‘Modern Family’ – ‘Chirp’: Save-zilla vs. Cam

Senior Television Writer
11.04.10 51 Comments

A review of last night’s “Modern Family” coming up just as soon as I kiss a pigeon on the mouth…

Still waiting for a “Fizbo”-level episode from season two, but “Chirp” was one of the show’s stronger recent outings, particularly in the Jay/Manny/Gloria and Mitchell/Cam storylines.

I talk a lot in these reviews about how a lot of elements of “Modern Family” are pretty traditional sitcom fodder, just dressed up by the format and executed better than most. The Manny story very much fit that. I’ve seen so many of those pieces – kid drives forklift through wall, kid threatens legal action against his dad, wife pressures husband to remember obscure details of an early date – done before, and badly, on old comedies, but here they were pulled back to a level that was realistic enough that it didn’t feel like schtick. Mitchell immediately dismisses Manny’s lawsuit idea, the script acknowledged early and often that Gloria’s expectations for Jay’s memory weren’t fair or realistic, and things tied up on a very sweet, unforced note, with Jay casually referring to Manny as “my kid.” Like the bedtime kiss at the end of “The Kiss,” it was a very simple but effective marker of the growth of the stepfather/son relationship, as Jay has gone from viewing Manny as a piece of Gloria’s bagge to developing genuine fatherly affection for him. Very nicely-played by Ed O’Neill and Rico Rodriguez.

The Mitchell/Cam subplot, meanwhile, didn’t bother going for pathos. It was just silly, and effectively so. We started off as a flurry of sharp one-liners (“I think that gay cruise has sailed,” the theater folk vs. barn folk), then took a long break before returning for the ridiculous, racist, damn funny Save-zilla furniture store ad. And I liked that Cam’s righteous indignation was immediately undercut by him grabbing the wrong toddler, a moment that reminded me of the “I’ve got the creampuffs” gag from the series pilot.

There was a lot to like about the story at the Dunphy house, whether it was Claire’s ongoing discomfort about Dylan’s dream, Luke trying to do normal things (like eating ladyfingers) inside the helmet, or Phil’s exasperation about the smoke detectors. (Brother, I have been there.) But as with some other Dunphy-centric plots, it felt like it was trying to do a little too much at once, and I really wish they hadn’t felt the need to do the Haley talking head where she explained the misunderstanding about what Claire was trying to tell her. As with the heartwarming voiceovers (which this episode thankfully dispensed with, as have several this season), it felt like the writers not trusting us to get the point, even though Sarah Hyland made it very clear in how she played Haley’s reaction to the story.

Overall, though, a very good one.

What did everybody else think?

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