I’ve been saying for weeks that Modern Family has quickly vaulted itself on to the short list of funniest shows on television. Unfortunately, I need to take myself a bit to task over tonight’s episode. Earlier in the week, I wrote about signs a television writer has run out of ideas one of which was “needless celebrity cameos.” Tonight’s “Great Expectations” makes me look a bit of the fool as Edward Norton and Elizabeth Banks guest-starred in over-the-top roles. I’m not sure how I feel about this. All signs point to it being much too early for something like this to happen, especially when the two characters could easily have been played by any no name actor or actress.

It’s Phil and Claire’s anniversary and isn’t it fitting that Phil is the ultimate gift-giver? He just cares too damned much and Claire just, well, doesn’t get the job done. She gives him some coupons for free hugs, prompting Phil to wonder about the message here considering hugs are already free. The anniversary theme is fairly common in sitcoms although reversing the gender roles gave the episode a nice twist. I just wish they hadn’t introduced Edward Norton as the eccentric, bassist-as-emergency-present from Claire. It didn’t work, at all. Phil and Claire could have played out this little snafu in any number of ways without bringing in a celebrity to dominate the scenes.

Similarly, Cam and Mitchell decide they need a night away from Lily and round up their third musketeer Sal (Elizabeth Banks) for a little rewind to the old days. Banks worked a little better here mostly because her character was just a bit more believable. Operative word being: little. But I still go back to asking why it was necessary to begin with? Like Claire and Phil, Mitchell and Cameron are more than capable of exploring the “baby is taking over our lives, how do we balance this with our friends?” theme without relying on a Hollywood-type distracting us from the concept.

The only thing I really enjoyed tonight was Jay’s night. Grandpas love spending time with their grandkids. Teenagers hate it. Haley’s insistence on ditching family night for a party gave Jay a chance to flex some of his overprotective chops (which he did with surprising efficiency). The two true highlights were Jay spraying a fawning Manny with a spritzer much like you would a dog who has misbehaved and Dylan enjoying Jay’s night like only a six year old trapped in a teenage body could.

Modern Family is too new and too good to rely on cameo gimmicks. With such rich characters and great actors and actresses, it is just not needed. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

- I need to get that viewfinder so I can take a look at Phil with a perm.
- Anyone else think the young son looks an awful lot like Chunk from The Goonies?
- Gloria’s singing is the thing of nightmares.
- As much as I disliked Elizabeth Smart’s cameo, I did love her little snide remarks concerning Lily. Calling her Yoko because she is, “Asian and broke us up,” was a classic line.

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