'Modern Family' Season 2, Episode 12 Recap
by Joel Keller, posted Jan 13th 2011 12:30AM
['Modern Family' - 'Our Children, Ourselves']
It's hard for me to voice a quibble about what was a pretty funny episode, but I've noticed a pattern emerge so far this season: lots of episodes where the three families largely don't interact. Sure, there were plenty of episodes like that last season, but it seems like the frequency that the families get together has gone down from season one to season two.
Not that it's always a problem, as I said. But episodes where the families are interacting are generally stronger because it doesn't split the writers' efforts. Instead of having to create three mini-episodes, none of which get the attention they deserve, they can focus on one or two stories that are much stronger and complete.
What made me think of all of this tonight was that, in all three stories, there were really funny moments, but all of them left me wanting some more information to round things out.
For instance, why exactly were the Hoffmans so boring that Jay was willing to cut their non-friendship off at the knees? The wife uses a voice altering iPhone app and the husband listens as a hobby. But there was nothing that showed why Jay disliked them so much. And then when Gloria tried to get back at Jay by telling the Hoffmans that he was "so old" that his brain was turning to mush, the only resolution to the story we saw was the couple hotfooting it out of the Pritchett home when Jay offered to drive them to the airport.
Then again, there were some pretty funny moments in that sequence: the reintroduction of Manny's dribble glass right as Jay accidentally convinces the Hoffmans that he's a doddering old man; hearing about the walking stick Manny brought to school; that little nightie Gloria was wearing. OK, the last part wasn't funny, but it has to be mentioned.
It had that Christopher Lloyd stamp on it, where misunderstandings like Manny saying he "drives into the woods" are paramount. Lloyd's last hit series, 'Frasier,' made its comedic hay on those kinds of misunderstandings, and they're done well here.
In the Mitch/Cam story, didn't we all want to see more of Mary Lynn Rajskub as Mitch's high school girlfriend Tracy? She's so good at playing awkward that a couple of more uncomfortable scenes with Mitch, who thinks he's fathered her child after a reunion encounter eight years ago? I would have loved to see more fretting by Mitch, more "let me have my reaction" moments from Cam, and more of a tease as to whether Mitch actually had the kid or not.
Was it a little predictable that Tracy's companion wasn't a kid but just a red-headed little person? Maybe. But the extreme discomfort in the room, including Cam's stumbling departure from the room, made it OK. So was Tracy saying "You're looking at her" when Cam asked her if Mitch had a beard in high school.
Finally, in the Dunphy story, we never got a chance to see Claire and Phil succeed at relaxing Alex. Alex loosens her clenched jaw "like the hippopotamus at the minitaure golf course," says Luke, and we find out that she's tired of coming in second to Sanjay Patel.
But then we go off into Claire and Phil feeling guilty for enjoying schlock like 'Croctopus 2' instead of boring foreign films like the Patels do. Again, there were funny moments here: they enjoy watching sequels numbered 3 and above ("At number 5, they usually bring in a new cast." Phil says with glee); Phil is so enthralled by the 3D he brushes the head of the guy in front of him; they run into a locked entrance door after victoriously showing Mr. Patel how to stamp his parking ticket. Still, there was a story there that was left unexplored, one that could have been pretty good if the writers had time to develop it.
More fun stuff:
-- According to Mitch, Cam's so gay that he can't help but use names of characters from musicals when giving names of his fake girlfriends. Mitch tries the trick on Jay -- showing that Tracy was his one and only woman -- but even Jay caught on when Mitch said he dated the Von Trap sisters. "You played that album every day," Jay told him.
-- "Why do I have to see a foreign film? I didn't do anything wrong." Phil whines better than any of the kids.
-- "She hasn't eaten. I'm doing it for love," said Luke as he tried to throw food in Alex's mouth.
-- It is interesting that Claire is about as obsessive as Alex -- "I've read 100 articles about it" -- but she revels in the adventures of a crocodile crossed with an octopus.
-- Wonder when Lily's stealing habit is going to bite Cam and Mitch in the butt.
-- I do wish I could end fake friendships the way Jay did. He's right; life's too short to hang with people you don't like.
'Modern Family' airs Wednesdays at 9:00PM ET on ABC.
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