Modern Family Recap: ‘Mother’s Day’

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Although “Mother’s Day” was one of the better episodes of season two of Modern Family, it still had its share of problems. I realize how contradictory that statement sounds, but the show’s a bit of a contradiction, too: it’s still a quality sitcom that’s doing the same thing it did during season one, when it was one of the best things on TV, but that’s exactly why things have been subpar this year; it hasn’t evolved — “Mother’s Day” could have been episode five of its freshman year, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe I’ve come, in a post-Office world, to expect too much of sitcoms, or at least expect their to be some kind of episode-to-episode arc, which even 30 Rock has and, further back, Seinfeld had, and I should just appreciate a comedy for making me laugh, but gosh darnit, something bugs me about the lack of evolution. So, in regards to last night:

It Still Had a Terrible Cameron and Mitchell Storyline. I’ve written about this before, but the writers really need to figure out what to do with Cam and Mitch next season, so as to not waste the talent of Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Seemingly every episode this season has the couple bickering to each another, usually about how they’re not feeling appreciated. The idea of “who’s the mother on Mother’s Day” is an interesting and potentially funny one (according to 9/11 Truth, a website full of facts, “The existence of a ‘Mother’s Day’ is a discrimination against gay couples”), but the only time I really laughed was when Cameron threw the football and it hit the elderly guy on the bike—because, well, when is a man getting hit by a football not funny? The same can’t be said of seeing Cam, who was my favorite character on the show last night, become stubborn for the 30th time.

It Still Had Claire Coming Across as Creepy, Rather Than Charming. I like Claire. She’s a great character, and I think Julie Bowen is a talented actress. That having been said: what she did last night was just disturbing, and I don’t even mean the wanting-to-hit-her-kids part. She and Gloria go on a hike for Mother’s Day with Manny, Luke, Haley, and Alex in tow, but before their car is even out of sight, the kids start complaining about rashes, coyotes, and hunger pains.  To teach them a lesson, Claire makes the kid stay where they are, while she finishes the hike with her mother-in-law, who’s wearing the world’s ugliest pair of pants that still, somehow, work on her. I can buy Claire leaving her mostly underage children to look after themselves in the middle of nowhere, and I can even accept that, occasionally, she just wants to smack them, with the first, presumably Alex, going down and the other two tumbling like dominos behind her, but what doesn’t make sense to me is, after her children decide not to apologize for their whiny actions, why the writers would make her so upsettingly creepy. The scene near the end of the episode, where she tries to get Luke, the easiest one of the group to manipulate because he’s so gosh darn honest and good, to say that he’s sorry is just off — Claire’s so desperate for attention and gratitude that she keeps picking at her own son until he breaks down and says what she wants to hear. Happy Mother’s Day!

It Still Had Phil Yearning for Jay’s Attention. I kind of wish they’d drop this recurring joke by now. The Jay-and-Phil plots don’t usually work very well, even though, considering Jay’s straight-faced demeanor and Phil’s goofiness, they seemingly should (spinoff?). But they’ve gone to that well too many times now, and although the tables were turned, with Jay acting as the emasculated male, it still felt a little stale. The two funniest scenes — Phil’s Julia Child impression and Phil getting his Fresh Prince on to the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” — were when the tensions between the would-be duo dropped. Phil neutered isn’t very funny, and that’s too often what Jay does to him. (Also, as someone who has watched The Sopranos and The Godfather, and other stereotypical Italian pop culture items, I’d like to point out that Jay’s mother’s recipe isn’t very authentic — it’s not called “sauce,” it’s “gravy,” and the pasta was served wrong, too. JUST SAYING.)

It Still Had Too Much Gloria. Let me clarify: Sofia Vergara has been a revelation as Gloria, but the character works best when she’s making snide comments, largely at Jay’s expense, in the background, rather than giving her an A-plot. I didn’t like the way she threw Claire under the bus in “Mother’s Day” (although I am glad that Luke, etc. didn’t hear Gloria say that their mom wanted to hit them, because then the story would have just come spinning round), and the episodes where she’s been the funniest, like last week’s “Someone to Watch Over Lily” or when she goes with Jay to see where he’s going to be buried, are coincidentally the ones where she’s featured less. I might be the only man to ever utter these words, but: Modern Family needs less Gloria. (At least they’re over the joke of Columbia=Funny, although Gloria saying, “persnickety” does, in fact=funny.)

It Still Had the Kids, and Luke In Particular, Stealing the Show. And boy were they good last night:

-“You’re going to outrun a coyote, the fastest mammal in the world?”

-“It smells like lemon-lime, a flavor coyotes hate.”

-Luke: “I say what eat what we will.” Manny: “Then I guess we’ll be eating the mood.”

-“It looks like you walked under a bird that poops ugly hats.”

-“If we’re thoughtless, how can we think?”

-“Did you know more people have died hiking than in the entire Civil War?” “OK, what book did you read that in?” “Book? Wake up and smell the Internet, Grandma.”

You’ll notice a large amount of Luke quotes, and, well, yeah, that little real-life Mensa boy deserves some serious awards for his work this season.

Josh Kurp is excited, however, that Fred Savage directs next week’s episode.