Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Modern Family, "Fizbo": The day the clown cried

Thoughts on tonight's "Modern Family" just as soon as I drive through neighborhoods that have only recently been gentrified...

Thirty seconds into Fizbo, I tweeted an objection to "Modern Family" being the latest show to use the very tired in media res opening device. (See Tuesday's "V" for a recent hackneyed example.) By the time we found out why they were in the hospital, though, my objections had gone away. For once, the non-chronological storytelling served a purpose: adding a nice comic kick to the party as we wondered if the crossbow, the rock wall, the poisonous scorpion, Dylan's mayonnaise allergy or something else would land a character in the hospital.

At this point, in fact, I may just need to start putting some real trust in the "Modern Family" creators. I'm not going to love ever episode (as I didn't the Ed Norton stuff last week), but part of what makes the show so much fun is how it takes things that seem so familiar from other sitcoms - the clueless dad, the party that gets out of control, the bickering siblings, the outrageous uncle - and makes them all feel fresh.

The highlight of "Fizbo" was, of course, Fizbo himself, and how seriously Cam/Eric Stonestreet threw himself into the part. Every time I think that the contrast of Cam's gregarious nature and Mitchell's more introverted, judgmental qualities is going to get old, we get a hysterical talking head like the one where Cameron outlined the four types of clowns, followed by Mitchell creating the marvelous assembly of words that is "weird gay clown uncle."

Rico Rodriguez continues to be wonderful as Manny. The character doesn't know how to tell the Interrupting Cow joke (or its funnier/more aggressive spin-off, Interrupting Starfish), but Rodriguez can even find a way to make Manny's sad bouncing funny. (Gloria being ogled by the dads was more predictable, but when you put Sofia Vergara on a show with a bouncy castle, some things just have to happen the way they're gonna, I suppose.)

We got a more sarcastic side of Phil than usual (I liked him offering to go on a supply run to the 1950s to get Claire some more crafts), which then nicely offset his pathological clown fear.

A very funny, very satisfying episode, and one that'll hold me until the next new one in two weeks.

What did everybody else think?

48 comments:

Laura R. said...

Agreed on all counts.

The cut to Cam's clown shoe-clad foot stepping out of the car at the gas station had me rolling.

And was that the star of "Wonderfalls" guesting as the reptile lady?

Anonymous said...

easily my the best new show I've watched. love the gas station scene

Anonymous said...

I think the reptile lady was Tawny on Even Stevens.

Phil Freeman said...

The gas station scene was easily one of the highlights of an episode that pretty much killed from beginning to end. When Cam said "I will bounce your head off that bumper until the air bags deploy if you don't apologize to my boyfriend" I about fell off the couch.

Rinaldo said...

I adored this episode start to finish. (I don't like looking at clowns -- I just find painted faces repulsive -- but that point of view was addressed in the episode too, so OK.) The structure was classic, not tired, and the predictability of some developments made watching their unspooling all the more satisfying. All the family members behaved in character and yet surprisingly, allowing the farce structure to develop wonderfully well.

I totally trust that they know where they're going. I'm just happy to be there every week.

Skitch said...

I didn't think I was going to enjoy this show and really didn't have high hopes for it at the beginning of the season.

However, I do agree with you that even with character stereotypes, the show is the freshest comedy since Arrested Development and it's clever dialogue and situations almost always elicit several laughs from me.

Although the entire cast is fun to watch, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet might be the most enjoyable.

In a sea of tired sitcoms (which is pretty much nearly everything else currently on the air), Modern Family is definitely on my weekly "must watch" list.

Steve Wirzba said...

The Manny springing into action scene was so prime. As the castle was deflating, and he's on the other side of the lawn I was yelling at my tv "He's gonna zip it! He's gonna zip it!" And then he takes off his shoes!! So epic.

Also, an extension cord plugged into itself to make a belt is hilarious.

Jen said...

This show never fails to amaze me at how well they are able to incorporate each of the characters. With such a large cast, one would expect there to be a weak link or a character who the writers don't quite know what to do with. But in an episode like this one, I think each character/actor had at least one moment that really worked and for a half hour comedy I find that really impressive.

