Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Modern Family

Modern Family
Episode 1: Suddenly Last Summer
Episode 2: First Days
By: Carlos Uribe

Modern Family is about a traditional nuclear family, a multi-generational family, and a gay family.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Modern Family begins a one-hour premiere. There are two episodes that aren't really related but they both open the season.

The first episode takes place over the summer. A significant portion of the episode concentrates on most of the characters trying to get rid of their kids. It sounds awful but they are hoping for some kind of break. For Phil and Claire, it's to have a kid-free week. For Jay, it's to avoid being bombarded with Gloria's Colombian family. It makes sense although the latter is largely playing on racial stereotypes. The two suffer different obstacles. Jay is worried that Gloria's close attachment to her son might make her reconsider sending Manny to Colombia by himself. He has to pull all of the stops to make sure that Manny is able to get on board. This creates some pretty good comedic scenes. At the end, he's the one that really ends up missing Manny. On the other side, Phil and Claire have to find a way to get their kids to change dates. This task is largely left up to Phil. Phil tries his best to manipulate Alex into changing the dates she helps Habitat for Humanity by making her feel guilty for going so far away. When he needs her to change again, he basically makes the point that he has to learn to let go and she has to become independent. The reason he has to change is because Luke refuses to budge because he likes a girl. As for Haley, Phil has to bribe her before threatening her. In the end, he's able to get what he wants. I'll admit I was a little confused during the episode because Phil talked about Haley going back to school. Since she had graduated high school but been kicked out of college, it seemed like a continuity disconnection. It's possible I had forgotten that she had decided to attend community college from last season but it would have been nice to have gotten a reminder. It has been three months after all. Overall, these two plots were solid on their own but they really weren't anything special. They had their moments but they were predictable.

The reason the first episode was simply genius had to do with Cam and Mitchell. As many of you know, gay marriage was ruled legal in California. Guess where this show takes place? California. The legal ruling basically means that Cam and Mitchell can now get married. The two get excited over the prospect because it's what they've wanted this whole time. Only this is where the series explores the new social reality of gay marriage (in California and some other states): who proposes? In a heterosexual relationship, it's the guy who typically pops the question. The girl might undermine tradition by asking but it's generally expected that the guy do it. In a homosexual relationship, both members are guys. So who asks? The two get the idea that they should ask. Mitchell wants to do something romantic for once in his life while Cam wants to surprise Mitchell with the question. The two of them go to their respective friends (Mitchell to Claire, Cam to Gloria) to get advice on how to do it. The two try their best to concoct their plans but they are their own obstacles. In the end, there is a perfect proposal when the car breaks down. The two start to replace the tire when the two start reminiscing and just as their about to put on the new tire...they look at each other and say “yes”. In that moment, the only question being asked was not with words but through their love that they could feel through each other. It was simply a perfect television moment...one that will be remembered for the eons to come. For this reason, the first episode was simply and utterly perfect. It even justifies the latest Best Comedy Emmy this show has won: when Modern Family gets it right, it really gets it right. There are many ways they could have written the proposal but the “yes” at the same time is a great one. It even answers the question of who should ask: it doesn't matter as long as the answer comes out to be yes.

The second episode of the one-hour premiere was actually stronger as a whole. It basically concentrated on the very idea of first days. Luke and Manny start high school. The two of them basically try to get away from their parents as quickly as possible. Phil and Gloria, feeling rejected by their offspring, decide to go get coffee together. Only the coffee shop they chose is currently closed because they're filming a commercial in there. The two get cast as extras. We get some funny sequences where they keep messing up the shoot because they actually say things or they do some terrible miming. They bonded over the fact that their boys are growing up to be teenagers. While them becoming extras in a commercial was a bit sit-commy, it managed to work because it had the right heart. The other plot had to do with Cam. Cam has lost his job as middle school music teacher due to budget cutbacks. He does get a job as a substitute high school teacher. His first assignment is to teach AP European History. Here's where Modern Family is a little odd: he's subbing on the first day of school and yet everyone acts like their in the middle of the semester. What? Logic aside, he's offered the opportunity to permanently teach the class if he does a good job. Only Cam doesn't actually know anything about history so he tries his best to fake it. I'm not sure if the viewer was supposed to root for him to teach a subject he doesn't know anything about. If anything, I felt way more for Alex even though this plot was largely about Cam. She basically forces him to admit that he shouldn't be teaching history. All hope is not lost because Cam is able to use his knowledge of football to become a coach. Only since this is like the only high school that doesn't pay their high school coaches, he'll also be forced to teach a PE class. It's a good plot even if it's a bit convenient that just as Luke and Manny move to high school, he follows them. Oh, well, hopefully this means we get a story with all three of them.

The final first day has to do with work. Claire starts working for her dad as he starts to groom her to take over the company. Only she doesn't have the best day because she wants the employees under her to like her. She brings them cookies, tries to make jokes with them, and agrees to have dinner with the weird employee. The weird employee her dad is planning to fire as soon as he can find a non-weird replacement. What does Claire do when she finds out the weird employee is buying a house? She warns him he's about to lose his job of course. The weird employee lashes out by bringing down their whole system. It's a plot filled where Claire is wrong because she refuses to listen to her dad. In trying to be friends with the weird employee, she messed up the company. It's the weakest plot in terms of laughs but it still works well.

Overall, Modern Family began the season on the right foot. The first half had some predictable plots when it came to trying to get rid of kids but they still had their share of laughs. The proposal was simply a top-notch television moment that might be the one Modern Family is remembered for the most. The second half was stronger as a whole despite it's weaknesses. It might have been sit-commish and illogical at times but I ended up laughing more.

Other Notes:

Nolan Gould (who plays Luke) looks a lot older since the last season finale. Rico Rodriquez (who plays Manny) doesn't.

The footage at the end of Jay eating all the cookies is comedy gold.

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