A review of last night's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as I sfather you to death...
"Starry Night" was a very strong episode, one that provided a nice balance of nuclear family unit action (the Dunphy parents help their kids with homework) and intermingled groupings (Mitchell getting zing'ed by Manny and Jay, Cameron overcompensating with Gloria) and had a lot of funny moments throughout.
There was a stretch of the season where scenes of the Dunphys by themselves really dragged (that, as much as anything, was the main reason I kept pushing to see the families interact more), but the writers have gotten better at making Phil not just be the idiot, and at using all three Dunphy kids both as foils for each other and their mom and dad. Luke was on fire in this episode, from him misunderstanding the concept of noise-canceling headphones at the beginning to him delivering the requisite heart-warming speech at the end and then turning it into a paranoid screed about aliens halfway through. (At this point, the warmth of the show should be so obvious to anyone watching that the only time I want to hear those voiceovers anymore is when the writers have a joke ready to undercut it like here, or like the time Dylan sang his song about wanting to do Hayley.) And the slapstick bits with Phil going for his sunglasses and then Claire wiping out on the bad step were both very well-choreographed, and then played by Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen.
The astronomy storyline was a nice example of how well the show can transcend sitcom cliches. I can think of many comedies where I would have groaned the second a gay character wound up wearing a dress, but here the humor was dry rather than broad, with Mitchell's complaint about how the dress made his hips look serving as a nice rejoinder to Gloria's earlier comment that anyone would look fabulous in it. The idea of Manny being a stepbrother to both Mitchell and Claire hasn't been explored in a while, but the idea of the usually serious and mature Manny zinging his (much) older brother because Jay told him it's what siblings do was a good running gag (particularly Manny reverting to his old self to say, "There's a line, Jay") and then in turn led to a nice moment for the two where cross-dressing Mitchell gave him a pep talk.
The first Cameron/Gloria team-up of the series wasn't as fabulous as I might have expected, but that turned out to be the whole point of the joke: Cam assumes they should be BFFs, but then gets so concerned about not screwing up the possibility that he keeps making things worse. This was a different side of Cam than we've seen, and as well-played by Eric Stonestreet as in the character's usual pathologically exuberant mode.
I also thought "Starry Night" did a better job than usual of letting jokes carry from one subplot to another, not just with things like Gloria's dress, but the moment where Luke compares Van Gogh to an insane-looking Mitchell, followed by an immediate cut to Mitchell looking insane after getting sprayed by the skunk.
What did everybody else think?