Modern Family is a bit all across the board this week with the pathos not really working, but making me laugh aloud on a number of occasions.

The strongest plot of the week is sadly the least serviced one and that is Haley crashing Jay’s pad for a pool party with her “Uncle” Manny acting as chaperone. The set up is perfect and the premise lives up to it as Manny is great as he runs around the house admonishing teens. This is all we get though, one scene, and they try to wrap up it all up, unsuccessfully, in the final tag. The tag was just too forced, and I would have much rather watched Manny scold the party guests then seeing Claire struggle to not smile than talking about death.

That last sentence is shocking in that is actually a major plot point in an episode of television. The big story around Claire and Luke is that she smiles when we she talks about death and it is such a terribly contrived problem for the sake of trying to create humor. (They did this last week with her as well.) Add in the contrived arrival of not one, but two, random house guests at the dead neighbors house as Claire and Luke just happened to be in there returning the contrived plot point that was Luke taking the guys TV and you have a number of problems. Plus, it’s not shocking that Luke is lacking emotion, he is a blank stare most of the time, and watching Claire trying to get something out of him was boring as hell to watch. The sweetness at the end in turn doesn’t work because of this and you end up with a plot that did absolutely nothing from start to finish.

Almost as unsuccessful is Phil and Alex’s forced day of adventure, and it might have only been saved of being worse by the brilliant bit with the dog tags and the seagull. Phil realizes he has no memories for the most part with Alex and he is trying to create the perfect one on a whim. Phil’s forcefulness feels just as forced on the audience and the attempt to get the pregnant lady to go into labor was horrible. The bit with the moon was kind of sweet I will admit, but it was all too little way too late.

The most successful of the other stories is the meeting of Cam’s dad, Merle, and Jay that actually gets the pathos right in the end. Jay and Merle both rub each other the wrong way, but when they get to heart of their problems they feel real and honest. The plot provides a number of good laughs, is about as believable as anything the show has done in a long time, and features some great acting by both of the dads. I hope we get to see more of Merle and the genuine dissection of “men” dealing with their gay sons in a loving, yet confounded way was something genuinely interesting; a feat the show rarely reaches.

Another mixed bag of an episode for Modern Family, but there were a number of good one liners thrown in from start to finish. A pair of the episodes plots works quite well, but unfortunately the other two fell quite flat. It’s amazing the show can hit the mark near perfectly in one through line and whiff so badly in the others. The show hasn’t shown it’s A game from start to finish in a long while, but I hope that it can continue to build on the baby steps it seems to be showing to get back to the greatness it is capable of.

Bullets:

-I told you that the neighbor should be dead. Makes last week’s episode retroactively better.
-What was that smiling death announcement?
-Why is she smiling at dead hamsters?
-“Others reach out for comfort…”
-Manny at the party could be great!
-“Thank you Uncle Manny,” Ha, great start.
-Cow beds?
-We aren’t that country in Missouri.
-Merle “Stonewall” Tucker, great Civil War name.
-“Give me the growl that means ok.”
-Alex is shooting through puberty this season.
-How did they get that seagull to do that?
-“Huh?” great, just right back in the car.
-This Luke story isn’t really going anywhere.
-“I don’t think you are ready up here for what you’re going to do up there.”
Manny is a hell of a chaperon.
-Good call back to the cow beds.
-Stretching a bit with this inducing labor gag.
-What is going on with this laugh off.
-Ohhh, Cam, getting nasty.
-“Walt, I’m waiting for my hug.
-Who smiles, this is terrible, and who delivers this late.
-The sweetness worked for the old guys, no one else really.
-Rushing the Manny/Haley ending.

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