Saturday, 24 September 2011

Modern Family 3.1 / 3.2 - 'Dude Ranch' / 'When Good Kids Go Bad'

“Only we touch our women when they don’t want us to” – Phil

Critical darling, and now multiple-Emmy winner, Modern Family returned for its third season this week with a premiere that took the extended family on a vacation to a ranch in Wyoming.

‘Dude Ranch’ didn’t really stray too far from the usual Modern Family formula even if the family were far away from home but still served as a quick reminder of why this is one of the best comedies on television at the moment.

The second episode of the double-header ‘When Good Kids Go Bad’ was more of a conventional episode in the sense of location and felt more strongly written as the various storylines between the three families all came to a head in one revelatory scene at the episode’s climax.

There isn’t much to analyse from the two episodes in terms of long term development beyond Dylan deciding to become a stable hand and remain in Wyoming in the opener – but he and Haley have now broken up and got back together that many times I doubt it’s the last we’ve seen of him.

The major point of note to take away from this opening double bill was Cameron and Mitchell’s decision to begin the process of adopting another baby, this time an American boy.

This led to Mitchell questioning his manhood in the opener as he worried whether he could teach a son the more masculine elements of being a man, and then both prospective parents worrying that they had influenced Lily negatively in the second episode as she made it clear she didn’t want anyone encroaching on her turf.

Emmy-winners Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell were both heavily featured in both episodes, with Burrell’s Phil stealing the show as always. The more I see Bowen playing Claire as such a control freak the more I dislike the character and question how she managed to beat the altogether more likeable Vergara to that Emmy.

The opening episode didn’t give Vergara much to do other than be loud and shrill, something the writers seem to find hilarious but is really starting to get old. The second episode gave her much more to work with though as she used her questionable past to her advantage by helping Manny out of a jam and then helping him avert Jay’s line of questioning.

Surprise star of both episodes though has to be Nolan Gould as Luke, who is rapidly becoming one of the highlights of the show after the writers seemingly decided to stop painting him as dumb, just different.

Gould himself, so good in his brief role in Friends with Benefits recently as well, brings a wisdom to Luke far less obvious than Manny’s old soul routine but still just as effective on his older family members.

Two seasons ago he wouldn’t have even realised Alex and Haley were playing him by convincing him how great the attic would be to sleep in, but now he not only acknowledges that he knows their game but has an agenda of his own.

The converging of the three storylines at the end of ‘When Good Kids Go Bad’ was really well done as both Claire and Mitchell realised where their negative personality traits originated from when Jay gloated about busting Manny and Gloria’s lie and Cam still attempting his ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ announcement in spite of the argument going on was a great little touch to end the episode – I got a bigger laugh out of Phil asking enthusiastically “Is that from Footloose?” though.

Modern Family continues to not really offer anything genre-redefining but remains perhaps the strongest all round sitcom there is at the moment and is more than deserving of its numerous accolades, which is very rarely true of award-bogarting shows.

A Hail of Bullets:

- I’d read that there was going to be a new Lily this season, but I wasn’t quite prepared for her to have gone from baby to three year old over summer. It makes sense in terms of the show’s timeline as she would now be three but the jump up from still being carried everywhere to now talking seemed a bit extreme.

- They’ve explored and seemingly resolved Phil and Jay’s relationship, or lack thereof, so many times now that I’ve lost count, but it always offers some of the best laughs of an episode it is featured in. In ‘Dude Ranch’ I loved the whole “Phil is” running gag, especially Phil even saying it himself later on.

- The Alex-first kiss plot in the premiere seemed a bit rushed and out of left field but it was refreshingly non-Hollywood and, I hate to use the word, ‘real’ which I thought worked well as a contrast to the more ridiculous Dylan-Haley proposal.

- I was convinced that when Mitchell and Luke blew up the birdhouse that they’d realise they’d killed/injured at least one bird, making Mitch rethink his attempts to be a man’s man but instead his first act of destruction seemed to push Mitch the other way as he enthused Cam should take pictures of him “blowing up stuff”.

- Two of my favourite lines across the two episodes were Luke’s “If they had this during the war, right now we’d all be knee deep in Strudel” about his German fire cracker and Cam’s “you might say we’re buying domestic” about their potential adoption of an American baby.

Modern Family continues Wednesday @ 9pm on ABC in the US and Friday @ 8pm on Sky1 in the UK


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