Thursday, January 21, 2010

Modern Family, "Fifteen Percent": What is hip?

A quick review of tonight's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as I order a Sanka...

After a couple of sub-par episodes that largely kept the three families apart, "Modern Family" was back in terrific form tonight with an outing that had at least some interaction between Jay and Mitchell's families. And it was that interaction - first with Mitchell playing the gaydar prank on Jay, then with Cameron turning up to show that the poor Kristen Schaal character had no gaydar - that led to some of the episode's best moments and biggest laughs.

I get what Steve Levitan was saying about it feeling contrived if the families are all together too often. But with the three groups living so close together, and with all of them having different kinds of childcare needs, it doesn't feel contrived at all to have a few characters from different groups crossing paths every week.

At the same time, some of the funniest bits in "Fifteen Percent" happened when the groups were isolated from one another: Mitchell asking the car's voice recognition software to give him directions to Hell and the car responding with "Mexican food," or Schaal being freaked out by Manny's wise-beyond-his-years quality, or Phil and Claire, and then Claire and Hayley, celebrating home theater success(*) in parallel to the Cutters celebrating their win in The Little 500 at the end of "Breaking Away."(**)

(*) This may just be one of those stories I could relate to a little too well, as I periodically get calls at work, on business trips, etc., to walk people at my house through the various remote control procedures necessary to make our living room AV equipment work. If I ever get conked on the head and develop retrograde amnesia, we're all in trouble, viewing-wise.

(**) Why do so many of the best Underdog Sports Movies of all time take place in Indiana? You've got "Breaking Away" (with early roles for Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley, Dennis Christopher and Daniel Stern), "Hoosiers" and even "Rudy."


Levitan's script had a lot of fun with Chazz Palminteri obliviously doing and saying stereotypically gay things, and it also had two of the best punchlines of the series to date: Gloria explaining that "I come from a neighborhood with a lot of prostitutes," and Mitchell responding to the fiery bouquet by telling the florist, "Look at that: two things flaming at once."

Very, very funny episode.

What did everybody else think?

40 comments:

Brian said...

Solid episode, but I still wish they didn't feel the need to end every week like it's the damn Wonder Years. Would it kill them to carry over some conflicts or end on a note of discord once in a while? Like real families do?

Zac F. said...

I'm going shallow first by saying that Julie Bowen looked absolutely terrific in the black bra and panties. I've had a crush on her since Happy Gilmore.

The two flaming things at once and Hell = Mexican food had me laughing also just as much as "He built his own helicopter. If he was still alive today...."

Phil struggling to explain to Claire how to use the technology setup reminds me of how I had to show my mom how to use the cable box with her TV. All these years later, I still see her TV turned on, but the cable box off because she didn't allow the remote to turn off both.

A very funny episode, indeed.

Badlands said...

You have to love the IU (Indiana) reference. Indiana is dominating television right now with The Middle and Parks and Recreation. Modern Family is simply trying to get a little piece of that! LOL. I thought it was a great episode and loved Manny's "maturity". He is the love-lorn psychologist of the show.

dez said...

Now I want to watch "Breaking Away" again.

Besides all the great lines (from Mitchell, Cam, Jay, and the GPS), the look on Phil's face when he saw the broken remote was hilarious. Heck, I even laughed at the look on Lily's face when Cam's flowers lit up.

paul in kirkland said...

Aside from everything already mentioned (including the gratuitous bra & panties scene - thank you!), I thought it was hilarious when the two parents basically got into a debate over which one of their kids were the stupidest.

"Oh COME ON!"

belinda said...

It was really nice to see Kristen Schaal pop in!

I thought it was a hilarious and solid episode, and I think they're dealing with the separations better (since they're funnier and better crafted), but I do have to say the really satisfying ones are still the ones when the family all interact.

Dennis said...

Carol Vescey in the black underwear!!

Wow:)

LA said...

Great laughs all the way around. I had a lot of fun watching this one.

For what it's worth, Levitan tweeted that the episode was more or less an homage to his wife who is techno-challenged.

Anonymous said...

It was really nice to see Kristen Schaal pop in!

Especially with FOTC dead and no more Mel. And she's not done any Daily Show bits in a while.

Heather said...

Love Kristen Schaal and her lack of gaydar and her freaking out on Manny.

Question Mark said...

You could see the "Manny's internet date is an older woman" joke coming a mile away, but the casting of Kristen Schaal was perfect. I literally laughed out loud when Gloria opened the door to reveal her.

Catty Hall said...

