Better late than never (thank you, blizzard), a quick review of last night's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as I repurpose a boa...
Though the Dunphy kids were mostly sidelined, "My Funky Valentine" gave everyone else in the cast at least one moment to shine, whether it was Gloria's confusion about why David Brenner might be funny ("Does he have a mallet?") or Mitchell's supreme pleasure at getting to use his "SHAME!" closing argument on Manny's rival, or Cam getting deep into his role as the phone survey guy.
And speaking of role-playing, the episode's highlight - and probably the best sequence that the show has yet given Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell to play - was Claire and Phil's attempt to spice up Valentine's Day by pretending to be strangers, and all the ways it went right, then wrong, then right again.
However, the climax of that story with the escalator mishap was a little flat, in part because it felt like the kind of thing "I Love Lucy" might have done 55 years ago if Lucille Ball were allowed to refer to her panties. "Modern Family" comes from two veteran sitcom writers, and the dialogue (like Mitchell and Cam's "I had to settle" / "Your mom might think so, but many people think I'm a catch" exchange) often has the rhythms of a traditional sitcom, just disguised by the absence of a laughtrack. But much as I love a lot of the old sitcom tropes(*), I tend to enjoy this show the most when its comedy comes more from behavior than wacky hijinx. (That, or the hijinx have to be perfectly-executed, as they were in "Fizbo.")
(*) Speaking of which, Ken Levine has a really interesting post on his blog where he embeds one of the most famous scenes from "The Honeymooners" and asks, without judgment, whether people (particularly those too young to know or care about "The Honeymooners" legacy) find it funny. There is, of course, no right or wrong answer, but it's a fascinating snapshot of evolving comedy tastes and how a show that's inspired so many other shows can seem really flat to those who might only know it's descendants.
Still, a very funny episode, and worth if if for no other reason than Ty Burrell's amazed delivery of "This is way better than cheesey garlic bread!"
What did everybody else think?