Jen said...

Also, I am incredibly amused that both Modern Family and Glee tonight had clown references. The "Sad Clown" and "Sad clown hooker" could probably both be classified as "tramps"

Phil Freeman said...

With such a large cast, one would expect there to be a weak link or a character who the writers don't quite know what to do with. But in an episode like this one, I think each character/actor had at least one moment that really worked and for a half hour comedy I find that really impressive.

Even the reptile lady got one good line: "I used to have a cat" [sad face]

Chad said...

The "Fizbo" storyline gets an added layer after you read this interview with Eric Stonestreet.

renton said...

Eric Stonestreet is coming to light our local Christmas tree this weekend. Wonder if he'll do it as Fizbo.

The whole comb sheath thing had me laughing... "know what I'm making? Kids bored?"

I thought this was the best episode since the pilot.

Jon Delfin said...

Interrupting Starfish? Safe to say this is a physical, rather than a verbal, payoff?

cadfile said...

This was one of the best episodes of the show yet. Fizbo about to kick butt at the gas station then later screaming like a little girl running away from the loose scorpion was funny added by Phil saying "Too close too close" had me on the floor.

Jay giving Luke a real crossbow reminded me when my grandpa use to buy me cap guns and lawn darts for my birthdays and my mom freaking out because of the danger.

CathiefromCanada said...

I love this show! I agree with your analysis that this show keeps on surprising us with tweaking the sitcom "conventions".
But here's whatI'm dying to know -- who went to the hospital??? I had to miss the last few minutes tonight and by the time I got back, it was over. In Canada, we can't watch the ABC episodes online.
So can anybody tell me?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it obvious? Luke (the one who's always getting injured) is the one who went to the hospital, because he broke something after slipping on mom's comb sheath beads running from the scorpion.

gladly said...

"People will stare: they're not used to seeing one clown in a car."

I was so lukewarm on the pilot, but I love this show now. The whole cast. There are too many tiny enjoyable moments to mention along with the big laughs.

dez said...

Zip line! Rock Wall! It's an Amazing Race party! I want to go!

Very funny ep. And what's the Interrupting Starfish joke?

srpad said...

Cam's giant clown clock=awesome!

rachelmed said...

They had me when Cam pulled out the giant clock! I totally trust the creators now too.

LA said...

I'm certain my neighbors heard me laughing when Cam pulled that clock out.

Best episode yet.

Not that Dylan is related to the hilarity per se, but every episode he's in turns out to be a good one.

ghoti said...

The sight gag with the toy clock was what really got me. I was hyperventilating I was laughing so hard.

ghoti said...

Haha four comments in a row about the toy clock! Should have paid more attention.

It really was perfect.

WhatTheFDidIDo said...

Though it might be because I watched this after returning home from the Bar, but I cant remember the last time I laughed this hard at a half hour of television.

This exchange just slayed me-

Fizbo: Is there a problem here?

Guy: What the hell are you?

Fizbo: I'm the ass kicking clown that will twist you like a balloon animal!

Amazing this show is this funny and working on so many levels this early in its first season. Doesnt have any of the freshmen year troubles that Community, 30 Rock or most comedies typically have.

Karl Ruben said...

Man, I'm so completely won over by this show after they started treating Phil more like a real character and less like an embarrassment-vehicle. Ty Burrell was on fire tonight!

Great stuff between Haley's boyfriend and Jungle Tanya:
(who incidentally, @Laura R, was neither Caroline Dhavernas from Wonderfalls, nor Allison Scagliotti from Warehouse 13, like I thought)

-Her name is Lizzie.
-Whoa... I totally get that.

-I feel like Britney Spears.
-You kinda do look like Britney Spears!


Also, kinda hard to watch Sofia Vergara tonight and not think about this.

Anonymous said...

I also really like the quiet moments where Claire and Mitchell bond over their love of the crafts table (and comb sheaths) and their love for the more uninhibited Cam and Phil. It's cute, without being too sickingly so.

Other than that, I agree - Cam and Manny always slay me with whatever they do.

Cantara Christopher said...

