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‘Modern Family’ Review: “New Year’s Eve”

Modern Family New Year's Eve
ABC

It’s a new year and we’ve got a new episode of ‘Modern Family‘ to celebrate — this week Jay and Gloria take the whole family, sans kids, to a resort in Palm Springs for New Year’s Eve.

As usual, nothing goes according to plan for the ‘Modern Family’ gang. Jay decides to take the whole family, minus the kids, to his favorite old resort in Palm Springs, but it’s not what it used to be, and everyone begins devising ways to ditch the family dinner for something a little more exciting. The thing is, when you have expectations for a “fun” evening, you get too wound up in the details and nothing turns out the way you hoped it would.

Claire hasn’t had sex with Phil in over a month, prompting her to take the advice of a weirdo bellboy and drag Phil out in search of a romantic and hidden hot spring. Her problem is one that could be easily solved, if she’d just tell her husband that she wants to have sex, but instead she makes a huge deal about sneaking away from the family and finding a hot spring that may or may not exist. It’s the kind of story that’s rooted in vintage housewifery — this idea that we can’t talk to our husbands or partners about what’s bothering us, let alone an issue dealing with sex. But it’s also a fairly common problem because no matter how long you’ve been with someone, asking for something when you haven’t been getting it can be a humbling experience — what if they say no? What if there’s some upsetting reason? ‘Modern Family’ doesn’t tackle this issue with the sort of depth I’d like to see, but the subtle approach is noted.

Gloria’s pregnancy has left her nodding off at the dinner table, so she heads back to the room to get some sleep, giving the rest of the family the perfect opportunity to sneak away, guilt-free. This leads Cam and Mitch off in search of a hot gay nightclub to spend their New Year’s feeling young and energetic, but they end up suffering some age discrimination while trying to get drinks and quickly realize that maybe the young scene isn’t their thing anymore. The pair wind up at a bar filled with aging gay men, where they receive endless free drinks from admirers and feel young among the older folks, but it’s still uncomfortable because they’re trying to have someone else’s idea of fun — being out and about and raging it up on New Year’s, when truthfully, they’d rather relax, get some frozen yogurt, and maybe get a little extra sleep without Lily around.

Jay winds up playing poker with the staff of the resort and, strangely, Billy Dee Williams as himself. Kudos to the writers for making a ‘Mahogany’ reference right off the bat, leaving the ‘Star Wars’ joke for the stinger at the end of the episode. This is probably my least favorite plot of the night, as Gloria wakes up and finds Jay and then bonds with Williams over his expensive car.

Of course the entire family ends up back together at the end of the night when Phil and Claire realize the bellboy who told them about the hot spring was merely inviting them to a “Nude Year’s Eve” hot spring party.

Back at home, Alex and Haley are left in charge of Manny, Luke, and Lily, but they’re doing a horrible job at babysitting — even Lily comments on it a couple of times. Surprisingly, it’s Luke who ends up having girls over rather than Haley inviting a boyfriend, confusing Alex and Haley, who suddenly have to play the part of surrogate parents, unsure how to handle it when a 14 year old takes a girl up to his room and shuts the door. It’s cute commentary on how kids learn morality through routine, but it also raises an interesting question: On sitcoms, it’s always the parents worrying about girls taking boys to their rooms, but what about the boys? Shouldn’t we treat them the same? Since Alex and Haley are both girls, they aren’t really sure what the rules should be, or if they should handle it the way their parents would. In fact, they aren’t even sure they agree with their parents’ reasoning, making it more difficult to enforce a rule they must abide by on their younger brother.

By far, the at-home stuff with the kids is the best-played this week, and perhaps the most thoughtful, though I have to say Cam’s “Her new name should be ranch house because she doesn’t have a second story” joke may be the best line of the night.

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