‘Modern Family’ – ‘Strangers on a Treadmill’: Criss-cross!

10.14.10 7 years ago 78 Comments


A review of last night’s “Modern Family” coming up just as soon as I invent McKenzie…

When “Modern Family” started out, there was a pretty clear format: three sets of adults in three families meant three stories, even if sometimes the families overlapped across the three. Then the producers began to realize what they had on their hands with the kids, and some episodes began to expand to four stories. This is a very big, very deep cast, and I undertand the producers’ desire to feature as many of its funny actors as possible every week. But an episode like “Strangers on a Treadmill” – while having a number of strong individual moments – was a reminder that sometimes the show can get too crowded for its own good.

All of the stories felt underdeveloped because we had to keep cutting away to the other three. And aside from thematic unity and the fact that the show simply isn’t going to do an episode without Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara, there was really no reason for the Jay/Gloria/Manny storyline. I’d have much rather that screen time gone to the other stories, and particularly to Haley teaching Alex how to be popular, which generated the episode’s biggest non-pixellation-related laughs, and then gave a sweet capper to the Claire/Phil storyline by again showing Claire taking care of her brood(*).

(*) And no voiceover this week, even with the heartwarming ending. Phil and Claire’s conversation spelled out the same things we would have heard in a typical “Modern Family” voiceover, but I still consider this a step in the right direction.

Cam’s pixellated bike shorts was one of those jokes that made me laugh initially (in this case when I saw it on a commercial during “No Odinary Family” the night before), and then got funnier the longer it kept going. Mitchell’s immediate move to shave his beard was a nice romantic moment, and after the deliberately understated background smooch back in “The Kiss,” I appreciate that here the two guys kissed front and center and it was no big thing, because of course that’s what they would do in this situation. And then the sweetness was amusingly undercut when Mitchell misunderstood Cam’s request to “do my shoulders” and grabbed the shaving cream.

The Phil/Claire story, meanwhile, started off as another one where Phil Dunphy and Michael Scott seemed indistinguishable. (Though it did give us a rare bit of genuine funniness from Julie Bowen, when Claire demonstrated how she laughs with her mouth but not her eyes.) But the payoff – where, in the setting of a rubber chicken dinner with a bunch of fellow realtors who all know each other well, Phil’s corny jokes turned out to be perfect – was a nice, unexpected moment.

Again, though, I’d have liked more of Phil/Claire, Mitchell/Cam and Haley/Alex, and if it meant no Manny for the week, so be it.

What did everybody else think?

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