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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 6.5 - Won't You Be Our Neighbor


crazyforkate

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blog-neighbors.jpgneighbors

 

It was so tempting to add that extra, civilized "u". Differences in English, it bums me out. My apologies for turning this in a day late (I came down with that mysterious illness known as "unexpected theatre tickets"), and let's move on to the episode ASAP. The Dunphys court a new neighbo(u)r, hopefully the hippie played by Jesse Eisenberg who lived next door to Mitch and Cam. We'll see what transpires.

Phil heads out to work, which involves selling their neighbour Jerry's house (yeah, remember him?). Claire, competely insensitive to the man's recent bitter divorce, is thrilled to finally be able to upgrade on her iffy neighbour, because Claire is a heartless shallow wench. You know you're in trouble when Phil is the sensible one, even as he pouts Tobias Funke one-liners. Claire recruits all the children into making the house and family look perfect, to a Stepfordian extent, and has even apparently been stalking the prospective buyers. Run fast, new neighbours, run fast. Also, is it just me, or did Julie Bowen have to get high to get through this dreck? Cause she sure is glassy-eyed. Opening credits.

We go to the second of our three obligatory family stories, over at Jay and Gloria's house. Jay has received something mysterious in the mail. It turns out to be his new invention, some kind of sock organizer, which will expand Jay's closet business a thousandfold. Manny has apparently gotten over being dumped last episode, and has brought his friend Sophie over. She thinks Jay is pretty much a genius, and Jay wonders why she knows so much about the closet business. Turns out that her grandfather is Earl Chambers, who started "Closetfornia" with Jay back when he was still Al Bundy and promptly screwed him over. Time for some Romeo and Juliet-style drama, I guess. I'll be here with some of whatever Julie Bowen's having.

Lily and Cam return from a birthday party, whereupon Lily informs her dads that she has to do homework and cannot be disturbed. Cam and Mitch are horrified that Lily's strict teacher has given her weekend homework, but Cam has heard that the much nicer Miss Sparrow has an opening in her class. This is none too soon - Lily's starting to get a bit stressed out from her teacher's demands. Like all the petty parents of the modern era, they scheme a way to get Lily transferred, rather than teaching her the valuable lesson of how to deal with annoying people. Also, I sincerely hope that this new teacher is a pirate, preferably one who sounds like Keith Richards.

The new potential neighbours seem to be clones of Phil and Claire, to the point where I wonder if this is the Halloween episode and they're parodying Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Meanwhile, the Dunphy kids become increasingly bitter with their forced gardening. The Body Snatchers seem to be perfect, and it looks like everything's going through.

Unfortunately, at that moment everything fizzles, as a total jackass (played by Steve Zahn, who has made a career off of playing jackasses) pulls up for the next viewing. Honestly, if you squint you can see a Married With Children parody, especially once you meet his awful family. The jerks love the house, of course, and seem pretty friendly despite their flaws. Let me be the first to say that I'd take them in a second over the creepy Body Snatchers. Phil and Claire openly treat them like dirt, because remember, the Modern American couple is characterized by exclusion and classism! Actually, maybe that's the most accurate reflection of this show's title.

Jay rails at Manny for daring to date the granddaughter of his rival, and even forbids them to see each other, on the grounds that he might give away professional secrets - since two teenage paramours are really going to discuss the structure of a closet. Meanwhile, Phil tries to discourage Steve Zahn from buying the house, and it totally fails - the guy throws in another $50,000, as he had the best sex of his life in the house he only found five minutes ago.

Cam and Mitch have a conference with Lily's current teacher, Miss Plank, who is the caricature of every dragon lady that terrified you in elementary school. (Mine was kindergarten, and to this day my friends and I shudder when her name comes up.) Miss Plank, who is not a fool by any stretch, knows exactly what they're up to and informs them tersely that parents cannot choose a child's teacher. They babble excuses like a pair of morons while Miss Plank deftly debunks every attempt at logic they throw. She even corrects Cam's grammar, and I want to marry her for it. However, she does let Lily go, after a few disparaging remarks about Miss Sparrow and her pirate teaching abilities. Cam and Mitch go on about how their precious little gay-parent-raised snowflake will thrive (and yes, they play the gay parent card), but no one's really convinced.