This show is doing what so many others have tried to do in the past, and failed. It's actually funny and endearing in its first year. Funniest debut season of any show I've seen for a long time.

Scott said...

The little snowflake makes it cold, cold, cold..Set Temperature makes it hold, hold, hold...

Been singing this song all morning.

:-)

LDP said...

Hold on just a second -- when was the Claire-in-underwear moment? I thought I'd seen the whole episode. Here's hoping my wife hasn't deleted it from the DVR!

Indeed said...

Great episode.
Jay mumbling under his breath that only Mitchell would know the difference between a Chinese baby and a Vietnamese baby had me in tears.
Phil's song to teach Claire how to use the thermostat. Love it.

bsangs said...

Zac - Don't worry about it. That was my lasting memory of the episode too! Simply outstanding and very funny scene to boot. It made me think of the "Happy Gilmore" dream sequence when she's with Shooter.

Great episode. Chaz was fantastic.

FlopEJoe said...

"Are you doing that thing where you start pressing every button?" "No." This is exactly like my mother who manages to get her TV into states unimagined by the craziest psychopath.

Matt said...

The "Claire in her underwear" bit was in the cold open, when she was looking for clothes Haley had "borrowed" from her, not realizing Haley had an open webcam chat with her boyfriend going.

forg/jecoup said...

LDP: Claire's underwear scene was on the cold-open/the first part, it was after Phil's talking head when he said that Claire has issues with technology then it was cut to Claire going to her daughter's room in a bathrobe then Dylan saw her in undies through the webcam :D

What a hilarious episode :D

Q Ball said...

I've been hard on MF these past episodes, but I have to give credit Levitan for a fantastic episode. Every single character had a funny moment and the stories were good as well. Keep it up MF.

forg/jecoup said...

My favorite of the episode was how Cam described his birth, so over the top but so funny

Steve said...

This show is quickly becoming among my favorite comedies of all time. All it lacks is a a larger number of episodes. But Arrested Development was the last show to hit the ground running this ferociously. Even HIMYM, which I loved in the first few seasons, never put me in tears like this show.

Each family section cracks me up and there are no weak links. Plus, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara are breathtakingly gorgeous.

I think the fact that they close the episode out in a happy-family way is great. It wraps a lovely bow around a wonderful episode (strangely, I loved the Sopranos finale for the precise opposite reason).

Kate E. said...

I clearly seem to be in the minority, but I like the sappy little wrap ups at the end. Sometimes the feel a little too after school special, but in general that warmth is what makes the show work for me. Also, since I live in the same area as my family and have kids, I do see them all the time and I vote for more situations of mixing the families up!

BDoodles said...

In the earlier episode about Phil & Claire's anniversary - when Phil listed any number of things he'd wish to receive as gifts - I immediately thought "They completely understand my husband and I." This thought grew ten-fold last night when Phil had the TV media all set up in such a complicated system. I felt Claire's pain - and frustration! Loved Phil walking in to the smashed remote...I've wanted to smash ours so many times. In fact, I finally had to have my husband type out instructions for all the TV/movie watching scenarios so I can use our system. It's prevented a lot of phone calls and text messages when he's at work or traveling!

While the show veers off to boringland occasionally, all in all I really enjoy it and get at least a few laugh out loud moments every episode. Pretty good for a 1/2 hour show.

Chazz Goodtimes said...

An entertaining episode for sure- a little light on the laugh out loud moments but I'll trade a little laughter for Carol Vescey in her underwear.

My only complaint is that they had two very talented actors in guest-spots and didn't seem to get much out of either.

andythesaint said...

I'm a technical writer by trade, so I produced some quick user guides on how to use our various AV equipment for my wife's parent for when they come to babysit.

After last night's episode, my wife told me that she sometimes refers to them as well when I'm not around.

JanieJones said...

I thought it was a hilarious episode.
Definitely a strong one!

Sam said...

Why do I feel like I recently heard that "Love is right around the corner," joke somewhere else? Was it on the previews last week, or on another show? Help please.

Anonymous said...

My take on this criticism that the show gets too sappy is... that is where the show cleary IS. It has been since the pilot, so I've decided to just go with it. I think for what it is, it works well, and if that's the show they want to make, I'm good with it.

It reminds me a bit of the little voiceover endings Scrubs always did, where they tied all the storylines together. I felt that was a bit forced at times too, but it was also within the boundaries the show set for itself, so I went with it.

We literally cannot watch Cameron's face in any interview scene without bursting into laughter. He gives such great face. Where has that dude been before this?

