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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 4.19 - "The Future Dunphys"





Hello, and welcome back to Worldly Distractions! A serious lack of The Simpsons and How I Met Your Mother led us directly back to Modern Family this week. I’m sure you’re all thrilled. So, what’s in store for the Dunphy-Pritchett-Delgado-Tuckers this week? Let’s take a look.

At the Dunphy household, things are a teensy bit tense. Claire’s little heart problem has led to an angiogram (that’s where they inject dye into you to see if your arteries are ‘sploding) and she is totally not scared at all in the slightest thank you very much. Kind of. Phil is doing the supportive husband thing and putting in the creep factor all at once. Turns out if Claire died, he would turn their bedroom into a shrine to her. Guys, it’s only a test. Seriously. As a viewer who has had more than a few of these, I officially declare the Dunphys wusses.

Luke is wantonly taking apart appliances in the kitchen to make a robot. Phil, of course, being six years old at heart, is thrilled to join him. Haley has quit her job on a whim. Alex is – get this, guys – SO NERDY that her mom keeps demanding that she stay out past her curfew and blow her spring break on a frivolous vacation! Tee hee! Phil attempts to intervene in all three situations and naturally makes things worse. Claire demands that he “step away from the childrenâ€. Opening credits come in.

Gloria (holding the be-yoo-tiful baby Joe) informs Manny that she’s annoyed he’s forgetting his Spanish. This offers another “embarazada/embarrassed†joke that should be familiar to any Spanish speakers in the readership and prompts Jay to make a snarky remark.

Manny is absolutely desperate to get into a snooty private school, and is eager for his parents to measure up. Jay is dressed too casually and Gloria is banned from the interview. Meanwhile, Manny has already memorized all 36 verses of the school song. Jay recalls how snobby the private school kids were to him back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, setting up a potential conflict immediately. Oh boy, wacky hijinks on the way!

At the hospital, Claire is rambling on about her quitter daughter while Phil plays with the adjustable bed. An Old Coot next to them interjects with some parenting advice (basically, let kids be who they are, which is an unfamiliar concept to Sergeant Claire). Old Coot’s kids show up, and are basically grown-up Haley, Alex and Luke. One girl is into weird mystical stuff and married to a doctor, one has three degrees, and the boy is famous for getting stuck in banisters. All in all, the kids look pretty successful, and Claire’s mind is about to be changed – until Claire leaves the room and Phil overhears that they’re all fuck-ups.

With the first two storylines set up, it’s high time to check in with Cam and Mitch. Lily is having a “girls dayâ€, which is Two-Daddies code for “make sure the kid has feminine influence in her life†–which is also useful for avoid the five-year-old version of the girly sex talk. Men are just not cut out for some things, especially when their child plaintively whines “When am I going to get some real boobs?†Fortunately, Gloria is up to the task. Cam and Mitch flee the scene. Gloria gleefully announces all the girly things they’re going to do, ending with the pointed instruction that “You can ask me anything you wantâ€, to which Lily replies “Did you know I’m gay?†Screech go the brakes.

At Snooty Academy, Manny is thrilled and Jay is a curmudgeon, especially once he is shoved into a school blazer to “get the full experience.†Yup, that’s really going to thrill The Character Formerly Known as Al Bundy. At least it gives him the opportunity to use the phrase “Candy-assed preppies with too many privileges.†He admits that, okay, perhaps, he was a tiny bit jealous back then – okay, really jealous. Suddenly he’s just as desperate for Manny to get in.

Gloria and the guys are having a heated debate. How can Lily really know at this age? Cam and Mitch both maintain that they knew from early childhood, with Cam fondly remembering his second fifth birthday party tipping everyone off. Mitch is a little more skeptical than his boyfriend, however, and in the heat of the argument “It’s probably just a phase†slips out. Ruh-roh. They decide to ask Lily herself about it, whose only answer is “Because I’m gay.†Helpful, kid. It’s eventually teased out that she thinks she’s gay because her dads are, just like one kid is Italian because his parents are Italian, etc, etc. A round of applause for our public schools, please!

The guys explain the difference between heritage and sexual orientation (with Mitch accidentally making several more awkward remarks in the process). “You’re not gay...you’re Vietnamese!â€

Lily promptly asks what Vietnamese is, and her dads try to explain Vietnam but end up getting sidetracked and talking about random things like bikes. Fortunately, the conversation is ended by Lily’s kindergartner attention span. However, Gloria has to have her say. She is furious that Cameron and Mitchell don’t know anything about Vietnamese culture. In all their fuss over gender, they completely ignored her heritage. Gloria insists that they go to a Vietnamese restaurant even for just a tiny glimpse of culture. The boys can’t name one. Oops.

