Thursday, March 11, 2010

Modern Family, "Truth Be Told": Say goodbye to these!

A review of last night's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as I recreate a faux pas...

"Truth Be Told" probably had too much going on, in that I didn't feel either of the Dunphy storylines so much came to an end as they ran out of time. (The Luke/Alex subplot in particular.) But it was still very funny, and a nice reminder that sometimes the singer matters more than the song, in that all of the stories were the kind I've seen a million times on other sitcoms, but worked due to the execution(*).

(*) And due to the format, of course. The pet funeral on a stage in front of a studio audience would have been painful, I think, but the quietness of it made it work.

With the show averaging 3-4 stories an episode, I tend to have my favorites, but this was the rare occasion where I felt all the plots were on par in terms of making me laugh. Just when I thought the Mitchell plot was lagging behind (since Mitchell is by design the straight man in that duo), we got the hilarious moment at the stoplight with Cam tricking Mitchell into doing the call-and-response from "Shout." Manny's story provided one great pet name after another (Shel Turtlestein is an awesome name), and another old-beyond-his-years moment for Manny as he stage-managed a dramatic confrontation with Jay in his bedroom, complete with interrogation lamp. (This was also a very good Gloria episode, between her knowing a faked crime scene when she saw one and the mourning head dress she wore to the funeral.)

Judy Greer was playing very much to type as Phil's crazy ex-girlfriend Denise, but of course she keeps getting these parts because she plays them so well, and I loved the running gag about reading Facebook messages in a sexy voice. And Alex's revenge prank on Luke was as funny as it was cruel. Poor, poor kid.

We've now had a few strong episodes in a row with the families largely separate, so hopefully I can retire that complaint. (Though I'm still looking forward to more intermingling in the future.)

What did everybody else think?


Unknown said...

A very funny episode--Did anyone notice the scenes with the computers both laptops and desktop where the logo was blocked out with some item. On the desktop some covered by green thingy. Wonder what happened with the product placement issues here.

Unknown said...

plus, mitchell quitting actually hints at some character/narrative development. before now, this has pretty much been a "but at the end of the episode, everything stays the same" sort of show. cool to see them moving forward.

Miken said...

Nice AD reference in the title!

I loved the episode. The facebook jokes were perfect with the women reading too much into everything and the men being oblivious. When Denise asked Phil how many other girls he was doing this to, his response was classic.

"I don't know, I guess all of them?"

There was a really funny line I thought you were going to use for the jump but I can't remember. And I know Shel Turtlestein is awesome, but the bird names were pause-worthy to finish up the laughter.

Anonymous said...

Shel Turtlestein

Nice touch.

The Phil storyline was great, and as you said, the part about reading Facebook comments in sexy voices was hilarious.

I liked Mitchell's story, too, but maybe it's because I'm out of work myself, but I find myself cringing whenever a show has a main character quit his/her job in protest. Sure it sounds liberating, but right now the job market is so bad right now, and with Cam not working, I just hope they don't "fix things" with Mitchell too quickly. Seinfeld did a nice job when Costanza quit and then immediately suffered for it.

I actually forgot about Luke/Alex because the rest of the stories were just too funny.

George said...

I think that Jay, Manny and Gloria are fast becoming my favourite of the three "families". Jay's line last week about him only understanding about 20% of what was happening in his house cracked me up, and I like the rapport developing between those three actors. It was the same again this week, I especially liked Jay and Manny's confrontation and Jay forgiving Manny for scratching his car, it was a sweet touch; and it was candid and seemingly real, unlike those episode ending voice-overs from the first few episodes.

Judy Greer will always be Kitty, there's no way around it, but it was a surprising story arc, enjoyable in the least. I agree on the facebook joke, that was funny and very trues, inflections and insinuations are definitely an issue.

MF seems to be back on form after a few sub standard episodes, Cougar Town was a lot better for a while, but I'm worried about the number of guest stars. We've had some which help advertisers as well as the creators (Shelley Long, Fred Willard, Elizabeth Banks) and others which were just forced (Minnie Driver, Kristen Schaal, Ed Norton etc.) I thought single camera comedies were meant to resist these kind of ratings ploys, only 30 Rock seems to use them to their advantage...sometimes.

kathy said...

heh, I knew you were going to be re-creating a faux pas!

Flyza Minnelli, oh my lord.

WhoDatAGoGeaux said...

"The Empire Strikes Back!"

Laurel said...

For the second week in a row I save MF on my dvr so I can watch it again. This ep seemed busier than last week's but I don't think it suffered for it.

For me Claire is falling flat. I know that not every character can be drop dead funny and she is to Phil what Mitchell is to Cam as far as setting up the jokes, but for some reason she doesn't seem to be hitting the notes as a straightman as well as Mitchell is. Phil was great this episode. His pure confusion and horror when his ex asked how many women he had been leading on -I don't know now!! Classic. And the pain is fresh but the lie is old. Well played.

LA said...

Flyza Minelli, Shel Turtlestein, Zsa Zsa GaBoa. Jay's comment that he can't believe he didn't know Mitchell was gay. Gloria wearing a mantilla during the memorial service. Shout. I literally LOLed many times.

And there was no sticky-sweet voiceover at the end.

Another homerun from Modern Family.

Asta said...

As much as I loved Manny in this episode, it was Cam who had my laughing out loud. First, waving the cars by as they "re-enacted a faux pas". Then his panicked declaration of being used to nice things as the consequences of Mitchell's actions sunk in.

And I appreciated the moment when Jay acknowledges that he and Manny have been getting along pretty well as of late and he worried that confessing to killing Shel would ruin the progress they've made. I was wondering if the show would directly address that.

Anonymous, I had the same reaction as you to Mitchell's quitting. On an emotional level I get it, but not on a practical level. And as someone who works at a law firm, attorneys cannot just walk out as he did. Even if an attorney is terminated or wants out immediately, there is a process to go through that can take days if not longer.

Josh said...

I guess this one left me a bit sour, if only because it's becoming more and more apparent that this show would do much better as a multi-camera sitcom. Certainly, some gags wouldn't work as well, or at all (the Cameron/Mitchell car scenes), but so much of the series is built around similar joke structures, that it gets a bit old.

And then you have Kitty Sanchez, along with a dead bird reference, which just makes me long for Arrested Development all the more.

However, was this the first episode that not only didn't have a heartwarming climactic monologue, but also the first episode to have no talking heads? Or did I miss one?

srpad said...

This wasn't the funniest show of the night but I still loved it because I am at the point where I just like spending time with these characters and that is what great TV shows are made of.

SP said...

When Denise asked Phil how many other girls he was doing this to, his response was classic.

"I don't know, I guess all of them?"

@Miken I think what he responded was "Now I don't know!" which I thought was one of the funnier lines along with Cam's "I'm used to nice things" and "Go around, we're recreating a faux pas".

Miken said...

Yeah, you're right. I loved the line, but I knew I didn't remember it right.

It was so perfect, and classic Phil.

KVV said...

The Luke/Alex plotline felt like it needed one more scene to fully flesh out the joke, but that may be in part because I enjoy Luke's stupidity/confusion/gullibility.

Otherwise, a solid episode. I could see the "Shout" joke coming immediately and I still laughed out loud at Cam's punchline.

Rinaldo said...

I enjoyed the episode, smiled or laughed all through, but I felt shocked when I saw the final credits were rolling, because I felt like most of the story lines were only halfway to their conclusion. Manny and Jay: yes, fine. Likewise Mitchell quitting (and those were indeed the two plots addressed in that tag under the credits). But

Did Mitchell's boss hear him? I guess we're supposed to stop caring, as of their scene together at work.

Luke being tricked into thinking he's adopted: no payoff.

Denise: no conclusion there.

Like I said, I enjoyed all the bits along the way, but it seriously needed another 20 minutes to finish what it started.

olucy said...

was this the first we learned that Cam was a music teacher before he became a stay-at-home dad? Maybe I just missed it previously. I've been wondering what his former career was.

Bobman said...

God I kept wanting Denise to pull a Kitty and say "Say Goodbye to THESE!!" Sigh.

Q Ball said...

I'm sorry I ever labeled Phil a "Michael Scott clone." Ty Burrell has been fantastic and his delivery often saves flat lines.

olucy said...

>God I kept wanting Denise to pull a Kitty and say "Say Goodbye to THESE!!" Sigh.

I know some writers want to avoid being too meta or giving allusions to other shows, but I think that would have been entirely appropriate in this case. It's just screaming to be said, and it still would have made sense to those who have never seen AD. And the rest of us would just have to pick ourselves up off the floor.

olucy said...

>I'm sorry I ever labeled Phil a "Michael Scott clone."

I did, too, at the outset, but I'm not sorry. Because he WAS. And I think enough people commenting on it encouraged the writers to dial that back and fix the character. He's still lovably clueless at times, but they have evened out his character, shown more sides to him and he's his own guy now.

But I think viewers speaking up at the beginning helped that.

olucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indeed said...

How much do I love Cam?
Although I could see the Shout joke coming, it was just delivered so perfectly. I literally can't imaging another actor carrying that joke.

JanieJones said...

I thought this episode was great. There were so many things that were funny.
Cam is awesome, no doubt as is Manny.
Gloria had me rolling with her funeral wear on her head.
The pet names-outstanding!
Good laughs!

Col Bat Guano said...

I can't explain why, but the line that got the biggest laugh from me was:

"The pain is fresh, but the lie is very old."

Gridlock said...

" soon as I recreate a faux pas".

Nailed it.

Been waiting 6 months to say that :)

DeeTV said...

I'm trying to figure out the difference between single-camera and multi-camera shows, since it seems to come up often in the comments on this blog.

Anyone have a quick definition or some link to refer me to? Everywhere I look it seems to be a discussion on what's better rather than an explanation of what it is.

I read the Wiki definitions and I don't get why one would be better than the other. It seems to be more related to editing and cost considerations than a difference in the final product - but maybe I'm just not getting it.

Alan - sorry to use your blog to try to find this out. I'm just an unsophisticated TV viewer trying to learn something.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosshhh. i loved how dramictic the death of shell was. it was hilarious how seroius he was. "Shell was there when this....... and then shell was there when that......and then shekll was there when the coon came" lol. and he had a whoooole presentation. gotta <3 Manny:)

Josh M. said...

Apparently I'm the only person who's irritated that Judy Greer seems to pop up in EVERY SINGLE SHOW, delivering the exact same one-note performance each time.

And please, can somebody else play "leading lady's best friend" in the next romantic comedy?

olucy said...

Oh, I dunno. I don't think she played the same character in the wonderful Miss Guided. yeah, she was a little goofy, but much more grounded than most characters she plays. That was a wonderful show and I still haven't forgiven Fox for canceling it.

paul in kirkland said...

For those of you who haven't deleted it from your VCR, check that last scene again. You can see Gloria trying her damndest to hide her laughing right before Mitchell says the name of the snake. And they have to cut away from Mitchell immediately because he was losing it too.

Flyza Minnelli was the line of the night imo. Awesome.

DonBoy said...

DeeTV -- The names are a bit misleading, but: a "multi-camera" show is shot on a soundstage, usually but not always in front of an audience. It uses a few cameras that all record the action at the same time, and takes from these are edited together into the final product. The result is a show that seems a little like a filmed play, including the fact that there's one "wall" that's never seen: the infamous "fourth wall". "Conventional" sitcoms use this format. Think of, for instance, the main living room in Big Bang Theory. The wall opposite the couch is where the cameras are, vaguely speaking.

A "single-camera" show might also be thought of as an infinite-camera show (that's what I find confusing about the terminology). The camera is here, there, and everywhere, and scenes are indoor and outdoor willy-nilly. The result is more like a movie. All dramas that I can think of are shot this way, and a number of sitcoms, including all the ABC shows Alan's posted about from Wednesday night.

Now, better, worse, and why one or the other: I have no knowledge.

ADW said...

I waas warned about the "Shout" moment and I still laughed so hard I think I shook the walls.

Great show.

Diane said...

Another take on the single vs. multi camera format is at The Thursday, February 11 post. It's the second question down. Sorry, I'm not good with linking thing, but this looks at it from an audience vs. no audience point of view.

DeeTV said...

Thanks DonBoy and Diane for the single vs multi camera info. It makes more sense to me now. The comment about the "fourth wall" really clarified for me.

Anonymous said...

olucy said...
" Oh, I dunno. I don't think she played the same character in the wonderful Miss Guided. yeah, she was a little goofy, but much more grounded than most characters she plays. That was a wonderful show and I still haven't forgiven Fox for canceling it."

Greer was terrific in Miss Guided, but you're holding a grudge against the wrong network. Miss Guided was on ABC not Fox. It's a shame too, because it would have fit in very well on this new Wednesday comedy night.

Schmoker said...

This was #3 in a four episode viewing marathon for me last night, and I very much appreciated the way this one both twisted conventional sitcom plots and dispensed with them entirely.

In how many other shows would they have taken Phil's storyline and turned it into his wife mistakenly believing he was cheating on him, or encouraging his old girlfriend to hit on him, with the comedy coming from Phil getting in trouble for something he wasn't actually doing? Instead, MF never even went close to that idea, showing Claire and Phil as more mature and open with each other than you would ever usually see in a sitcom, then using that healthiness in their relationship to create new comedy. Phil couldn't even conceive of why he might not tell his wife everything about his Facebook-ex, which led to the hilarious gag that had Claire reading Facebook messages in a sexy voice to tease Phil rather than accuse him. And Phil only momentarily giggled in pride when Claire said his ex was obviously hitting on him, rather than letting it consume his performance. Then Claire was self aware enough to realize that sincere Phil may be a horn-dog, but he's her horn-dog, and so she felt bad about being a cliche (even though she was right), and she was rewarded for her belief in Phil, with some real comedy coming from Phil's complete disbelief--then horror--at the fact that the old girlfriend really did want to hook-up.

And again, that led to a real subversion of the genre. Once the ex turned out to be in fact on the make for Phil, I thought that was going to lead to Phil in trouble, with them using the old wife catches hubby in a clinch that he didn't initiate but blames him anyway joke. Instead, they never went near that old trope either, and the show ended with both Phil and Claire bonding over what other shows would have made the central wacky-mix-up-conflict.

That was impressive to me, that they could mine comedy gold while staying out of the well worn veins that other shows have mined to death by this point. Yeah, they use lots of snappy sitcom-y dialogue (which I love, especially out of Manny's mouth), but they have so far found a way to subvert many a sitcom staple.

And again, the way that guests never notice or acknowledge the cameras points up that this is a show that is breaking the fourth wall rather than aping a faux-docu style. Only the principals talk to us, never the guests.