Jay and Gloria go out to dinner, where it turns out that Gloria has invited Earl, which is a spectacularly bad idea, since they get into FISTICUFFS almost instantly. They argue over frivolous closet technology ad nauseum. Meanwhile, Claire and Phil are trying to get Married With Children away from the house, so they invite the Body Snatchers to come over. However, due to the ridiculously over-inflated price, they refuse within seconds. It turns out that Phil's Tobias-like qualities led them to believe that the Dunphys were swingers. Pfft, like those prigs would ever do anything other than missionary covered in a sheet.

Earl and Jay continue to argue about who said what back in the days of hair metal. Literally no one cares. Gloria keeps encouraging them to talk it out, which makes me wonder when she swapped personalities with Phil. Earl is surprised to find out that Sophie is dating Jay's kid, especially since he thinks Jay is talking about Mitchell. (This is cleared up pretty quickly, and Jay's gleeful about it.) Outraged, he vows to put a stop to it, but Jay has already gotten sweet revenge and moved on. Getting to be the bigger man in this argument, he walks out of the restaurant, with Earl yelling after him that he banged Jay's ex-wife. Jay retorts that "If you banged Dede, I do owe you an apology." BOOM. Mic is dropped.

Cam and Mitch break the good news to Lily - she's going to be transferred to Miss Sparrow's class. Apparently not entranced with rum and parrots, Lily freaks out. Miss Sparrow's class, apparently, doesn't do much of anything, while Miss Plank actually bothers to teach a real curriculum. She begs to be sent back to Miss Plank's class, and sends her dads away to undo it.

Claire complains about her new neighbours, though other family members seem to be warming up to them (see, the son called Alex hot). Phil doesn't think he can turn down the offer. Claire offers to make it "disappear". Over at the Pritchett-Delgados', Jay mentions he wants to talk to Manny, which Gloria immediately interprets as a Shakespearean edict. However, Jay actually intends to give his blessing. Earl Chambers suddenly arrives to tell him that their feud is out of control. He'll apologize, as long as it keeps Manny away from Sophie. Jay immediately abandons all pretense of paternal affection and throws Manny's romantic future under the bus. At that moment, Manny appears at the top of the stairs in full Julius Caesar costume. Compounding his sins, Jay pretends he's the maid's son. Manny confidently introduces himself, and Earl takes a surprising liking to him. Jay is still pissed he didn't get his apology. Stay classy!

Phil goes to visit Jerry, who is living in a tiny apartment in a bad neighbourhood. His ex-neighbour happily tells him about how he can use the money to move to a better place and get medical care. Jerry is skeptical, but still feels he can trust Phil, which immediately causes Phil to break. Surprisingly, Jerry does not try to murder him upon hearing the story, but offers to hold out a bit longer in the name of friendship. Phil is shamed into giving in.

The new neighbours arrive, and immediately ask if there's some tension between the two families. The Dunphys acknowledge that there is, but that wasn't the kind of tension the neighbours meant. Turns out there actually is a family of swingers in the neighbourhood - now.

Tag scene - Cam and Mitch beg Miss Plank's forgiveness. Miss Plank tests them by asking them to find the object of a sentence: "Lily's parents were wrong about Miss Plank". Mitch incorrectly/sort of correctly guesses that the object was "to humiliate us", and she gives it a pass. End of episode.

Apart from Jay being the world's worst parent (and his plot mostly filler, hilarious closet minutiae aside), the episode was pretty good. I'm especially looking forward to the new Dunphy neighbours, and hope the writers know not to waste those talented actors - let us now have a moment of silence for David Cross's aborted story arc.

...

...

Cam and Mitch were fine, and there was some good commentary on modern teaching and parenting (as a former teacher, I quite enjoyed it). However, the episode did belong to the Dunphys and the family next door. Phil had a real moment of growth, and Claire was less annoying by this season's standards. I guess we'll have to see what comes next - and if that offer in that last scene was any hope, maybe this show will really get daring before too long.

camshocked

 

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