'Modern Family' Season 2, Episode 11 Recap
by Joel Keller, posted Jan 6th 2011 12:30AM
['Modern Family' - 'Slow Down Your Neighbors']
The first 'Modern Family' episode of 2011 was a welcome sight to see, even if all three stories in it missed the mark in various ways. While this show has never been known as unpredictable -- no one's going to lose a loved one at the end of an episode -- it has for the most part stayed away from stories where most viewers could guess what's going to happen from the early going. This one felt a little slapstick and predictable, something that's a disappointment considering the high bar the show has set for itself over the last season and a half.
Of course, no episode of 'Modern Family' can go by without some pretty funny moments crossing our screens. And most of them came from Luke Dunphy, one of the funniest dumb kids ever created for television.
"Order a pizza and call the police. We'll see who gets here first." Where did young Luke get his jaded view of the police from? Phil? It does sound like a line he'd say, and Luke worships the ground his dad walks on. And he seemed to hammer away on that "bleep the police" theme as Claire railed on the driver who was speeding through their neighborhood every day.
Maybe I've been watching sitcoms too long, but once you met Phil's hard-charging, fast-talking client Laura (have we seen Jami Gertz since 'Still Standing' ended?) didn't you think "I bet she's the driver who's making Claire nuts?" It's been a sitcom trope since day one: does Phil choose this new client that will get him the quarterly sales award, or his wife who's on enough of a crusade to print signs saying "Slow Down Your Neighbors"?
Phil being Phil, he tried to weasel his way out of it. "I've been tested many times. They've found nothing!" So it was not if but when everything was going to blow up in his face. It's too bad we didn't really get to see Claire's rage at being "betrayed" by Phil. Hopefully the Mylar balloons will help, though I doubt it.
Back to Luke. Who doesn't like his teaching method? Shoot someone with a water rifle until they get it. Gloria was just not going to get the idea of riding a bike until being chased by a stream of water. It was a nice touch to see Luke drinking from the gun as Gloria rode away; it reminded us that this new hard-ass is still Luke at the end of the day. It's too bad that Gloria's fear of being grabbed on the bike came true, thanks to her stepdaughter Claire.
Another funny moment: Gloria's talking head saying she didn't like Jay's "ballsy" touch in teaching her to ride. As soon as she said she wanted a gentle, woman's touch, we cut to her asking Phil to teach her how to ride. So true in the realm of that show, as Phil is probably more sensitive than even Cameron.
Speaking of Cameron, the plot where he and Mitch befriend their wacky neighbor Barry, only to find out that he's squatting in Lily's play castle, was the least successful of the three stories. I'm not sure if it was the general unfunniness of guest James Marsden getting in the way or just the fact that it's just a plain silly story, even the sight of the two of them popping their heads through the playhouse windows as they were fighting didn't make me any happier -- we saw that gag when Mitch got locked inside the castle when they first set it up.
Again, there were funny moments in there, such as Cam's bitter landlady calling him Mitch, and saying "You're lucky you're not allowed to get married," and Mitch joking that a friend who said he was from Europe was from a nation called "Pretentioustan." But there wasn't enough Mitch eye-rolling and bickering about it with Cam to make the story sing.
More fun stuff:
-- When Gloria wonders to Jay how a bike stays upright, Jay replies what we're all thining: "You shouldn't be able to stay upright. It just works."
-- Jay had a bunch of funny lines tonight. "Stephen Hawking can ride that bike." "Two-thirds of my house can't do what a billion Chinese can." I especially liked how he volunteered to go to the jewelery store with Gloria as she crazily rode her new bike into the bushes.
-- Have we not seen a "Luke, I am your father" moment to this point? It seems like it would be the first arrow in the Phil Dunphy comedy quiver. Maybe it's because he hasn't had access to a megaphone before. "It's what I said to you as you came out of your mother's lady parts."
-- Phil about Claire: "She needs to run every morning or she goes nuts. She's like a border collie." Claire: "You're comparing me to a dog?" Phil: "The smartest dog that ever lived!"
-- Did Phil sell Laura's house or did she fire him after the inevitable fistfight with Claire? Why, oh, why didn't we get a chance to see that?
Like I said, lots of funny little moments. It's what makes 'Modern Family' episodes so hard to criticize, because even the lamest episodes have a few hearty laughs. You've got to appreciate a show that's still pretty decent even when it doesn't come out throwing with its best stuff. It's what pitching aces are made of, and 'Modern Family' is definitely the ace of the ABC comedy lineup.
'Modern Family' airs Wednesdays at 9PM ET on ABC.
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