Season 3 of Modern Family kicked off last night with an hour long, two episode premiere. How did things look for the Dunphy clan?
The first half of this third season premiere of Modern Family is a safe and familiar effort from the creative team.
The episode hits, a couple more times, the dead horses that are, Phil trying to earn Jay’s approval, Mitchell taking issue with his lack of masculinity, and Claire’s over controlling “nurturing” of her children. None of these plot lines give us anything we haven’t seen before from the show, and if history proves to repeat itself, we will see these themes touched on a few more times again this season. I mean, how many times have we seen Jay come around on Phil in an episode and give his son-in-law the respect Phil is looking for?
Another plot line that fell terribly flat was the kissing surrounding Alex and some New York kid. What the hell was up with that accent? The kid was terrible and completely unbelievable. Plus, a boy his age would never have the presumptions to kiss a girl like that; or maybe that’s just me? The plot also, sort of, betrayed Alex as a character. I don’t see her being all confused and gaga for this kid; she would report the kid and have him banished from the ranch if stayed true to her character. The idea of stealing her first kiss would be something Alex would be upset about, but her reaction/attraction to the boy felt false; especially when the kid was such a tool.
Speaking of the ranch, where the hell did this setting come from? The season opener already has our characters out of their element on a vacation; I thought sitcoms only saved these sorts of things for season finales and 100th episodes? It was a lot of fun to see Phil dressed like a little boy in a cowboy outfit and Tim Blake Nelson makes a fine, if limited, guest appearance, but what else did the extravagant setting give this episode besides some pretty vistas?
A few things did work in the episode for me though. I liked just about everything with Buttercup the horse; especially when it walked Jay, literally, right over a tree. That horse is a hell of an actor. Most of the nicknames from Nelson worked as well, with Phil’s reaction to being donned, "Buffalo Phil, it was worth the wait,” being one of my favorite lines of the night.
On to some bullets for this episode: -The effeminate Manny jokes fell flat here and those usually get me laughing too.
-Didn’t talk much about Dylan’s plot line, but it seemed like a really contrived way to get rid of the character; and utterly unbelievable at that. Dylan did have a lot of the best lines and moments in this episode. It is a shame to see him go, the best non-regular on the show.
-We have a new, and older, Lily. And she talks. Didn’t do much here, but read on to see how they take advantage of her in the second episode of the night.
-Was Claire a bit too over the top in acting like a B this episode, or is it just me?
-“Knee deep in strudel,” was a great line, but Luke would never, ever, come up with that on his own.
-“not a Mario Bros.” another clever line here, that again the character who says it, Alex, probably wouldn’t think of.
-“It’s me, Dylan.”
-“He ain’t down there,” Sofia Vergara’s delivery was great here. Unfortunately, Gloria going deaf because her ears wouldn’t pop and then proceeding to yell for the first ten minutes of the episode was not so great. Was also quite the easy gag if you ask me.
-Though the ear’s not popping bit might have been worth Vergara singing, “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain.” Best laugh of the episode and props to Vergara for playing along; she is always game to make a fool of herself.
-Phil popping up and begging Claire in Haley’s montage about Dylan, "What if Dylan and I ride the same horse,” was a great and appropriate Phil moment.
-Mitchell’s complete 180 over having a boy coming from blowing up one bird house was a complete stretch as well. Why not play the arc out over a couple episodes?
That’s it for part one of this hour long premiere, keep reading for part two.
When Good Kids Go Bad
This episode had the familiar mechanism, its all going to come to a head at a family party in the end, the show uses a lot, but is full of laughs and is a great improvement on the previous episode.
Lily has been recast and can talk now and the episode uses her to wonderful effect. Whether she is ratting out Cam, pushing little babies, or hanging on to Cam's collar, the creative team used Lily for a lot of great laughs. The best possibly being with the amazing dead pan scowl she gives right into the camera as she holds her dad’s hand in the shower. It’s a silly cap to one of the best cutaway gags yet on the show and it’s a great sign for the potential of Lily. Aubrey Anderson-Emmons is showing a lot of promise. Besides the emergence of new Lily as possibly my favorite part of the show, the episode again chose to lean on a couple of those classic Modern Family/sitcom plot lines, but the results were much stronger than the opener.
The big repeat is Mitchell blaming Cam for something, and it coming around to bite Mitchell in the ass by the end; as the problem is of course his own fault. The thread gave us the aforementioned montage with Lily and another great one with Mitchell not being able to share. The show has paid off with Cam figuring things out better in the past, but seeing Eric Stonestreet fail at their big, “Let’s Hear it for the Boys,” reveal was worth the redundancy; the smash cut to the rehearsal reveal earlier was also well done.
The plot that felt fresh and worked the best this week was Gloria showing off her bad side to save Manny’s skin. Even though we see Manny breaking under Jay’s guilt trip coming from a mile away, Ed O’Neill’s systematic breaking of the kid is really fun to watch. Topping this is Vergara, again, with her breaking into the girl’s locker, threatening Colombian neck ties to the principal, and snapping at Manny, “Quiet, I got this!” a very funny and effective piece to the episode.
Not fairing as well is the action at the Dunphy house as everything really falls on its face here. Claire is just being annoying again, and the lengths at which she goes to prove herself right were unbelievable; especially over the length of a car ride. The gag with Phil and the kids doing the whole, nudge nudge, wink wink, bits about Claire always being right felt incredibly forced and didn’t work at all for me either. The girls’ trying to get Luke to take the attic also goes nowhere, culminating in the credit sequence coda that made no sense whatsoever. Was there a joke or laugh there I missed? Phil gleefully popping his head out of the attic was a great character moment, but other then that I got nothing from that household this week.
On to the bullets:
-Best Lily lines, “Kill new baby,” “We bought matching hats.” Also really enjoyed Luke claiming this wasn’t over between them after she pushed him.
-Claire’s only highlight of the night might be the look on her face when Lily walks out after dressing herself. -Cam’s reaction to not coddling Lily, instead treating her as if she is almost not even there was almost a bit much, but I think worked for the character.
-Jay being relieved Manny wasn’t going to wear the locket, then reaffirming to Gloria was a nice poke at Manny. I feel like they already made the Manny taking to long to get ready joke before though; no? -“Looked like beavers lived there.”
-Has the show ever acknowledged the characters playing to their perception of the in-show documentary the way Cam and Mitchell did about Lilly? I don’t remember, but interesting if they are mixing that in.
-“I had to quit gymnastics!” was the only good thing about the Claire plot this week.
And that does it for the season 3 premiere of Modern Family. A rough start rolled into a solid episode for the show, even if they relied heavily on established narratives for the characters. Walking and talking Lily could prove to be a great addition to the cast, especially if she keeps punching babies, and I hope they take advantage of the comic potential they showed tonight with her.
I will be here every Thursday morning through out the season reviewing the show, come on back now.