Modern Family Recap: F.U. Pritchett

Modern Family

Season 4 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

Modern Family

Season 4 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Peter “Hopper” Stone/ABC

Presumably at a loss for good material about airplane food, ModFam cold-opens boldly and bravely on a mother-in-law joke (Wiki: “Humour and jokes about one’s mother-in-law [the mother of one’s spouse] are a mainstay of comedy. The humour is based on the premise that the average mother-in-law often considers her son-in-law to be unsuitable for her daughter [or daughter-in-law unsuitable for her son], and usually includes the stereotype that mothers-in-law are generally overbearing, obnoxious, or unattractive”) with a side of OMG-Hispanic-women-are-louuuud-LOL!!! and females-are-vain-too-DOUBLE-LOL!!! That’s of course capped off with a gag about Gloria’s Colombian sister harvesting corn and an intro to the episode’s uncomfortable haves/have-nots B plot. If this doesn’t sound like the show you just watched, turn back now, or head straight to the comments to tear me apart and explain how this episode enriched your life.

Right, so they had that baby. Jay’s third time down Parenthood Lane, Gloria’s second. And since, per Louis C.K. (no real reason, just missing Louie hard this week), children start “sucking up resources … taking food and love and education and iPods” from day one, this kid needs a name. How about Fulgencio Umberto Pritchett? F.U. Pritchett! Which is exactly how Jay feels, ‘cause of Spanish becoming the Real Language of America and the plight of the white man and everything.

Phil thinks becoming a godparent means channeling The Godfather. Phil demonstrates his mind’s helpless pun-mechanism in real-time. A bit later, Phil yells, “Quiddiculous!” at a kid with Harry Potter glasses.

“I’m bored,” Lily says, reminding me how much I miss Louie again. In addition to ennui, Lily’s nurturing a mean streak, not because she’s an evil child but because she’s part of this family of literally nonstop sarcasm-slingers. Is she internalizing her grandfather’s school of macho homophobic jokes so played out they’re toothless but still kinda icky? Maybe, or maybe she’s just pushing the parent/child boundaries and mistakenly being a jerk-child for a second. “Sorry, should I call you a waaambulance?” delivered in monotone is too good to warrant any debate about “today, ladies.”

I think Cam saying “snarky” is the first time I’ve heard the word snarky not on the Internet or about the Internet. BREAKING BOUNDARIES. CONNECTING WORLDS.

Phil’s so passive-aggressive he needs more than two full voice mails to air a grievance. Also his kids think he’s a floundering non-adult — all at the same exact moment! So plot-y! At least Phil dubs pizza ‘za, though. Ultimate slang. The Scardino’s-versus–Scandoni’s Pizza joke was better the first time, on The Office, when it was Alfredo’s Pizza Café versus Pizza by Alfredo and it wasn’t as close to just throwing up its arms and going, “Italian names! So funny and same-sound-y!”

No shortage of commenters misses the opportunity to pardon Modern Family as an equal opportunity offender each week. It’s a clichéd, essentially meaningless line bigoted comedians keep in their pockets to justify their hallowed brand of xenophobia or misogyny or what have you. But ModFam really shot for that platonic ideal this week. “We’re in a house of God, dammit!” feels like something The Simpsons should have or must have hit on, but it’s followed by a Catholic priests and molestation joke. Tonight is the equal-est opportunity offender. Everyone who’s argued this as justification for the week-in/week-out jokes at the expense of women and gay people and immigrants: YOU’VE WON. FOR A SECOND.

Let me be clear: I do write about this show for a reason, and I do enjoy it! It often does new or fresh things, and then sometimes it coasts shamelessly on easy laughs. This episode’s tough in that respect — it’s immaculately well oiled but dead-eyed and craven in its desire to make anyone laugh at any cost. The subtle onslaught of “Ha-ha, gays and their clothes!”/”Ha-ha impoverished foreigners!”/”Ha-ha women, women, women!” is unconscionable, but the writing is somehow as kinetic as ever. It’s an exemplary episode of Modern Family, but it misses the mark of being something we need in the world.

Luke’s been having problems since calling his teacher mom. He slips up again — nice touch — and he gets to shout dammit. Luke groaning that he texted mom while dad was speech-ifying, in front of dad, is also perfect. Sharp work from Nolan Gould.

