Modern Family Recap: ‘Slow Down Your Neighbors’

Like Parks and Recreation and classic-era Simpsons, Modern Family does a remarkable job of giving its guest stars good roles. Nathan Lane was a mahvelous Pepper, Edward Norton made the world briefly care about Spandau Ballet again, and whoever cast Fred Willard as Phil’s dad deserves some sort of recognition.

Last night’s episode, the first in nearly a month, broke the trend, though. I enjoy James Marsden as an actor (and let’s face it, he’s one handsome man), and he seems very willing to do whatever’s asked of him, but his role as Barry didn’t really seem to have a purpose. Jokes about being spiritual — in this case, training to be a Reiki master — are never particularly funny, and although it was cute to see Barry and Mitchell together in Lily’s princess castle, the plot never got past its ridiculous premise of this homeless dude living in Cam and Mitchell’s backyard for me. Marsden warming himself by the fake fire was pretty brilliant, though.

And speaking of brilliant: Luke, once again, stole the show with his “that’s stupid” reaction to Gloria’s fear of being grabbed while she’s riding a bike (‘cause it is), and his Super Soaker method of getting things done is something that should seriously be thought about in our public schools. There’s a list of things that Modern Family has done right in season two, and giving Luke more screen time is at the top.

(Also, did anyone else notice the Time Warner commercial starring Mike O’Malley and Nolan Gould, better known as Kurt’s dad from Glee/the host of Guts and Luke?! It’s like hearing Jon Hamm’s voice in a Mercedes-Benz commercial during Mad Men.)

As for the rest of the Dunphys, Claire’s suburban task of the week is getting a fast driver in their neighborhood to slow down. We found out later in the episode that the driver also happens to be Phil’s client, Laura, played by Jami Gertz, the actress that wouldn’t spare a square for Elaine on Seinfeld. Claire is at her best when she’s exasperated, and the look she gives Phil when she steps into Laura’s car is hysterical. But don’t worry, things will be fine between them: he bought her a dozen…Mylar balloons.

Most shows with large casts can hide away characters for a week if the writers don’t have a good enough plot to give them; not on Modern Family, where every week, Claire and Phil (and usually the kids, although not Alex in last night’s episode) must have a plot, as must Jay and Gloria, as must Cameron and Mitchell. In “Slow Down Your Neighbors,” the last two couples drew the short end of the proverbial stick.

Recap of the Recap: Modern Family is at its best when its three (or more) plots come together, or at least when the guest stars are given choice roles. Last night’s episode was a bit all over the place, and while it wasn’t bad, per say, it also wasn’t particularly memorable. The scene of Luke spraying water at Gloria was a keeper, though.

Modern Family Recap: ‘Slow Down Your Neighbors’