Just when you think Modern Family can’t get any funnier, it does. And I say that both about the series generally and last night’s episode specifically. The casting of Shelley Long as Jay’s passive-aggressive (except when violently aggressive) yet sexually reactivated ex-wife was a stroke of genius, especially because Long’s presence brought out heretofore unseen yet completely believable aspects of her children’s personalities.
Certainly, DeDe’s arrival shed light on the origins of Claire’s scathing sarcasm (“Oh, Uncle Toby! I’ll be sure to include that in my Amber alert.”) and Mitchell’s need to prove his maturity and independence, which resulted in one of the night’s best lines: “We’re all gonna move past this. And because of me, who’s not a mama’s boy, but is a caring person with wisdom and emotional insight. So make a note, bitches!” And while DeDe’s linguistically hidden jabs at Julie Bowen’s Claire owed something to Arrested Development, that didn’t make the exchanges any less funny:
DeDe: “Why so long?”
Claire: “I know, I know. It’s weird when we haven’t talked for a while.”
DeDe: “I mean your hair.”
Of course, a lot of Modern Family’s laughs originate not just from the punch lines (which are generally as sharp as the discarded lid on an aluminum can), but also from the cast’s priceless reaction shots. Take the way Claire and Mitchell stood up and turned away in horror after their mother declared that while guilt was stopping her from being fully intimate with her new beau, “We do things to each other. We use our hands.” That was just as good as Mitchell’s horrified utteranaces (“Cant. Don’t want.”) when DeDe had previously brought up activity “down there.”
My award for Episode MVP, though, has to go to Eric Stonestreet’s Cameron, who scored many of the night’s best moments despite being peripheral to the action. I loved how that bitchy barb about his mother-in-law shifted instantly into a sunny salutation when he looked up and saw Mitchell’s mother had, in fact, arrived unexpectedly from out of town: “The last time she was here the refrigerator magnets rearranged themselves into a pentag…grandma!” And that home-video shot of him using the exercise equipment (though not the lettuce dryer) at Christmas was brilliant in its percolating hostility, a perfect pairing with his confessional voiceover. “To recap: I gave her a gorgeous pair of diamond earrings, and she gave me a hint.” (Also: “That’s not a good color on you.”)
Perhaps most impressive of all, though, was the way the episode pulled a fast one, setting up another gut-bustingly funny interlude immediately after I thought we’d gotten to the “teaching/touching moment” (i.e. the place where the laughs come to a screeching halt on most sitcoms). Here we had Haley’s boyfriend, putting the family blowout – with DeDe’s hands wrapped around glorious Gloria’s throat – in perspective with this monologue about Haley and her relatives: “She’s got this killer confidence. You know, the kind of confidence you get from having a family like this, that’s passionate and accepting of hot foreigners and gay dudes and nutty people. You know, a family that actually loves each other.” I guess that gooey sentiment left me unprepared for Dylan’s subsequent performance of “In the Moonlight.” The less said about the song the better. Press play below and enjoy, and do head to the comments section to share your thoughts on last night’s Modern Family.
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Image Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC