Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Modern Family

Modern Family
Episode 22: My Hero
By: Carlos Uribe

Modern Family is a show about three branches of a family.

Spoilers Ahoy!

I have worked for my parents before. It's nothing that I plan to do on a permanent basis but I've helped their business out over a couple of summers. I guess it wasn't a real job since I never got paid or anything but I did get experience I could put on my resume. Working for them wasn't so bad but I can certainly understand Claire's hesitation on the offer to work for Jay. Jay is annoyed because the man he's been grooming to take over the family business had to be fired after he stole from his pension fund. He wants his company in capable hands and he knows that Claire has been looking into getting back in the work force. He offers her the opportunity to come and work under him. He'll take her under his wings and teach her the business so that she could one day take over. In his mind, it's a win-win situation. Claire might appreciate the offer but she doesn't want to take it. She doesn't want to outright reject the offer because she doesn't want to disappoint her dad but she can't stand the idea of working under him. She did when she was younger and she found him to be too hard on her. It put her off as she doesn't think that she should have to put with it. She changes her mind when Jay is able to comfort Cam's insecurity as she realizes that her dad isn't just a tough guy. He has a sweet center that could show up when needed. Claire changes her mind and decides to accept the offer. It's a promising decision since this means that the show can now create conflict from the two of them working together. That is assuming that the series remembers this for more than just one episode. Modern Family may have helped revive the comedy genre but it's memory of previous events has been pretty spotty and unreliable-just like many sit-com comedies of old. Honestly, people complain about the lack of development on The Big Bang Theory but it's just as bad on Modern Family. Actually, it's probably worse because while the Big Bang Theory has been fleshing out it's characters, Modern Family has been busy turning them into stereotypes for easy laughs.

Jealousy can be a weird creature. Cam doesn't mind that Mitchell is friends with the only serious boyfriend Mitchell has had before Cam. The ex-boyfriend, Teddy, invites them to come to a fundraiser that he's hosting at a roller rink. It's basically an excuse to bring the whole family into one setting before splitting them up into their own little plots. It works fine and allows them to react to the stories of other characters but this is minimal. It's also a way to allow Cam to notice how the whole family has kept in contact with Teddy. They seem to like him which does make Cam jealous. Cam has always felt like he's had to work hard to impress Mitchell's family and to see Teddy get along so easily with them must burn. It makes Cam feel insecure about his place in the family and can't help but take every action personally. There's a moment where there's a fire drill. Teddy and Cam try to both direct the family to safety. Cam hopes they pick him but Teddy is closer. The family decides to go with Teddy because it's more convenient. If there was an actual fire then taking Cam's way might have risked their lives more. It's a basic choice that doesn't take into consideration whose been accepted by the family but Cam can't help but take it like they picking Teddy. In the end, Jay manages to make Cam feel better by revealing that the family was actually happy when Mitchell broke up with Teddy. They might like him but Teddy brought out the worst in Mitchell. They have accepted Cam into the family because he makes Mitchell happy and that's what's important. Cam feels better but he still displays a hint of jealousy when Teddy steals the spotlight from him at the end. Overall, it's a good plot as it takes Cam's insecurities and turns them to his place in the family.

While this is all going on, Phil decides to teach Gloria how to skate. This is of course presented as funny as possible. Gloria can barely control herself and she's terrified of being embarrassed. She's mortified that people might see her fail so Phil has to do his best to build up her self-confidence. After they practice in the parking lot, they go in the roller rink only she's still nervous. Phil tries to take away any public attention away from Gloria and towards him by allowing his pants to fall down. It's a plot that's funny but it doesn't have much depth. We don't really get into why Gloria can't bear the thought of looking bad nor does it really develop the relationship between Phil and Gloria. It was funny to see Phil try to teach her but it's not as great as when Luke is made a teacher. Luke's unconventional methods tend to always be funny but I guess he was too busy wrapped up in his mini-plot. That mini-plot is actually what gives the episode it's name. Manny and Luke are given an assignment to write about a family member whose a hero to them. Luke picked his mom but he's afraid his dad is going to be disappointed. He actually starts to binge eat to try and cope with the fear until Claire is able to put that off his chest. It's actually kind of surprising that the episode didn't more with this. I mean Claire is afraid of disappointing Jay when she turns down the job and Luke is afraid of disappointing Phil. The two dilemmas are related but Claire doesn't even seem to realize this. A tighter episode would have connected them. As for Manny, he can't decide on which family member is a hero as they all have flaws that cause him to cross their names of a list. So he writes a paper on what a hero is and ends up getting a C- because he technically didn't do the assignment. A plot that was kind-of-funny but quickly became old as Manny kept crossing people off his list. There wasn't any real depth and the ending narration felt a little too sentimental to work. Although that he got a low grade on it was a great punchline to the whole thing-it almost feels like that time Jay made fun of sentimental endings in the pilot. That was back when Modern Family had it's edge.

The episode does feature a nice plot between Alex and Haley. The two sisters hang around two boys. Haley notices that Alex needs some advice on how to hit on boys. For instance, finding ways to showcase intelligence without putting the boy down. As Haley notes, the goal of flirting is to build yourself up rather than tearing the other person down. Alex learns this lesson and is glad to get this advice from her sister. So glad that she admits that Haley can legitimately be smart at times. Haley accepts the compliment and starts looking at community college brochures that she had previously thrown away. The smile Alex has as she notices this is pretty great. I must admit that a small constant arc throughout this season is how their sisterly bond has been developing. They might be mean to each other at points but they've started to look out for each other in a way they didn't before Haley had graduated.

My Hero is an episode with a lot of laws. The whole Phil plot felt empty and the episode missed a big opportunity to connect Luke's fear with Claire's insecurity. Manny's whole essay was mixed as the sentimentality failed but the low grade he got for it was good for a laugh. At the same time, it was a really funny episode and a lot of the elements did work. My Hero is ultimately a great episode of Modern Family that could have been a little better if it had been able to utilize all of the plots better. It is a great achievement that all of the plots in this episode, and there were a lot, managed to all properly work but an extra draft could have made them all great.

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