Spoilers for last night's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as I slut it up with Driving Miss Daisy...
The concept of sweeps months (using November, February and May to help set ad rates for the next year) is outdated and silly, but the networks still pay attention to them because their affiliates do, and that means we get a certain amount of traditional sweeps stunt programming, like bringing in guest stars like Elizabeth Banks and Edward Norton to hang with the "Modern Family" regulars.
Now, I'm always happy to see either of them. Though "Scrubs" never knew quite what to do with her, Banks always brings a spark to the stereotypical girlfriend roles she has to play in the movies, and any chance to see Norton display a lighter side (ala "Keeping the Faith") is welcome.
That said, I thought Banks fit in much better last night. Norton got to wear the floppy '80s haircut and speak in a (mostly consistent) silly accent, but his storyline was pretty clearly an excuse to bring in a name guest star and let him be goofy. Phil and Claire had a moment at the end - and it was a rare Phil story that gave some hints as to why Claire would want to be with him - but it was mainly about the spectacle of Norton doing a private bass concert of Spandau Ballet tunes.
Banks' plot, on the other hand, felt more organic, and the sort of thing the show could and would have done even with a lesser-known guest star. Every new parent, gay or straight, struggles with maintaining a good relationship with their friends who are single and/or don't have kids. It was nice to see glimpses of a less responsible Mitchell and Cam - when Sal asks Mitchell if he wants to feel her new breasts, the usually uptight Mitchell says, "I'm gay, not dead!" - before their paternal instincts kicked in. And Cam's First Child Syndrome theory put a nice bow on the whole thing - Sal's not (that) bad, just understandably jealous.
Frankly, though, my favorite subplot of the whole episode was Jay's Night, which just had a bunch of our regular characters bouncing off each other: Gloria sounding like she's being strangled (and, briefly, sounding like she's about to sing the theme to "The Great White North") as she sings to the baby, Manny crushing on his cousin (and Jay calling him "Jethro" in response), and, especially, Jay's superhuman ability to stay one step ahead of Haley.
They've done such a good job in short order of establishing this ensemble and showing how different configurations of it work that guest stars often seem besides the point. I'm not saying the show shouldn't have them. The Shelley Long episode was one of the best so far, and both Banks and Norton were funny last night. I just want it to be an occasional thing, that's all.
What did everybody else think?