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‘Modern Family’ Review: “Larry’s Wife”

Modern Family Larry's Wife
ABC

On tonight’s all-new episode of ‘Modern Family,’ Phil gets a bit carried away with his single mother clients, while Gloria worries that baby Joe is cursed, Luke has his friends over for a poker game, and Cam and Mitch have to halt their wedding planning to put on a funeral for their cat’s imaginary wife. “Larry’s Wife” is one seriously busy half hour.

As far as ‘Modern Family’ goes, this week covers all the basics of relationships: trust, shared responsibility, and what happens when you neglect what’s important. Everyone is sort of obsessing this week — Gloria is convinced that Joe is suffering from a perceived family curse that is making him super aggressive in his Gymboree class, while Jay thinks everyone could stand to be a bit tougher, which rubs Manny the wrong way. Meanwhile, Cam is obsessing over his upcoming wedding to Mitch (Florist Gump and Floral and Hardy are an inspired touch), while Lily worries over her missing cat, Larry.

But Larry isn’t dead, and Cam gets lost in an elaborate lie, leading him to explaining that Larry’s cat-wife is dead, and now he has to throw a crazy funeral for Larry’s wife, which gives us a surprise — and always welcome — visit from Dylan.

Phil is similarly getting carried away with two divorced female clients — he’s become their emotional support in an effort to sell some houses, but it’s distracting him from his responsibilities at home. While he’s tending to single mothers, he’s effectively turning his own wife into one. And things at home are getting wacky when Luke has a poker game with friends from school, and the ladies of the house get involved.

As for Mitchell, his stress over his lack of involvement in planning the wedding is manifesting in some obsessive-compulsive attention to cleanliness at work.

What ‘Modern Family’ can do really well is tie its plots together not with a single, unifying thread, but by having several threads — Gloria, Mitch, and Phil’s stories are all about getting carried away and becoming obsessive, while Cam and Claire’s stories are about shared responsibility and communication — that all bleed into one another in a way that makes the episode thematically coherent. Unfortunately, with so many stories fighting for screen time (including the lame duck — Luke’s poker game), it feels like a case of quantity over quality. There are fewer laughs as more plot is elbowing for space, and it starts to read like the writers just pushing to fit as much narrative into a single half hour as possible. ‘Modern Family’ works best when it’s minimized down to two or three plots, or when it finds a way to get most of the characters together.

“Larry’s Wife” isn’t nearly as adorable or focused as the season premiere, and feels way too busy for viewers to find anything to really grasp onto — that said, it’s a passable half hour, though it may become ultimately forgettable in the scheme of the entire season.

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