So much has praise has been bestowed on Modern Family for its tremendous cast and generally positive outlook, and rightly so, but perhaps the best thing about it is that it’s on Wednesday nights. Right in the middle of the week, it’s the perfect cure for mid-week blues. It’s episodic nature makes it possible to just sit back and enjoy the hilarity that will no doubt ensue. There’s no drama, it’s entirely comedy. I love Parks and Rec (and actually think it’s the overall better show), but Modern Family‘s ability to just divide and conquer; it sets up the action, sends its characters into it, and they go, not needing to refer back to anything or have any sort of overarching plot. While that overarching plot can be enjoyable, it’s also nice to have the standalone, picaresque comedy of Modern Family. The show has already treated us to an all-time classic in “Fizbo,” and now it has a second in “Starry Night.”
In “Starry Night,” we had three things going on, all sort of A-stories. In the Dunphy house, Hailey needed cupcakes for a school event made at the last minute and Luke needed to prepare a presentation on Vincent Van Gogh (Alex reminds us she’s done all of her work unassisted). Claire dispatches Phil to help Luke, while she’ll work with Hailey, who’s plan is to just make one slip up and convince her mother to do all the work for her. Phil disagrees with Claire’s notion that Luke needs extra help staying on task, and Alex stirs the pot by suggesting that he has ADHD. But it seems that it’s actually Phil that can’t focus, indulging Luke’s question about how lead gets in pencils and falling in the garage during an ill-fated search for a screwdriver to fix a chair. When they walk in on Luke playing with Mr. Potato head, both parents get upset. But Luke wasn’t playing, he was quite creatively getting ears to put on his poster of Van Gogh. Claire and Phil realize that they not only underestimated Luke, but that Hailey could do the cupcakes by herself. This lead to the hilarious close, where Claire and Phil gush over how good Hailey’s cupcakes are, only to spit them out in horror as she leaves (Luke: “I can’t feel my mouth like at the dentist”).
Cameron and Gloria decided to take advantage of a night without Mitchell, Jay, and Manny (more on that in a second), and Cameron was viewing it as a chance to become friendly with Gloria after an awkward misunderstanding at a family dinner. You see, while complaining about some snooty Ivy League people and Gloria caught him saying “I wish that tart would go back to Columbia and take her weird little Brown friends with her,” just as Gloria and Manny walked by. It was one of the greatest misunderstandings I’ve ever seen. So Cam wants to make up for it by taking her to an exclusive restaurant that one of his “yoga brothers” got him into, but Gloria wants to just go to her favorite Columbian restaurant. Cam goes along, and wanting to be close to Gloria, brazenly orders the same carnitas diablos. Of course, he can’t handle them, and we’re treated to Cam’s sweaty crying and screaming (“I feel like I just ate the sun!”), which was a highlight of the episode. When he cools off, he reveals to Gloria he wants the two of them to be friends, and she reveals that the only reason she didn’t want to go to the fancy restaurant was because she already spent a lot of money on a dress that day (more on that in a second!!). They two bond, and even though Cam’s tires get stolen and Gloria goes crazy over it, it’s a sweet ending.
The three remaining members of the Pritchett clan were off on an adventure of their own, watching a meteor shower. It’s normally the one time Mitchell and Jay get to bond, but (unbeknown to Mitchell), Manny was left out of some plans made by his friends who thought he was too weird, so Jay decided to take him along. This would have been fine, but Jay helped easy Manny’s concerns about how to get along with his step-brother by ragging on him constantly. So not only is Mitchell upset that it’s not just him and his dad, but also that he is constantly getting made fun of, which provided some of the funniest lines in the episode (“Hey Jay! Guess who thinks Mercury is the densest planet in the solar system!”). To make matters even worse, Mitchell gets sprayed by a skunk, and Jay forces him to change out of his clothes. All that’s available: Gloria’s dress, and it looks absolutely hilarious. Jay eventually comes clean about why Manny came along, (not before telling Mitchell “If you were that type of a gay, you’d probably do all right for yourself.”) and Mitchell and Manny eventually get to connect.
The end of the episode was the perfect encapsulation of Modern Family. We’re treated to shots of Jay, Manny, and Mitchell staring at the meteor shower, and Cameron and Gloria happily waiting for a tow truck as Luke shares his presentation on Van Gogh through a voice over. There’s even the happy “awww” music playing the background. Luke talks about the meaning of “Starry Night” and it’s a sweet moment that even borders on sappy. That is until Luke adds a part about “Aliens who could be here any second to liquefy us and use us as fuel.” If you can’t love a show that does that, then you really don’t have a sense of humor.
-Phil’s attempt to find sunglasses on the top shelf was amazing. Ty Burrell is a phenomenal physical actor.
-Another occurrence of my favorite gag: “Gotta fix that step!” Was it just me or did it look like Julie Bowen really took a fall?
- “Shot gun suckah!”
- Luke thinks the noise canceling headphones cancel his noise. “Everybody is stupid except me … I am funny!”
Michael’s Score: 94
TUIW Grade: A