Spoilers for the "Modern Family" premiere after the jump:
I stated a few weeks back that I won't be reviewing "Modern Family" on a weekly basis for this blog, but I generally still try to check in briefly on the premieres of the shows I watch but don't review. And in this case I'm glad I did, because it gives me a chance to talk a little bit about just how much I enjoy "Modern Family". There have been so many critical comments about it both last season and over the past few days (when it won the Emmy over the admittedly far better "Parks and Recreation"), and I have to ask the question: why?
When season one premiered, it was met with universal acclaim as a fresh, funny take on the family sitcom. That first season was one of the most consistently enjoyable (if not quite one of the best) seasons of comedy TV I've ever seen. Season two, on the other hand, did struggle in a few places. Some of the episodes weren't quite up to the high standard the show had set for itself. But I recall reading tweets just a few days ago about how it was no longer that good of a show. It's possible "Modern Family" set the bar too high with that first season. People expected it to remain fresh and novel forever, and punished it when it inevitably failed. That's unfair: particularly for a show that has, apart from a few inconsistencies last year, remained one of the better sitcoms on TV.
The two episodes that aired this week were both very strong. "Dude Ranch" covered pretty well-worn ground for the extended family at the heart of this show. Phil's insecurities around Jay are explored, as are Mitchell's about his lack of masculinity. It's nothing we haven't seen the show do before, and I'll admit parts of it felt just a tad stale. But I'm not complaining too much, because for every predictable gag involving Mitchell and a birdhouse we got a truly hilarious moment such as Dylan misinterpreting Claire's comments as a sign of romantic interest. After the rather subpar hour of "Up All Night" and "Free Agents", it was a breath of fresh air to remember what it felt like to laugh consistently.
"When Good Kids Go Bad" was actually the better episode, although at first it didn't seem like it would be. The early sections featured the three families in their own separate worlds. The Manny-related stuff was solid, but the Claire-Phil and Mitchell-Cameron stories seemed like tired retreads of better ones from past seasons. Yet it all came together in one of the more inspired and hilarious concluding scenes I've seen the show do in ages: in which various family members' issues with control and "being right" were brought the surface. Julie Bowen telling Phil and the kids to "suck it" was a highlight, but in truth so was everything else. I was laughing for about five minutes after the discussion of Claire putting Mitchell in the dryer, and the big "aha" moment with Jay was perfectly timed.
So what did you think? I'm eager to hear from people who are critical of the show as well as those who share my viewpoint. It's not at the level of "Parks and Rec" or "Community", but "Modern Family" has a firm handle on what it wants to do. It wants to make us laugh. A lot. And this week (like most weeks) it succeeded. I honestly don't see what the problem is. And I'm very, very glad this show is on TV.
"Dude Ranch": B+
"When Good Kids Go Bad": A-