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August 30, 2015

Review: Modern Family - Undeck the Halls

by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 10th 2009 1:30AM
Modern Family: Undeck the Halls
I think we all know the holiday season is about learning from our mistakes, and then trying to make amends, right?

Well, that's what it's about in the extended Pritchett family. It's the first Christmas for Jay and his new family, but he's a little surprised when Manny starts bringing some Colombian Christmas traditions into the family. Cameron and Mitchell take Lily for her first Christmas photo with Santa Claus, only to be disappointed when a shift change brings a less realistic Mr. Claus to the chair. Cam has his own mini-crisis, though, because of a troupe of carolers he has some history with.

The craziest of all of this is what went down at the Dunphy household. As a parent of a ten-year old, I know I've struggled with having to go through with whatever threat I make during a disciplinary lecture. It taught me to be careful of what I say, because I may not want to go through the hassle of taking all the toys out of his room and putting them in the garage.

When a burn mark was found on the edge of the couch, all hell broke loose as Claire and Phil tried to figure out which of the kids was the culprit. Phil, who we learn has a tendency to reach for the moon with his dramatic proclamations, declares that if no one comes forth, Christmas will be canceled. So it was said, and so it had to be done. Unfortunately, no one could come forth because none of them had done it. It was the sun shining through a gaudy ornament Phil's parents had given them.

Still, Alex proved that underneath her smart alec attitude, and frustration at being so much smarter than her siblings, she has a good heart. She went ahead and fessed up to a crime she didn't commit to save Christmas, and was willing to succumb to whatever punishment her parents came up with. A week of grounding was getting off pretty light by my book, but then a trip to Italy as Phil's apology for falsely accusing the kids was about as close as that reach for the moon. I loved Claire's expression at this one.

The characters on Modern Family have become so fully realized that these actors can speak so much to us without a word. Claire does it here, while Gloria does it toward the end. This has to be one of the best family ensembles ever assembled. Every actor brings their A-game to the table with every episode. Usually you have one or two that just outshine the rest of the cast, but that's truly not the case here. They just collectively outshine most other shows.

This holiday episode was lighter on the funny moments than most episodes of Modern Family, which isn't to say that it wasn't plenty funny. It substituted those with more heartfelt moments. Homeless Santa was able to forgive Cameron and Mitchell for getting him fired with their complaints that he didn't look enough like St. Nick. They didn't even have to admit they'd done it; he forgave them after seeing the kindness in their hearts -- which may have had a healthy dash of guilt thrown into the mix.

I love it, though, when he punched out Cam's rival in the chorus. Even after usurping control last year and getting Cam kicked out, he still had to go to his house to rub it in his face, and then when Cameron sucked it up to be the bigger man and show true Christmas spirit, he had to keep on being a jerk. He deserved a good hit.

The best moment of the entire episode came when Jay arrived at his house toward the end of the episode and put down the law that no Colombian traditions were allowed in the house. The looks on Gloria and Manny's faces were so raw and real, it was painful to see. But when Jay popped back out with "Innocente!" embracing the Colombian tradition of pranks at Christmas, it was simply beautiful. He even had fireworks!

Modern Family won't be back until January, so they left us with this early holiday gift, and I loved unwrapping every minute of it.

[Re-live your favorite minutes with clips and full episodes of Modern Family over at SlashControl.]

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I love that nearly every episode piles on more absurd backstory for Cam. He's falling into place as the show's Tobias or Dwight. Not that the three are similar characters, but they're all designated as the "nothing is too over-the-top" character in their respective shows.

So you can first introduce him as a prototypical flamboyantly gay man. Then you can reveal that he somewhat ironically grew up as a country bumpkin. Then you can reveal that he is adept in the art of Japanese flower arrangement. Then you can reveal that he was a starting offensive lineman for the University of Illinois. Then you can reveal that he's a classically trained auguste clown. Then you can reveal that he was at one point the leader of a Christmas caroling group called the Greensleevers. And it all seems to fit, somehow. It shouldn't, but it does.

December 12 2009 at 3:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Yme Sandelmann

My mother once threatened to throw all my toys out of the window into the garden if I did not clean up my room. Which of course I didn't. I was terrified to see that she would follow through with her threat... When I came home from playing all my stuff was in the garden. But I was a smart kid, so I pretended I didn't care and left it there for two whole days. And then, when it started raining my mom ran out and collected all my toys... We can laugh about it now, but it was psychological warfare back then!

December 10 2009 at 10:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I only started watching this show, so I don't know if they have shown Phil's mother. If not, since they are using Fred Willard as the father, they should try and get Georgia Engel as the mother. She would seem to fit Phil's personality.

December 10 2009 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And I jumped both times the monster popped up on the tv. This is something my kids would do to me, bless them. Starting new traditions IS hard. You grow up with something, then tend to keep doing it. Suddenly you realize you DON'T have to put up lights in the middle of a snowstorm. My daughter loves theme trees. I don't. Her new tradition in her family. It works.

December 10 2009 at 8:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The funniest part of the episode for me was when Jay went over to Cam and Mitchell's house and they started talking about how they wanted to start new Xmas traditions and out pops the Santa shirtless and asking if they were ready to try out the swing. Its those subtle, throwaway lines and moments that make the show as good as it is. This episode had less of those but was still quite strong.

I was surprised to see that Fred Willard played such as a small role, but obviously I suspect we will see more of him in future episodes.

I agree that the cast makes up a great family ensemble but I think the characters on Arrested Development together were just as strong if not stronger than the family on this show as a whole.

December 10 2009 at 3:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hate to say it - the first weak episode of modern family(1 out of 10 for a brand new sitcom, where every other episode is almost as funny as The Office). Even so I enjoyed it and would watch it again. Every single cast member is perfect in their role.

The new Wednesday line-up: Cougar Town(if they can't kill it; please do), Scrubs(if they still need to air it), Modern Family, Better Off Ted.

I finally watched The Middle, it's Malcolm in the middle without the wit or heart. Not to mention the parents aren't played by actors who got skillz with a z. Two in a row for Cranston FTW?! Yeah.

I say - ABC might finally have a solid comedy line-up.

December 10 2009 at 2:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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