Thursday, November 17, 2011

Modern Family reflects "After the Fire"

     This week on ABC's Modern Family, a neighbor's house burns down. Claire (Julie Bowen) organizes their clan to help the family out "After the Fire." Cam (Eric Stonestreet) stubbornly insists that he can drive a big truck, only to have much trouble with it. Jay (Ed O'Neill) hurts his back, and while Phil (Ty Burrell) is massaging him, Jay blurts out "I love you." Lucky for Jay, Phil doesn't hear it, as he gets a text offering a huge business opportunity at the same time. Claire gets jealous of the close relationship between Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), projecting her mommy issues. Luke (Nolan Gould) and Manny (Rico Rodriguez) steal a toy intended for the fire victims.

     The remarkable thing about "After the Fire" is that it is wholly unremarkable, and yet, there were still a number of serious LOL-worthy moments. Nothing major happens in this episode, no deep emotional depths are explored, and no one gets into a totally ridiculous situation (well, except maybe Phil massaging Jay). Yet, one-liners fly rapidly with zest. Perhaps it's just the formula of sticking all the characters together and letting them play off of each other that just works for Modern Family. Whatever it is, it's fantastic.

     Jay and Phil frequently are the subject of Modern Family stories. Phil is always trying to win Jay's approval, but "After the Fire" takes a bit of a different turn in their chemistry. Sure, the episode begins with Phil trying to please Jay with has magic hands. But then, with the job offer, Phil goes to Jay for advice. It's not a needy request, nor is he being overeager. Phil genuinely wants the opinion of a successful business man, and it's much more toned down an interaction. Because Phil takes that tack, Jay matches it in a very real, authentic way. He is able to compliment Phil and talk seriously, rather than worrying how Phil might take something. It's a reall cool and unexpected plot.

     Three years in, it's about time that Claire and Mitchell have a serious mother-projecting story with Gloria. Though Gloria is fourteen months younger than Claire, she is Claire and Mitchell's step-mother. Whatever that means, even though they generally treat her as a peer, it is inevitable that there will be mom comparisons. Mitchell really does just seem to see Gloria as a friend he can get coffee with. But Claire remembers Mitchell and their mother's special bond, and takes things way out of proportion, freaking out on them. Of course, all is worked out.

     It's fun to see Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Alex (Ariel Winter) paired up with Cam. The definitely treat him as the somewhat cool, but neurotic uncle, an interaction that isn't really explored too much in Modern Family. Of course, the kids accept Cam as part of the family readily enough, but watching them laugh at Cam as he figuratively shoots himself in the foot in pleasurable.

     Bonus when Alex whips out her "geek hotness" to get the stolen toy back for Luke and Manny from the geeky bullies. "After the Fire" showcases a societal trend that geek can be the new cool, and one does not have to be pigeon holed as a geek; a geek can still be attractive or mean. And yes, Winter is a pretty girl, and it's good that Modern Family lets he enjoy that for a moment, as usually Hyland's Haley is the one singled out as a looker.

     Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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