the phrase, not Mitch and Cam. Thank goodness we can celebrate other people’s bad behaviour (which really isn’t that bad). High fives and tears of joy all around for another deplorable storyline for Stonestreet and Ferguson.
- Once again Modern Family has a storyline scooped by another comedy airing earlier in the week. Previously it was Happy Endings, investigating the perfect “gay” bar/classification. This week it’s the question of whether a baby boy can wear a feminine gown to a Christening, which was on last night’s episode ofThe New Normal. Guess there really are no original ideas in Hollywood
- In case you were wondering about the effect that Claire has on people, the Dunphy family has been banned for life from Scardino’s pizza because of her verbal criticism
- Jay (Ed O’Neill) laments the originally proposed name for his new son: Fulgencio Umberto, whose initials would be FU Pritchett. Admittedly those would not have been ideal, though creating a nickname or abbreviation for Fulgencio may still be required
- The joke that Gloria’s mother, Pilar (Elizabeth Pena), doesn’t like Jay and threatens him with a gun has been done a million times before. Far too schticky. Better is the realization that ‘Jay is to Pilar’ as ‘Phil is to Jay’ – namely someone who tries too hard
- Finally, my favourite line of the night:Sonia (after Gloria inquires what Sonia is suggesting might happen to her): “You might go for a walk in your closet and never come out!”
What are your thoughts on ‘Fulgencio’? Did you take offense to Mitch & Cam or Gloria’s family’s storylines? Did you catch-on to The Godfather reference? And who would you rather have help from to solve your problems: Claire or Phil? Hit the comments below with your thoughts
Modern Family airs Wednesday nights at 9pm EST on ABC