Modern Family: Season 3, Episodes 1& 2
The Dude Ranch & "When Good Kids Go Bad"
With its total domination of the Emmys, I went into the first episode of the new season of Modern Family with high expectations. If you checked out the Review to be Named crew's live-blog of the telecast, you know that we weren't that happy with the Modern Family love fest, mostly because of the epically unfortunate snubs of our real favorite comedies, namely Community and Parks & Rec.

That said, I do actually like Modern Family so I'm going to attempt to give it a fair shake. The two premier episodes were solid, yet nothing really spectacular (or Emmy-sweep worthy). But they re-establish the Pritchett-Dunphy clan in a way that makes me, at least, remember why I loved the whole crazy family in the first place.

"The Dude Ranch" sends the whole family to the eponymous setting for a family vacation. But this is a sitcom, of course, so nothing goes the way it's supposed to. Haley, the eldest Dunphy daughter, insists on bringing her doltish boyfriend Dylan, much to psychotic mother Claire's chagrin. And we all know that Mitchell isn't going to do well at a Dude Ranch. The surprising outcast is Jay, however, who swears his horse Buttercup has had a stroke, while Gloria proves a regular gaucho. Luke is trying to blow things up, Alex is having her first kiss stolen (and then given back) by a boy with an unfortunate New York accent, and Lily is speaking up.

Speaking of which, I must echo the sentiments of many Review to be Named staff members when I say: Fuck you, new Lily. Yes, I know, how can I say this to a tiny, adorable child? Replacing the original Lily was such a giant mistake. Ninety percent of that character's charm was that a completely stoic, stone-faced baby had parents like Cam and Mitchell. Baby Lily's straight-faced silence was the perfect balance to Gloria's absurd exclamations, or Cam's ridiculous flamboyance, and the general vociferousness of the rest of the family. But new Lily is chatty and emotive, annoyingly expressive (it really comes out in the second episode, which centers on Lily's inability to share, as brought out by Cam and Mitchell's decision to adopt a new baby). This Lily tries too hard to be cute, now dressing herself in ridiculous outfits, eliminating the one subtle comedic element of the show.

"When Good Kids Go Bad" shows this perfectly. New Lily has developed a bit of a violent streak when it comes to Cam showing any kind of attention to Cam, claiming that she hates the hypothetical new baby. Ok, great, except she's supposed to be like, three years old. Can three year olds really understand what a new baby is? Also, New Lily, as a three year old, falls into the trap of the child actor. She's adorable, sure, but she can't really deliver lines, which is really annoying considering comedy is all about timing. Inputting a walking, talking Lily into the show is like substituting slapstick physical comedy for dry wit. Her best moments prove the one's where she is completely silent, like the montage of moments over which Cam tries (and fails) to prove that he coddles Lily any more than a regular parent. So I hope for many more of them.

Generally speaking, the major problem with the premier episodes was that the characters weren't allowed to be real people, instead playing totally into their stereotypes. And it was the humanity of the cast that made them so compelling. Yes, we get it, Gloria is hot and loud and has a funny accent. And yes, Cam and Mitchell are gay and therefore lack any form of traditional machismo. And Claire is crazy, and Luke is weird, and Alex is neurotic, and Haley is dumb. Blah blah blah. This is a problem that pilots should have (see my review of New Girl from earlier this week), not strong shows starting their third season. Perhaps my favorite scene was the opening sequence of the second episode, with Phil and Claire in the grocery store. They're cute, and it's Claire being not psychotic for like, a minute. But then, of course, she spends the rest of the episode neurotically attempting to prove that she isn't neurotic. Hopefully Modern Family returns to what makes these characters people instead of cardboard.

Grade: B+

The Little Things

-"I did a boy thing!"

-"Only we touch our women when they don't want us to!"

-"I will only be checking somewhat satisfied on our comment card."

-"I would love to be wrong, but I just don't live with the right people for that."

-Sofia Vergera has good legs, physical and comedic. She should be allowed to stretch them beyond a simple "O, the way I say things is funny."

Tags: Modern Family
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