I always enjoy when Modern Family takes on an issue that a person might actually have in real life. For most current sitcoms, this rarely happens — how often do you really have to worry about surviving in a school-wide paintball game? — but Modern Family is more grounded in reality than most comedies. Last night, there were three different storylines, and three different real life moral dilemmas:
1. Do you do something fun when your partner is sick?
Mitchell had bought tickets to see Lady Gaga with Cameron, but the latter is sick in bed, and can’t make it. Through nifty flashbacks, we see that Cameron is the carrying-his-partner-around-the-house type when Mitchell is sick, but when the situation is reversed, the same can’t really be said. Well, let me rephrase: Mitchell does a lot of good things, like rubbing Cam’s feet (and the same foot twice!), but he also wants to just dance in the dark with the boys, boys, boys…I’ll stop.
I’ve never quite understood why, if one half of a couple can’t make, in this case, a concert that they were supposed to attend with their partner, especially due to illness, the other half should feel guilty about attending? I mean, I get the guilt, as does Mitchell, but shouldn’t at least one person have fun, while the other’s going to be sleeping the night away in bed (or passed out on the couch) anyways? The only other option is to sell the tickets, but, y’know, Craigslist Killer.
There wasn’t a ton of dynamite stuff in this story, and the roles should probably have been reserved (why would you strand your second most comically gifted character, after Phil, in bed?), but I like that Mitchell basically got away with going because, well, he didn’t do anything wrong. (Cameron doesn’t seem that pissed when he notices the glow stick around Mitchell’s neck.) I also liked Mitchell’s “monster” dance and how the show didn’t resort to any Gaga song puns — like I did. Just one more: sure looks like Mitchell was so happy he could die to be at the show! I’m done.
2. Can the Good Cop become Bad, and can the Bad become Good?
Has Modern Family done the “Phil and Claire trading places” plot before? I honestly can’t remember, but if they haven’t, they must have been sitting on the story for a while, and luckily, the wait paid off. Although Claire as the obsessive-compulsive nice parent wasn’t as good as it could have been (in her desperation to seem more carefree, all I kept thinking was, “Are we having fun yet?” to which Manny and especially Luke would respond, “Um, no”), the “you poked the bear!” Phil was great. It’s easy to take the kids go-karting and on a rollercoaster, but it’s not as simple getting them to clean the house before going to the mall. The well-shot (props to director Fred Savage) scene of Phil wrapping duct tape around Haley or Alex’s laptop, while the two of them, not having eaten all day, were scrubbing the floors and unclogging the drain of their own hair, was one of the best of the season, as was the line about Phil threatening to cut Haley’s hair because that’s what blocking the drain, after all.
When Claire returns, with Phil still trying to keep a stern expression on his face and force the girls to clean up Luke’s milkshake-inspired vomit, she admits, “You are not a good bad cop, and I am a very bad good cop. We need things to go back to the way they were.” You don’t have to tell Phil twice, and things go back to the way they were, with the exception of one household…
3. How do you say “no” to a nice person?
Gloria has a never-before-seen habit of bringing the dreamers of the world home with her, the ones who have an idea and just need someone, preferably someone with money, to listen to them. This week’s would-be Edison is Guillermo (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and star of In the Heights), and his idea is Good Dog-Bad Dog, where a canine gets a treat for doing something good and gets a treat for doing something bad. The difference? The “good” treat tastes like bacon, while the “bad” one is “very bland.” It’s a terrible idea, and because Guillermo seems like such a well-meaning, decent guy who has spent the past half-decade of his life inventing something that literally no one would buy (kind of like Homer’s makeup-applying shotgun), Jay tries to let him down easily. Unlike Gloria, who’s telling Guillermo they’ll make millions even though she knows it’s an awful idea too, Jay’s a good businessman — and when Gloria returns from trying and succeeding to console Guillermo (he’s going back to school), she comes back with someone: his dog. “But you don’t even want a dog,” Jay says. Gloria responds, “I know, I have a problem!”
Jay tries to return the pup to Guillermo, but just can’t do it, and much to Manny’s delight, there’s now a fourth member of the Delgado-Pritchett house. Whether we’ll ever see the dog again is a whole other issue.
So, what’s the lesson here? Well, you can say “no” to a good person, but the guilt of doing so, and “guilt” seems to be the key word for every one of the plots last night, will get to you, so you try to do something nice, too (unless you’re Claire, I guess). Unless you’re Mitchell (and me), and then you shouldn’t worry about guilt. But if you’re Phil, you should be forced to feel guilty and do something you don’t want to do…Well, the message (and the answers to the questions above) was a little all over the place, which would usually bug me, but “Good Cop Bad Dog” was funny enough that it doesn’t really matter. We, the viewers, might not have been taught anything, but someone did: Gloria learned the expression is “sugarcoating,” not “sugarjacket.”
Josh Kurp is going to start using “sweet and sour chicken!” as an expression for surprise from now on.