At the hospital, Claire is waiting for her test and eavesdropping on Old Coot’s family. Turns out the mom is an absolute control freak (“I have my probation officer for that!â€) and none of the kids want to see her. Claire interrupts them to suggest that maybe Mom has good intentions. The kids won’t hear of it. Phil, however, has gotten the message and is on the phone to his kids to tell them to turn their lives around. He begs Haley not to quit her job – while Claire is in her hospital room telling Alex that it’s okay to be a study freak. The girls switch phones, where each parent tells the other daughter the opposite of what the first parent said. Haley can quit, Alex needs to throw her books away. The girls are confused until it dawns on them – clearly Claire has received dire news on her test and these are fond farewells (though Luke is sticking with the theory that they’ve been kidnapped). Side note: I wonder if this storyline was inspired by Julie Bowen’s real-life heart issues? Anyone heard about this?

Back with Manny and Jay, the curmudgeon has become totally gung-ho about Snooty Academy. Manny is surprised but delighted. They decide that Jay will sit in on the interview, which Manny blows. Jay’s dreams of status and class go out the window. There’s moonwalking. I’d accept that kid in a heartbeat.

Cam, Mitchell and Gloria have managed to find a Vietnamese restaurant, which Lily is not very impressed with. Mitch decides to ask the server about Vietnam. She patiently starts to tell them when Lily interrupts with a cry of “I HATE Vietnam!†The adults are mortified. Cam tells her that she is being very rude, Mitchell reminds her that we don’t hate, and Gloria says it’s important for her to know her culture because she is Vietnamese. “NO, I’m GAY!†Cue silence in the restaurant and another mistake of a comment from Mitch. Gloria begins to rant about how everyone in America forgets where they are from and all congeal into one homogeneous lump of cheeseburger. As she gets angrier, Mitch and Cam realize what’s going on. Gloria is very homesick and feeling isolated, and disappointed that her sons are losing touch with their Colombian background. Lily, too, feels that she must be gay to be like her dads. But the important thing is that they are all family. Awww...and one more accidental politically incorrect comment to ruin things. Don’t ever change, Cam and Mitch.

The Dunphy kids have rushed over to the hospital to find their (probably dying) mother.  Claire is coming out of sedatives with Phil by her side. Everything’s fine, Claire is healthy, she and Phil have a special moment. Meanwhile, the kids are riding up in the elevator with Old Coot’s children, who are bickering and being general assholes. The Dunphy spawn are not impressed. They reminisce over all the good times they had with their mom, unaware that their father is currently texting the good news from upstairs. Phil leans in for a cuddle with his wife, but like everything else in a marriage, the kids ruin it. They are outraged that Phil has the gall to text “mom ok†and storm out in a huff. The Dunphy parents look over to the next bed...where a younger Dunphy-like family is giving them the side-eye. It’s the ciiiiircle of liiiiiife!

Jay and Manny are pretty glum about the interview, with Manny blaming himself for disappointing Jay. Jay admits that he might have put too much pressure on his stepson and had unrealistic hang-ups about the school. At last, he tells Manny that he is proud of him every day. They both leave the school feeling good about themselves. Aww.

The closing credits feature Phil and Luke in lab coats and goggles attempting the ultimate father-son achievement, the self-flipping pancake. Unfortunately, they are defeated and share in their terrible failure. Phil comments that you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, to which Luke says “Or can we?†On to the next Dunphy Boys adventure – until the pancake miraculously flips itself. Looks like they’re geniuses after all?

Tonight’s outing of Modern Family was solid. Not all-time great, but it had some excellent one-liners and very funny moments while developing the characters quite well. Comedy and drama shows occasionally need to indulge in the other, right? A few serious moments never hurt a sitcom (do not mention Full House, do not mention Full House). I especially loved the Cam/Gloria/Mitchell storyline, as I feel like they’re always getting the crappy C-plot. And Lily really is the perfect snarker. If they just alternated this show between Phil screwing up, Luke being a weirdo and Lily being bitchy, I wouldn’t mind one bit.

As for me, I am heading back into the essay cocoon. See you tomorrow night for a double feature of The Big Bang Theory and Community! And don’t forget Mad Men’s two-hour Season 6 premiere on Sunday night!

For the FJ discussion thread on Modern Family, go here.


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