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‘Modern Family’ Review: “Career Day”

Modern Family Career Day
ABC

Modern Family‘ returns after a brief hiatus and brings along Rob Riggle’s Gil Thorpe and a tooth fairy for “Career Day.”

“Career Day” is a solid half hour return for ‘Modern Family,’ and an episode that focuses mostly on how the adults try to impress their kids, and how they end up learning something from them instead. Cam and Mitch are excited to give Lily her first visit from the tooth fairy, hoping to impress her with their creative gift (and one they can’t even take credit for), but Cam slips up and accidentally gives Lily $100. The pair spend the rest of the episode trying to convince Lily — without revealing the charade — that she should give the money back, helping to teach their daughter about honesty and integrity. It takes a visit from Hayley and a warning about Santa to get Lily to understand that $100 is great, sure, but would she rather have one big item or the promise of many more in the future?

Phil and Claire pop in on Career Day at Luke and Manny’s school, where Phil’s show and tell is dwarfed by the obnoxious Gil Thorpe — and we get a wonderfully cringe-inducing video Phil made wherein he plays a teenager who says things like “epic fail” and “cray cray.” It’s always hilarious when Phil tries to posture himself as someone in touch with modern youth, but even better when there’s costuming involved. But this isn’t so much about Phil and Gil as it is about Claire. At the teacher’s insistence, Claire tries to explain how being a stay at home mom is important, but thanks to a snotty little girl prodding her insecurities, she realizes she wants back on the job market more desperately than she previously thought.

And over in the Pritchett household, Jay laments to Gloria about how he always wanted to be a writer and even bought a typewriter for it — Gloria has no faith in him, so she makes him take the day off from work and prove his talents, at which point Manny jumps in to write Jay’s spy story for him. And yet, even Manny’s superior writing doesn’t impress Gloria.

At the end of the day, everyone has something to learn through their failed ambitions: Phil may never be as successful as Gil Thorpe, but the money doesn’t make the man — integrity does. Claire goes to work for Gil in an ill-advised attempt to re-enter the work force, but quickly learns that taking a job just because it’s a job isn’t going to yield rewarding results. Cam and Mitch’s harmless pandering leads them to making a huge mistake with Lily, but thanks to Hayley, they understand that when you back yourself into a corner with creative thinking, it’s that same creative thinking that’ll get you out of it. As for Phil, he’s learned — once again — to keep his grand promises to himself, lest Gloria hold him to keep them, and also, like Claire, he discovers that just because you think you’d like to do something, doesn’t mean you’d be good at it.

Overall “Career Day” is a solid if generic return for the series after its short break — it’s a bit like color by numbers: did everyone learn a lesson? Yes. Did we laugh? Yes. Did Phil do something wacky? Did everyone bicker? Did somebody wear a silly costume? (Yes, times two.) As long as all these areas are filled in, you’ve got a passable episode.

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