Before discussing what’s turning into a potentially major problem for Modern Family, let’s get to the good stuff. For the purposes of “Bixby’s Back,” it’s mostly the Phil and Claire plotline, or should I say the Clive and Juliana plotline.
I’m a fan of sitcoms doing callbacks to previous episodes, which is why I was so happy to see the return of Phil and Claire’s alter egos, previously seen in last season’s Valentine’s Day episode, “My Funky Valentine.” After initially deciding it was silly for them to try something vulgar, something so panty-involved (don’t use that word around Claire, though) again this year, Claire changes her mind after seeing Phil riding a Hoveround during a nice fancy dinner. She wants to grow old with him — but not quite yet. Cue Clive and Juliana, and also cue the smooth ways of Mr. Bixby, National Man of Mystery:
-“Baby doll, I’ve been to lyin’ to my wife for 16 years.”
-“You look hot enough to cook a pizza on.”
-“I don’t like to talk about money, but I have exactly $10 million — minus the cost of your next drink.”
-“Pretty and smart. Or should I say, pretty smart.”
-“Surprising, I know. I’m usually pretty good at catching things from women in bars.”
-“Don’t take too long.” “I never do.”
Seriously, if Ty Burrell doesn’t win an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy, there’s just no point in even having the award show (the way he runs back to his house to pick up a nametag, yelling, “I’m not here” to the kids, is fantastic). Eric Stonestreet might also be good enough to win the Supporting Actor statue again, but if he and Mitchell keep getting such subpar stories, he’ll never have a chance to repeat.
It was nice to finally see some mingling between Mitchell and Cameron and the rest of the family, even if it was only one brief scene with Jay and Gloria, because it feels like forever since they’ve interacted with a Dunphy or Pritchett. But again, they get the weakest plot. They both think that Mitchell’s sub-par assistant has a crush on his boss, until Cameron finds out that he actually has a crush on him. Or does he? Does it really matter? The boys start fighting over who’s really the object of the assistant’s affection, and even go so far as to leave their dinner to go to his house and find out. But right before barging in, Mitchell receives the longest text message ever from his assistant saying that he’s quitting because he can’t imagine getting between the two. Mitchell and Cameron make up — until the end-credits segment, where the same thing happens again with a delivery boy. The entire plot was so vague, so unfunny that it feels like the writers are really misusing the lovable Stonestreet and talented Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
So many of Phil and Claire’s great scenes are about them having sex (“Am I a bad enough mother to ignore that?” “Oh, you are bad,” or something like that), or at least implying that they’re going to; same with Jay idolizing Gloria’s body. But what about Mitchell and Cameron? They’re never sexualized in the same way, which isn’t totally the writer’s fault (imagine the uproar if Mitch and Cam acted out the Bixby mistaken hotel room situation), but they still don’t seem like a happy couple; they just seem like two friends who live together and have crushes on one another. I know this sounds like a rehash of last year’s kissing kontroversy, but if we’re going to see an entire episode about a random character having the hots for Mitch and Cam, can we also get an episode where Mitch and Cam have the hots for one another?
Jay and Gloria (who we didn’t see until after the first commercial break, which was a little odd) and the kid’s stories weren’t much better, but at least they had Jay’s impression of Gloria, Gloria thinking Valentine’s Day is a contest for her to win, and Dylan’s fantastic B-side to “In the Moonlight (Do Me)” called, presumably, “Imagine Me Naked.” It’s the best song Jarvis Cocker never wrote. It even made me look past the creepiness of Uncle Manny hitting on Hayley, now sporting a new haircut. Step-uncle, I know, but still. When the D-story (how many other comedies have four plotlines going at the same time?) is stronger than the B, you know it’s not going to be a great episode.
I do look forward to the Bixby spinoff, Turtlenecking, though.
Josh Kurp has a crush on both Mitch and Cam.