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‘Modern Family’ Review: “Arrested”

ABC

Crisis hits ‘Modern Family‘ this week as Haley gets herself arrested, Shelley Long returns, and Cam and the kids take a trip to the emergency room.

“Arrested” is definitely one of the better episodes of this season, where the writers have given the characters more to work with than playing the same types — we know Gloria is feisty and doesn’t like being called on it, and we know that Phil is a goofball, and so on; but sometimes the episodes feel redundant. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. ‘Modern Family’ is a sitcom with a proven formula and characters with traits that define who they are on a comedic level. But when the show steps out of the box and recognizes that people don’t always play to type, that’s when it can really catch you off guard.

Take Phil, for example. Haley is arrested for underage drinking and the (accidental) assault of a police officer in the middle of the night, so Claire and Phil grab lawyer Mitch and head off to college to rescue the little troublemaker from jail. At first, Phil is his typical laid-back self — always the dad who wants to act young and cool and be relateable with his kids — but then Haley keeps making excuses and refusing to wear something more appropriate to her disciplinary hearing, and the dad in Phil snaps into action in a moment that’s sort of breathtaking, telling her that she hasn’t apologized or recognized her mistakes and demanding she change her outfit. Yes Claire, that manĀ does deserve a waffle.

In another twist, Haley is kicked out of school, forgoing the usual sitcom way of tying things up neatly in favor of finding a way to stay true to who Haley is while also getting her back home with the family. I’m not sure that this maneuvering to keep Haley around can work forever, just like having her only interact with the family via Skype and cell phone calls couldn’t, but it at least buys the writers another year to figure out what to do with her. Community college, perhaps?

Cam is left in charge of Luke, Alex, and Lily while Mitch is away and offers up his new vegan “facon” (fake bacon) recipe, but it turns out that Luke is allergic to soy, so the group spends the rest of the episode in the hospital, where Alex occupies herself with the student doctors making the rounds until she passes out during a C-section. There’s a great recurring bit for Cam here as he keeps calling Mitch and Claire to tell them what’s going on just as something else bad happens and he has to squeak “nevermind!” But mostly this plot just functions to give these four something to do while the more interesting stories are taking place with everyone else.

Like Jay and Gloria, for instance. Jay doesn’t want to help her get a stroller or do anything to prepare for the baby’s arrival, and if that weren’t annoying enough, his ex-wife DeeDee (Shelley Long) reappears to claim an old photo album and talk about her “telescopic vagina.” Long isn’t in much these days, but it’s always great to get a reminder of what a comedic talent she is — for instance, when she talks to Gloria, she does so just a tad slower than she does to anyone else, clearly due to the cultural divide. It’s not that pronounced or obvious, which makes it that much more hilarious to watch. In an unlikely move, Gloria and DeeDee bond over Jay’s laziness when it comes to taking care of baby stuff, with Gloria smartly warning Jay to change his ways or else she’ll become crazy just like his ex.

But the cutest part of this week’s episode, no doubt, is the reveal that the very mature and caring Manny has been writing letters to DeeDee, and hopefully we’ll get to see her again soon.

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