Manny has really grown on me as well. He was hilarious last night. My instinct would also be to say that the actress who plays his mother is too over the top, but I really think she somehow takes that over the top to the other side and makes it WORK. Her line deliveries are really funny, and I'm not even sure why. The line about all the prostitutes, and several others, had me laughing out loud. I would normally find that kind of character far too stock and stereotypical, but she is really genuinely funny.

I look forward to all the storylines they can do with this large and talented cast. I don't mind that they don't force too many pairings too soon.

Robin said...

ABC re-aired the pilot last night at 7 CST, and I watched it again. I found it interesting that I laughed even more than I did the first time, simply because I feel like I know the characters now. When I first watched it, I couldn't stand Phil. Last night, I couldn't stop laughing because it was just so, Phil. I see this as proof that I'm not only invested in the one-liners (Ping!) but in the characters as well.

This has surpassed the Office as my favorite half-hour comedy on TV right now.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My take on this criticism that the show gets too sappy is... that is where the show cleary IS.

And yet Levitan (in the press tour stuff I linked to above) has said that the show is coming across sappier than they realized, or intended, and that they may be toning that down going forward.

MCustis said...

Modern Family has definitely become our family's (just me and my wife) favorite comedy. The "sappiness" which it's been criticized for makes it better because the show (much like early seasons of The Office) has a real heart to it. It makes the characters more relatable and likable. Also, when an episode isn't super funny (which is rare) it is still enjoyable (unlike, say, 30 Rock).

Hatfield said...

And yet Levitan (in the press tour stuff I linked to above) has said that the show is coming across sappier than they realized, or intended, and that they may be toning that down going forward.

Obviously I believe him, or at least that he said this, but it seems odd that they could be watching the same show we all are and NOT see how incredibly sappy it was. For my part, I had hoped that was some sort of subtle humor, but now I just wonder how much attention they were paying.

Either way, I still love this show.

srpad said...

Another winner. I also wnated to voice my support for the "sappiness". I really don't mind it. At least not yet.

erin said...

i find the marriage between Gloria and Jay, when she's agreeing that she can see Shorty's gay, as oddly sweet. I know when they started it was a stereotypical young 2nd wife for the old guy, but Sofia Vergara just brings something fun and sweet to the show. I totally buy that they love each other.

I also thought it was touching that you can see how hard Jay is trying to be a good friend to Shorty, when Mitch told us how bad a dad he was to him when he came out. Aw...

The look Cameron gives Mitchell after trying to comfort him ("You're crying." "No I'm not." *Cameron face*) was classic. Practically EVERY Cameron face is genius. I'm with the other commenter...where did they find this guy?!? He deserves an Emmy!

Allison DeWitt said...

Another vote for happy endings. I was tiring a bit of the voice overs but they've toned that down.
A little expression of joy about a small thing, like mastering a TV remote..I think that's one of the pleasures of the show.

I laughed so hard at the flaming tulips and resulting screams, and almost thrown away line, I couldn't breathe. I had to calm down so I could hear properly and rewatch the scene.

The GPS bit, Phil talking to Claire like she was a tiny child about the thermostat, Ed o'Neill's understated brilliance..it was just masterful. Of all things, we're in a little golden age of comeedy. (Today's "Community", also...fabulous, original and surprisingly sweet.

And my mother had a VCR with a vertical slot. No matter how much we tried, she'd get a tape in backwards and my husband would pry it out with a screwdriver once a week or so.

GabbyD said...

loved that last scene with chaz, "i like your hair" hahaha

Guysecretan said...

Hi,

A little off topic here.

How come that Cameron and Mitchel NEVER KISS?. I mean, they never show a kiss between them. Or even close to one.

Also think that Phil's caracther is like: "what would happened if Michael Scott got married and had children."

Love the show, by the way.

sean said...

How come that Cameron and Mitchel NEVER KISS?. I mean, they never show a kiss between them. Or even close to one.

I'm not sure....but have we seen any of the couples kiss? I think Phil and Claire did on their anniversary.....but what about Jay and Gloria? I'm not sure if I've seen that.

Either way....it doesn't really bother me. I'm sure we'll see it at some point. Maybe when Jay is walking in the room or something (and he forgets to knock)

Tosy And Cosh said...

When I hooked up my new HD receiver, I intentionally did not run the HDMI cable from the cable box to the receiver to the TV, since that would mean the wife would HAVE to use the receiver just to watch TV, and I knew that would make her nuts.(Hooked up the Blu-Ray that way, but not the TV.)