A review of last night's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as it's go time...
Product integration has become a necessary evil in the TV business. As more and more people gain the ability to skip over the ads that air in between segments of TV shows, the networks have to counter by inserting the ads into the shows. Some shows handle this well by turning it into a self-aware joke ("30 Rock"), and some clumsily and shamlessly throw in the plugs (there was an episode of "Heroes" where Claire got super-excited that HRG had specifically bought her some ugly car). Emily Nussbaum wrote a story last season where she looked at some of the highs and lows of this particular art form, but everyone agrees we're stuck with it.
And as product integration goes, this episode-long plug for the iPad was kind of icky. Yes, Phil has been established as a lover of gadgets, some more useful than others, and if the "Modern Family" writers had tried to - or been allowed to - let some of the other characters question the necessity of the iPad, even as Phil launched a passionate defense, it might have worked better. But devoting the main plot of an episode to Claire desperately trying to get Phil this awesome and super-popular gift, and then climaxing it with the entire cast standing around Phil's new iPad and oooh'ing and aah'ing? Ick. And I say this as someone whose hand is surgically glued to his iPhone.
Beyond that, though, "Game Changer" felt to me like one of the weaker episodes the show's done in a while. As with Phil's love of the iPad, most of the characterization was on-point (Cam's fierce protection of Lily, Manny and Jay's competitiveness, Alex trying to kill Luke), but it felt like there was something missing that I can't quite put my finger on. Like, I could intellectually appreciate why most of the jokes (Jay's disappointment at hearing the tool belt built a gift-wrapping station, or Phil declaring that the 11th birthday party was "when I knew I was funny") should have worked, but something got lost in translation from the page to the final production. I think the only time I laughed out loud was when Manny held out his wrist for the watch.
The characters are so lovingly-rendered that "Modern Family" has now reached the point where I enjoy an episode even if it doesn't make me chuckle much, but this definitely wasn't the follow-up to last week's great "Starry Night" that I was hoping for.
What did everybody else think?