Season finale review: ‘Modern Family’ – ‘Goodnight, Gracie’

A review of the “Modern Family” season finale coming up just as soon as I spend a summer at the nation’s smallest B’nai Brith chapter…

I’d been losing interest in “Modern Family” for a while, and midway through this season I just started letting episodes pile up on my DVR before deleting them unwatched. I just began to find the show unpleasant; none of the characters seemed to like each other anymore, and there was a sense that the creative team didn’t like the characters, either. That kind of acidic comic tone can work in the right context, but that context is not a family show that concludes every episode with a sentimental voiceover monologue.

With so many shows I follow already done for the season, though, I decided to check out the finale, and was rewarded with the best episode of the series I’ve seen in a long time.

Co-written by Steve Levitan and Jeff Richman, and directed by Levitan, “Goodnight, Gracie” did a lot of things well. It made sure pretty much every character had at least one good joke, whether a small one like Manny naturally taking to life in a retirement community or a more elaborate one like Mitchell transforming into a grandstanding country lawyer. It wasn’t afraid to take the time to build to a joke, like Jay’s reunion with the woman he lost his virginity to, and it didn’t overuse other jokes (like Ann Magnuson as the strict security guard). Most importantly, though, was that the two big emotional moments – Phil crying in the arms of the woman his mom wanted him to fix up with his dad, and Alex explaining the origin of the lighter – didn’t feel shoehorned in to redeem an episode packed with sniping, but something the show and the performers had earned. (Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet seem to be trading off Emmy wins, and this year would be Burrell’s turn; this would be a great submission for him.) There are times when I watch the show and wonder why Phil and Claire stay together (or Mitchell and Cam, for that matter), but even though he took pleasure in getting her to admit what they thought was her mistake, there was an overall sense of warmth between them throughout that’s often been lacking in the past.

Having missed a lot of the season (including virtually everything between the birth episode and this one), I’m curious what other people have felt about the year. The last few times it came up on the blog, the general consensus was that a lot of you had also tired of the show; was “Goodnight, Gracie” an aberration from what they’ve been doing lately, or did the show pull out of the dive after I stopped watching?

Have at it.