Some quick thoughts on last night's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as I eat my way there...
It turns out that NBC isn't the only network that likes the play with the airing order of its shows, as "Run For Your Wife" (about the first day of school) was clearly supposed to air before last week's "Coal Digger" (which already had the kids in school), if not before some other episodes that have already run.
While this stuff is always annoying for continuity wonks like me, I at least understand why the network might have wanted to hold this one back, as it was easily the weakest outing for what's otherwise been a consistently strong, funny new show. In particular, Phil felt more derivative of Michael Scott (socially tin-eared, immature, convinced that the lame activities he's into are cool, etc.) than ever before. Ty Burrell pretty much stole the pilot out from under the rest of the cast, and it seemed like Phil was going to be the break-out character of the season, but I'm already tired of seeing him written this way. (That said, he was given a bit more humanity in "Coal Digger," so I'm not that worried. I just don't want him to be a juvenile idiot every week.)
This was also the first episode since the pilot to largely keep the three families separate. I suppose that's necessary now and again, but I'm already finding that I prefer the unexpected combinations (say, Claire with Manny, or Jay with Cameron) more than the regular family units.
And the comedy here also felt a little too broad. Someone asked a week or two ago how the same writers responsible for "Back to You" could have made this show. My response was that the rhythms of the writing really don't feel incredibly different from that show, or from any other sitcom Steve Levitan or Christopher Lloyd have worked on (separately or together), but that the format (specifically, the absence of a studio audience and/or canned laughter) allows the jokes to be delivered in a more understated way and not feel like they're being forced upon us. In a couple of spots last night, though - particularly the Phil stuff and Haley's driving lessons - it was too much. Even Cameron screaming as he prepared to smash open a car window was over the top, but saved by Mitchell being deadpan as he told the woman from OnStar that she was hearing a man's voice.
Not every week can be brilliance, but I'm not worried. "Community" had a few recent duds, but tonight's episode is a really strong one. Every show, particularly new ones, will have creative ups and downs.
What did everybody else think?