I swear I’m not writing this because I’m still pissed Parks and Recreation that didn’t win Best Comedy Series at the Emmy’s. Rather, it’s because I know how great Modern Family can be (season one), and how much it struggled through much of season two. It was still a very solid sitcom (any scene with Luke was comedy gold), but not as uproariously funny as freshmen year episodes “Fizbo” and “The Incident.” Below are five ways that the upcoming season of Modern Family, which premieres tonight on ABC at 9 p.m., can improve in areas, however slight they may be, where they didn’t do so well last year.
#1. Let the Family, the Modern Family, Come Together
Modern Family is at its best when the three families are all together. That way, there’s one major plot that can get a good chunk of the 22 minutes per episode, rather than three minor, disconnected stories where all feel too brief. And if you can’t think of a good reason to have everyone together (it doesn’t have to be every week, either, just more than once every five or six episodes), ditch a family for a week. As Community, The Simpsons, and countless other sitcoms have proven, not every main character has to be in every episode. Give Cameron and Mitchell (and New Lily!) a break one week, and spend more time with Jay and Gloria.
#2. Give Cameron and Mitchell Something to Do, Other Than Bickering
Time and time again last year, Modern Family filled up its proverbial bucket from the well of “Fussy Mitchell and unappreciated Cameron disagree on something, only to work things out in the final minutes.” Ditch that obnoxious trope (or if you keep it, let there be some physical comedy in there—in other words, more Cameron falling into Lily’s pool, like in “See You Next Fall,” and less Cameron not seeing Lady Gaga in “Good Cop, Bad Dog”), and give them something fun to do. When there’s no consequence of the characters actually breaking up, you can only do the fighting plot so often (see: every Marge and Homer divorce episode after “The Cartridge Family”). But hey, at least we’re finally beyond that stupid kissing controversy.
#3. Fewer Repeat “Characters”
Let me clarify: if they want to bring Pepper back, sure, he’s great. But one of the biggest missteps from season two was airing “Bixby’s Back” and “Princess Party” back-to-back. “Bixby,” of course, featured the return of Phil’s suave(ish) alter-ego, Clive Bixby, and Claire’s seductive personality, Juliana, and “Princess Party” brought Cameron’s clown Fizbo back to the show. That’s too many character callbacks in such a short amount of time. (The broken step gag is still funny, though, because it’s so brief and unexpected.) Try creating new identities rather than rehashing old ones.
#4. No More Crazy Claire
My apologies, but I’m going to quote myself here, from a recap of “Mother’s Day”: “To teach [her kids] a lesson, Claire makes [them] stay where they are…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.”
There’s your Best Supporting Actress, everyone. I was a full-blown Claire fan in season one, but then her energy levels were ramped WAY up last year, and as documented above, she become overly frantic. Dial back the Bowen, guys, and then things will be fine.
#5. Give the Kids the Same Amount of Screen Time as Last Season
See, it’s not all bad! The best thing about season two of Modern Family was Manny, Haley, Alex, and Luke. Especially Luke. ALWAYS Luke. He was the show’s true MVP (“You do fun stuff. You put that potato chip in my sandwich. That was a crunchy surprise”), and the one who should have walked away with a Best Supporting Actor trophy (no offense, Ty, you’re number two). I somewhat worry, however, that the writers will give the kids TOO much screen time, because they know how popular they’ve become. Having too much of a good thing is, well, a bad thing, and hopefully some child labor law that I’m not familiar with will restrict how many episodes Alex, Manny, and Luke are in. (That sentence was a lot creepier than I meant it to be.) Haley, on the other hand, is 20 years old, and not only does that weird me out, it also means she doesn’t have as much to worry about. If they even out the airtime with the kids, and do the other four things above, Modern Family will return to the heights of season one.
Josh Kurp criticizes because he loves.