Good post Alan, but does no one here recognize the reference to the infamous unproduced Jerry Lewis-Auschwitz screenplay, entitled "The Day the Clown Cried"? My God, I read that script, it should stay unproduced.

magbot said...

A total embarrassment of one-line riches in this episode. And has anyone noticed that we're getting our wishes of a few weeks ago -- that they tone down the sappy-sweet endwraps and counteract Phil's dopiness?

About as close to perfect as a sitcom gets, IMHO. Eric Stonestreet is killin' it every week.

erin said...

I'm laughing my butt off even just remembering all the great lines the commenters are using. I thought this was perfect from beginning to end. Loved that Luke would love to play with the boxes, until they gave him a box in the bag...and then he played with the bag.

I really like how they made Phil snarkier, and also you can see why he and blondie are together ("...oh thanks, I've been combing it all day.") And I like her relationship with Mitchell, it grounds the show because they're so understated.

There are too many awesome things to name, but everyone plays their parts absolutely perfectly. But clown caps off to Eric Stonestreet...he makes my half hour. He's just so exuberant!

...I would shoot my father with a crossbow if he ever gave it to my clumsy, dim son. You could shoot your eye out!

Hal Incandenza said...

..also a big fan of Manny's hurried "couldn't have picked a worse time, Claire." That kid is preternaturally gifted.

LA said...

About as close to perfect as a sitcom gets, IMHO. Eric Stonestreet is killin' it every week.

Totally. And Emmy-worthy, for sure.

Ingrid said...

My favorite episode of the season so far. Funny and warm.

Anonymous said...

Jungle Tanya was played by Margo Harshman [who did play Tawny on Even Stevens]. But I think people found her so familiar because she looks like Michele Hicks [who played Shane's wife Mara] on The Shield.

DeeTV said...

I love this show.

The only thing that's bothering me, and it's a very small complaint, but it seems Lily has been gone the last 2 episodes. I would think we'd at least see her in a carseat in the garage scene or being carried into the party.

Very small detail, but for some reason it's annoying me.

Other than that, great show, great episode. I can't even decide who I like the most, b/c I like every character on the show.

par3182 said...

between eric stonestreet on this show and jane lynch on glee i'd say next year's comedy supporting emmys should be engraved already

Cee said...

I can't stop laughing at the words "comb sheath."

Travis said...

late to the party but I just caught up my pvr last night:

gas station, oversized clock... still chuckling over it.

Maddy said...

A show i make sure i never miss. This weeks episode was as great as the first.

Anonymous said...

Love love love this show!!!

"The only thing that's bothering me, and it's a very small complaint, but it seems Lily has been gone the last 2 episodes. I would think we'd at least see her in a carseat in the garage scene or being carried into the party."

I completely agree! There have been many family moments where she is completely missing. Football game at Jay's, Manny's fencing match, the party and many more.

Erik said...

The big clock and Phil's quiet terror as Fizbo pulled the paper chain from his throat killed me.

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

This show is effing funny. It kills me every time. It was great that box-loving, bag-loving Luke was satisfied to get a cast for his birthday.

Anonymous said...

I had to replay it to make sure I caught it correctly, but Gloria's line when she enters the bouncing castle to manny - "Why do you bounce sad?" killed me

TODD said...

I thought for sure you were going to write this article as soon as you finished your comb sheath.

Anonymous said...

I love that the real estate agent is scared of a clown named "Fizbo," a haunting homophone of "FSBO" (for sale by owner)...

Anonymous said...

For those who asked, I didn't know either.
This is the best example I can find of the interrupting starfish joke.....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fHCefj4hyg&feature=related

Hope the link works, otherwise, you can google it, because it's really a sight gag.

tintin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tintin said...

I said before that my favorite character was a tossup between Manny and Cam but I have to give it to Manny. To find a young actor who totally gets his character is pretty impressive. I cannot get over his interrupting cow joke, and his "uh, crap" line at failing. He said it with the right amount of sadness/self berating and comedic touch. That kid is gold. His character just isn't as out there as Cam so it's easier to pick Cam as the favorite.

Mr Whirly said...

Clown clock = hilarity.