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‘Modern Family’ Review: “The Late Show”

Modern Family The Late Show
ABC

This week’s all-new episode of ‘Modern Family‘ is a serious improvement, even over last week’s episode — which was a step-up from the week before. “The Late Show” tackles that all-too familiar scenario: getting ready to go somewhere exciting, which always cranks up the tension and brings out the worst in people, when everyone just wants the evening to be perfect.

The entire family, sans kids, is heading out to a nice restaurant that Jay’s been dying to visit for months. Everyone has needed a night out like this for some time to escape the stresses and responsibilities of work and home, and just have a good ol’ grown-up outing. But that’s the funny thing about placing such high expectations on one evening or event: you wind up stressing yourself — and everyone else around you — out.

Gloria takes too long to get ready, slowly driving Jay to his breaking point, and a grumpy Jay means no one gets to have a good time. But by the time they make it to the restaurant, no one else has made it there yet, either. Seems this night out is causing undue pressure on the other families as well — Claire worries that Luke can’t stay home by himself, so she lets her own paranoia infect him. Phil bought a suit that’s way too tight (the salesman looked like “a Mumford and Son,” so he must have known about fashion), so he can hardly move around. Cam and Mitch accidentally wear the same outfit, causing a melodramatic war between the two before they’ve even left the house.

It’s territory ‘Modern Family’ has explored before: the idea that the more importance and expectations you place on a simple fun night out, the less fun it actually becomes. And yet, the episode is still brimming with laughs, from Phil’s always delightful physical comedy gags to Luke’s modern version of ‘Home Alone.’ Cam and Mitch are hilarious when they crank the drama up to 11, and Lily and Alex play off each other really well, even though Lily’s stuff seems like recycled bits and pieces we’ve seen before. But even though ‘Modern Family’ can at times feel redundant — like most sitcoms — it’s a real testament to the writing of the show that a plot that feels well-worn can still make us chuckle.

At the end of the night, no one can keep it together enough to all be in the same place at once, thus the group loses their table at the fancy restaurant and ends up at a taco truck — it reinforces the idea that the real point of going out together was to have a good timeĀ together, regardless of where they end up or what they do when they get there.

And how about the kids tonight? They don’t get as much to do, but the Gayle King bit with Hayley and the boys was pretty wonderful, and Alex relenting and giving in to Lily’s offer to give her a little makeover was cute.

Sitcoms are formulaic, but the reason that ones like ‘Modern Family’ stick around for so long is that they have such great characters and often charming writing that we can forgive the repetitive nature and just have a good time. Like the characters on tonight’s episode, we could all stand to relax and have a little fun every week.

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