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‘Modern Family’ Review: “Bad Hair Day”

Modern Family Bad Hair Day
ABC

This week’s ‘Modern Family‘ is packed with guest stars when Claire heads off to a school reunion and baby Joe has one very unfortunate hair day thanks to uncles Cam and Mitch.

“Bad Hair Day” made me long for last week’s episode in terms of the directing and editing… at least until the last five minutes when all of the plot threads braid together beautifully — something that doesn’t happen that often on a show that jumps from story to story between the three family units. And when it does come together? One of the best laughs on the show in recent memory.

Claire is heading off to a school reunion and pleased that Phil has to miss out because he’s playing on Jay’s team in a bowling tournament, but moreover she’s relieved because she can see her ex-boyfriend (and ex-professor), played by Maxwell Caulfield (Rex Manning!), and can happily drink and have a good time without having to explain everything to Phil. Among her old schoolmates are guest stars Annie Mumolo and David Faustino, who hasn’t grown an inch since ‘Married… With Children.’ Once Phil figures out who Claire’s ex is, it’s only a matter of time before she brazenly admits that she just wanted a peek at the life that might’ve been, an admission that Phil surprisingly doesn’t even wince at. Yes, I know that Phil can be naive and often oblivious — he’s the chuckle head, the big good, the guy with all the prat falls (and he has a few great ones early on this week) — but it strikes me as odd that Claire could say something that indicates an unhappiness with her current life and a wistfulness for a life she never had to the father of her children and a man with whom she’s happy.

That’s not a knock on the characters, either; rather, it’s an inability to believe that these characters, whom we’ve spent so much time with over the years, would behave in such a way. But then another guest star, Maribeth Monroe of ‘Workaholics,’ pops in and quickly dispels the professor’s mythology with her crass, exhausted attitude, and reminds Claire that she’s pretty damn lucky to have ended up with Phil after all, even if he was pretty much a rebound — the only admission Claire makes that seems to bother Phil at all, making him feel just a little less special and a little more territorial.

Meanwhile, back at home, Mitch and Cam are staging a photo shoot with Lily for their upcoming Oscars party when Mitch brings baby Joe home because Gloria accidentally hurt her ankle (more on that shortly). When Lily grows tired of being their model, the guys use Joe as her stand-in, leading to a cute mix-up with a wig and a hilarious Justin Bieber hair cut.

And about Gloria’s ankle — the stressed and cranky new mom is under so much pressure to seem like a good mother that she’s taking much more upon herself than usual, and with Cam terrified of her, he bribes Manny with the lead part in the new school play so Manny will take responsibility for Joe’s hair cut, which leads Manny to barter with Luke over a school report that needs signing, which leads to… Well, you get the picture. It’s a delightfully wacky set up that brings each story together in a way that seemed unimaginable from the outset — the photo shoot, Manny’s stress over not landing any parts in the school plays, the bowling tournament, the reunion, and Gloria overworking herself. None of these things seemed to have a common thread, whereas in most weeks at least two of the plots share similarities or all three overlap in some way like a sitcom Venn diagram.

I’ve been enjoying the recent risks on ‘Modern Family,’ and if last week’s and this week’s episodes are any indication, the writers are having some fun playing around with plot structure and the different ways that each thread can be tied and knotted up into and with each other.

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