Best Episode of the Season: Modern Family Season 4

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Season Analysis: There is some stark Flanderization going on with Modern Family, but Phil is still awesome, and Luke is actually one character who has only gotten better since Season 1.

Modern-family-tyburrell_fred willard

“Goodnight Gracie”
Modern Family always goes in for the emotional gut with the final talking head of each episode, and it kind of always falls flat with me.  That is not to say I am heartless (movies and TV shows have made me cry plenty of times) but that MF is not quite pulling off what it thinks it is.  You can’t have everyone constantly be petty to each other and expect shoehorning in an emotional revelation to work just as constantly.  So it was gratifying that all the emotional beats of “Goodnight Gracie” worked without any qualifications.  Two goofy guys – Ty Burrell and Fred Willard – got to play earnest while mourning the death of a mother and wife, while also managing to remain goofy in a way that did not distract.  To expound: Phil’s late mother left him with the odd final request of setting his father up with a neighbor.  The moment when Phil fully explained to this woman why he had shown up at her doorstep made me wish that the people on this show were always this honest with each other.  Not that I didn’t feel that way already, this moment just confirmed my belief.

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Best Episode of the Season: Modern Family Season 3

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Season Analysis: During its first season, Modern Family was good – really good, easily one of the best comedies of the season.  In its third season, it wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t exactly good either.  And the thing is, it still seems like the same show that it always was, which has led me to wonder if Season 1 really was as good as I remember it, or if I just imagined it.

“Treehouse”

Season 3 of Modern Family did not feature any overall brilliant episodes, but there were some episodes that had their moments.  The B- (or C-) storyline of “Treehouse,” with Cam attempting to prove that he could successfully fake being straight and pick up a woman in a bar, was pleasant enough, especially since it is always nice to see Leslie Mann.  She infused a great deal of personality into what was an otherwise nothing role.  But the best moment of this episode – and of the whole season – came at the very end of the titular A-plot.  I think that most viewers were as disappointed as Phil was that Luke eventually gave up on the father-son treehouse building, but all was forgiven in the sweetest, most unexpected epilogue of perhaps the whole series.  Phil’s interaction with Andre touched on the question of “How well do we really know our neighbors?” (Phil and Andre have lived next door to each other for nearly a decade and this is this their first conversation) as well as the struggles for male adults at making friends (Andre’s declaration of “Honey, the guy in the tree’s cool” represented a delightful overcoming of this struggle), and it also introduced plenty of people to the criminally underused Kevin Hart.

Best Episode of the Season: Modern Family Season 2

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“Caught in the Act”

What works best for Modern Family and just about any show with large main casts and multiple storylines in one episode is when everyone crashes into each other.  That did not quite happen in “Caught in the Act” (Cam and Mitchell’s storyline remained separate), but it was close enough.  Phil and Claire already had enough going on without Jay and Gloria showing up at their door.  So of course it would all end up becoming a comedy of errors with misunderstandings galore, and of course Phil’s crush on Gloria would come into play, so much so that he nearly passed out.  The other highlight of this episode was Claire and Phil’s handling of their kids walking in on them.  In a meta moment, the Dunphy kids were right on in predicting the sort of family meeting their parents would have to explain what happened.  And their explanation was actually quite reasonable and sweet, in its own potentially uncomfortable way.

Next (and last) up: Happy Endings

Best Episode of the Season: Modern Family

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“Moon Landing”

Jay and Cameron play racquetball at the gym and experience the titular occurrence; meanwhile, Mitchell spends the day with Gloria and Manny to help Gloria with a driving-related legal matter.  These storylines were perfectly hilarious and both had their moments, but this episode rose to unforgettable status with the convergence of all the goings-on of the Dunphy family.  Claire has been spending the day with Valerie, an old friend from work (Minnie Driver, in a whatever guest appearance).  Claire takes careerist Valerie to her house to make her jealous of family life, only to find the following: Phil, wearing a fake mustache, stuck in a port-a-potty (a plumber working at the neighbor’s house had to shut off the pipes, Dylan parked right in front of the potty while Phil was using it, and as for the mustache, he was ostensibly trying to up his swagger while selling homes, but really he had it on for no reason at all); Haley throwing things out her window while fighting with Dylan, only to be passionately making out with him a few minutes later; Luke shirtless and smelling of alcohol, and Alex swatting at a rat with a broom (Luke and Alex were recycling the alcohol containers from their neighbors’ party from last night and Luke had spilled some from a not quite empty bottle onto himself, and as for the rat, well, there just happened to be a rat in the house that day).  “Moon Landing” demonstrated that Modern Family is in the hands of sitcom veterans who simply know how to make television comedy work.

Next up: Community