Dylan is in this episode, sort of. Hi, Dylan.

“Wasn’t anybody else bothered that Jay and Gloria stole a cake because they wouldn’t wait their turn?” a commenter wrote last week. “No wonder people complain about the entitlement of these characters.” I haven’t caught most of that criticism, but Gloria’s mom is onboard. “I should be more honest with you sometimes. I don’t like you, Jay.” She rattles off a litany of Jay’s entitlements. It’s kind of nice. But she’s craaaaazy and has a gun. One step forward, two steps back. It’s unfortunate that except for the tender voice-over ending most weeks, this show so often shies away from saying anything. Lots of missed opportunities at the expense of keeping everyone comfy and cozy. Maybe I just want the show to be something else too strongly some weeks, completely independently of the show itself?

Revelation: Gloria took her sister’s big chance in America. Now her sister only knows clothes can be washed in a river. Two consecutive weeks for the Latina housekeeper gag, though. LOL!!!

Anyone else think Cam and Mitch’s friend with the perm looked completely fine? Was that supposed to be an OMG-his-HAIR!! visual gag? At least the guys get to experience an honest-parents-versus-nonparents impasse. Startlingly little in common between those groups sometimes.

Others with nothing in common: Gloria and her sister. Their exchange in Gloria’s Sex and the City closet is rough. Visually jarring, too — Gloria looks like she teleported from Wisteria Lane; Sonia looks like she just finished filming Woody Allen’s next movie.

Claire’s getting high on baby-smell. Shout-out to the first season of The Cosby Show, when another TV-Clair inhaled a baby. Lovely episode. (Clair Huxtable didn’t rub herself with a baby, though. Not her style.)

Presented sans comment, the words of Jay “Nobody doesn’t like me! I’m Jay! I’m salt of the earth!” Pritchett to his first son: “What the hell is that, some kind of a gay protest thing? Your purple panty-tail. We’re in church, Mitchell, not some disco.”

Jay relegates the births of Claire and Mitch to third-and-fourth (or lower?) place after meeting his second wife and the birth of his third biological child. Raise your hand if the glory of your existence has been trampled in the name of a parent’s midlife remarriage.

Gloria stole her sister’s husband, too. Jay wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between them! LOL!!! (I’m dying inside.) But Sonia’s transition from meek and subdued to wide-eyed sister-strangler is way too wooden and, again, plotlike. SONIA TURNS TO STRANGLE GLORIA, the writer’s room types with a little too much glee. Off the page, it doesn’t track.

Mitch and Cam are able to convince themselves Claire taught Lily the waaambulance zinger, rather than just acknowledging that the Pritchetts are a freakishly consistent breed of put-downers. “We’re not bad parents; Claire is.” Raise your hand if you too have thrown family members under the bus by saying something similar.

The Godfather-tribute finale is too cutesy. Too “Do you renounce Satan?”-level faux serious. Too Luke-using-a-realistic-looking-rifle-y. (I’m that guy. I don’t care.) Far too kid-waking-up-with-a-stuffed-zebra-head-in-his-bed-ish. Maybe just not for me, or maybe a flop.

(Note on that groovy teenage hippie sixties party: Was disappointed none of the teenagers were trendy enough to watch Mad Men and have that be their version of the decade. Then I spotted one girl MAYBE dressed as Megan Draper?)

It feels like Jay giving his son a robustly Hispanic name is meant to have the significance of a mid-twentieth-century newspaper headline — WHITE MAN NAMES CHILD CRAZY “ETHNIC” THING; SHOWRUNNER MUST NOW FOLLOW THROUGH; BOUNDARIES PUSHED — but can’t it just not be this big heroic moment? Especially when the show immediately walks it back and gives little Fulgencio the middle name Joseph so he’ll just be Joe and all-American forever?

By the way, the fact that Gloria was unsure what her husband would call their fucking baby until the last second of the christening was HORRIFYING. That’s all I’ve got. I’m finished. I’ll try my best not to sound like a hate-watcher next time. I really, really will. I mean, I’ve gladly dished out a large helping of glowing recaps this season. Last week’s episode was an inarguable five-starrer. I just wish the show hadn’t followed up on that with this.

Modern Family Recap: F.U. Pritchett