The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Not In My House

with 4 comments

First, let me add my voices to those expressing deep joy and gratitude that Modern Family has been renewed for a second season – wise choice ABC! We’re very happy with you!  That being said, this was the first time this show kind of missed the boat for me.  Perhaps I’ve come to expect too much?  Perhaps I was just too excited hot on the heels of the renewal news.  But it felt like tonight had a few too many dull moments and, dare I say it, obvious jokes.

The dog butler certainly began as a a great joke, and it set up the theme for the evening in each family (which I’ll get into in a moment), but it quickly became stale and repetitive.  Did Gloria really think that Jay was in love with his dog butler? Of course not! So why storm out of Cam and Mitchell’s house at the end as if she really thinks a dog/Jay wedding is taking place? It didn’t make sense.  And Luke’s “was she hot?” was so immediately obvious that Phil’s overwrought answer just seemed over the top to me.

So this is the moment, Modern Family – please don’t get caught in a rut!  It’s kind of like what happened with Glee – we had some great characters set up, but then they got quickly trapped in the ways they’d been set.  Modern Family is just too creative and mold-breaking to go down this path…I hope!  It needs to stick with the oft-made Arrested Development comparison, with which any action a character did that was oh so true to character wasn’t obvious or repetitive or stale, but was instead a deeper, even funnier revelation of the character we all knew.

Ok, all that being said – there still were some great moments in the show!  And so the theme for the three families this evening was the ways in which a spouse can bring things into the house you don’t want – be it a dog butler, a gardener (and all his family and a wedding), or porn.  And in each scenario, the offended spouse manages to expunge the offending object/person/picture from their house; hence the victorious title for the episode, “Not in my house”!  

Making a dog butler, a gardener (and all his family and a wedding), and porn serve the same function in a narrative is truly brilliant – in each there is a humanizing and dehumanizing aspect (the anthropomorphic dog, the gardener whose name no one knows, and an objectified woman), and each resolves in a somewhat unexpected way.  The dog butler is the greatest offense and can’t be handled by anybody.  The weeping gardener ends up having his wedding in Cam and Mitchell’s house, while Mitchell learns to accept Cam as the helpoholic he is.  And perhaps what some would consider to be the greatest offense – the porn – ends up being no problem at all.  Claire is just so happy it’s not Luke’s.

Tonight revealed a deeper need for the show – so many of us have lauded the way in which the family narratives are each able to stand alone, but I’m starting to think that they might require a little more integration into each other.  We had that tonight with the dog butler story (and I loved the carry over from last week with Cam and Jay’s relationship continuing to blossom as Cam was the one whose photograph was taken with Barkley at the beginning of the episode), but perhaps we could break up the spousal defined stories and have our themes play out across the families or, now and again, move away from the model of three sets of people each performing a different version of the same problem.  This would help keep it fresh, I think.  

Now that the show is renewed for its second season, it’s going to need to start thinking long term.

Cam and Mitchell definitely got the best lines of the night – the shared, “you feel like a torpedo” was brilliant, and Cam’s description of the gardener as being “like Batman, but straight” was hilarious.  

And of course, my love for Phil – soft porn or no soft porn – continues.  His miming of the female transformer was perfectly delivered and had me in stitches.

I have faith in you, Modern Family – tonight may have slumped, but you’ll be back!  You’ve just got too much good stuff to work with to fail now!

Posted by Natalie

Read all our posts on Modern Family here

Written by themothchase

January 13, 2010 at 10:24 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I followed you over from FB. I agree tonight’s episode was comparitively weak. The first sense I got that it would lean on the old standby of “farcical” misunderstandings was when the daughter overheard the father/son horseplay and mistook it for corporal punishment (although that wasn’t pursued further).

    But Gloria’s misreading of the Jay/Butler Dog situation was just the THUDDINGest thing to me all season, and felt like it was out of an entirely different show.

    I agree about Phil, though. One of Ty Burrell’s strenghts is he can do more comically with a stammered delivery than most actors can do with entire sentences. (other examples: in the pilot with “the mouth says we’re cool, but the eyes..” and later his baffled greeting to the Spandau Ballet singer “Dizzy abba-EYYY!”

    So I hope the show regains its former form, because I agree it has so much potential to work with.


    January 14, 2010 at 12:57 am

  2. I agree with Natalie’s assessment of the 1/13/10 broadcast. I really love this show, but I didn’t think this was the strongest episode. I place some of the blame on the absence of Manny. That little kid is the funniest child character I have ever seen on a sitcom.

    Still, an off episode of Modern Family is better than 99% of the rest of broadcast TV. I could watch the Fizbo episode every day and laugh out loud every single time!


    January 15, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    • You are so right, Mark – thanks for the comment. I completely forgot to mention how much I also missed Manny. That kid is comic genius!


      January 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm

  3. […] mentioned last week that I really wished the show would be a little looser with the theme and that I wished it would […]

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