Monday, September 4, 2017

Emmy Episodes: Modern Family

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Modern Family: Season 8, Episode 10 “Ringmaster Keifth” (C+)
Modern Family: Season 8, Episode 17 “Pig Moon Rising” (B-)
Modern Family: Season 8, Episode 18 “Five Minutes” (B)
Modern Family: Season 8, Episode 22 “The Graduates” (B-)

I stopped watching this show after staying faithful for more than seven years before it returned from hiatus in January. My friend Andrew (a reader of this blog since its inception) pointed out to me that, if I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, it wasn’t worth sticking with even though it was only half an hour long since that was still thirty minutes out of my week. I thought that - finally - this show wouldn’t be nominated for Best Comedy Series, but alas, it was, and now I’m back to sampling a few episodes the same way I have other shows each year since my interest in the Emmys really began. These weren’t all that bad, but it still doesn’t make me want to watch the show again. I wasn’t overly fond of two of the six submitted episodes, “Weathering Heights” and “The Alliance,” that I reviewed back when I was still a regular viewer.

The first of the remaining four episodes was a Thanksgiving installment, one that didn’t have all that much to do with the holiday but did involve some cooking mishaps, resulting in the use of a fancy butler service given to Mitchell as a gift along with Cam’s custom apron with the bells on it, an example of this show’s excessive in-your-face style of comedy that sometimes dominates things. The casting of Kelsey Grammar as Ringmaster Keifth was spot-on, though I did think the whole plotline was a bit unnecessarily over-the-top. Fred Willard was nominated for an Emmy previously for playing Phil’s dad (as well as three for playing another TV dad on “Everybody Loves Raymond), and this was far from his most memorable appearance. Phil’s awkwardness was also less funny than usual, and Gloria freaking out about her missing “go bag” didn’t go all that far.

The second episode featured a structure that this show uses over and over again, but it was actually executed in a fairly clever way. Jay wouldn’t give Mitchell a picture until he helped him procure tickets for the concert Gloria wanted to go to, Mitchell had Haley ask Cam to call his ex for the tickets in exchange for helping her get the thing off her windshield, and Cam was already having Haley recreate the picture of Lily’s that he accidentally used as a tissue. Of course, Cam’s boyfriend was actually in Miami’s Hound Machine and therefore totally useless, and everyone spilled the beans anyway, as always tends to happen. Luke having all the solutions because of his street smarts proved to be a fun ending, and I certainly preferred that to the odd and uncomfortable nature of Phil having to do a blindfolded, straight-jacketed magic trick so that Luke could actually get accepted to college somewhere.

I have to admit - the opening of episode three was great. I don’t think I’ve found a plotline quite as funny as Mitchell and Cam taking sleep medication before their flight only to find that the flight wasn’t taking off and they had to scramble to get another option. Continually forgetting why things were written on their arms was great, and their return to the counter to complain about going to Dallas and their one-second cart ride to Gate 32 were the most hilarious moments. That was the strongest segment of the episode, which featured a much more formulaic saga involving Manny trying to park while Gloria chastised Jay for interrupting her stories and thinking that he could tell them better than her. Rainer proposing to Haley before they both realized that they were in such different places in the span of their lives was, I imagine, the end of that plotline, which started with the chronological first of this show’s submissions this year. I don’t know if Alex’s new boyfriend - and Claire’s employee - was prominently featured previously, but that plotline did not feel like it was knocked out of the park.

I probably could have realized that this was the season finale, but I’m not keeping track anymore of where these characters are in their academic lives. The news that Lily’s smart and might skip a grade shocked everyone, and I think that was played more for laughs than anything else since she felt the need to tell the person giving them a tour of the school that she was adopted and the closing scene featured her fathers making absurd discoveries about her secret life. Luke buying his parents an ugly car so that he could keep it for himself was actually genius, and kudos to him for some surprising creative thinking. Javier taking Manny to a strip club was a predictably poor idea, and it was only worth it for the tenderness of Manny telling Jay he considered them hanging out father-son time and Javier getting out of being yelled at by Gloria by heaping compliments on her. Haley and Alex getting Phil all credit out with a video montage left him dead inside, a typical physical comedy prompt for Emmy nominee Ty Burrell, and there wasn’t much that came out of that that didn’t feel forced. Joe trying to get attention by telling Gloria that he was about to talk to a stranger was the funniest of those attempts.

This show isn’t all that bad but it shouldn’t be a nominee in this category anymore. Looking back at my reviews, there was a time that I loved this show. I even gave the first two seasons an A! After the third, however, this show started going downhill, and I think it’s way past time that Emmy voters dismiss it the way that they have other shows that feel far fresher and funnier than this one does at this point.

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