Modern Family Review: "Door to Door" (Episode 3.04)
Our main criticism of last week’s Modern Family focused on how the writers tried to cram too much funny into 22 minutes. It can be difficult to find the right balance and keep a focus with such a large ensemble cast. But this week’s episode, “Door to Door,” hit the sweet spot.
Many of the cast members were forced to go door-to-door in their respective neighborhoods for some reason or another. Jay tries to teach Manny business lessons by helping him sell wrapping paper for a school fundraiser; Claire tries to enlist her family in gathering 50 signatures in order to petition the traffic council for a stop sign; Gloria and Cam walk the streets searching for Stella, Jay’s canine BFF, who Gloria accidentally lost.
The opening scene is hilarious because it’s comedy that feels natural, riffing on things that happen every day. During a car ride, the girls are talking about “Carly” from school. Claire tells them to cool it on the gossip because Carly has enough problems. “What do you mean?” Haley asks. To which Claire dishes, “Well, her mom can’t get through soccer practice without a thermos of chardonnay…and don’t get me started on the dad.” The scene leads right into the dangerous intersection—and a near miss or two—and Claire’s quest for a stop sign is born.
Cam and Gloria are searching the neighborhood for the dog on a hot day, so Cam is walking around in an undershirt and jeans yelling, “Stella.” The Streetcar moment isn’t lost on him. “I see myself in the role I was born to play,” he tells Gloria. When Mitchell calls a few moments later ticked off by the still messy kitchen, he adds, “Mitchell, I am an inadvertent Stanley Kowalski. How could you not be delighted by this?”
In a secondary storyline, Mitchell and Cam play a game of “chicken” in the kitchen. Cam and Lily leave the kitchen looking like a college apartment’s kitchen on a Sunday morning. (Just replace empty beer cans with remnants of crepe-making ingredients.) Mitchell the neat freak takes one look and accuses Cam of always leaving the mess for him to clean up. Cam fires back that Mitchell is just too uptight. Mitchell tries to prove him wrong, using all his willpower to not clean up the kitchen. Cam retorts, “I’m going to take Lily to school and when I get home, I’m going to scrub this place like a crime scene. Which it is. Because you murdered joy.”
And finally Phil and Luke try and re-create a moment on video where Luke accidentally hits his dad in the head with a basketball, resulting in the ball going through a basketball net. They want the video to go viral on YouTube, and do take after take of Phil getting hit in the head with a basketball. After take 12, Luke says, “You know my arm’s starting to hurt a little.” To which Phil sarcastically replies, “Really? Cause my face feels great.”
The humor in this episode is all over the spectrum, from the sublime to the borderline controversial (in Modern Family standards anyway). When Jay and Manny go door- to-door selling the Christmas/gift wrapping paper, Manny puts on his best salesman persona for Jay. He asks a woman, “Hello, ma’am, do you love Christmas?” She responds, “Well actually, I’m Jewish.” He quickly shifts his sales technique, “Well…then you must actually appreciate a good value!” We see Jay in the background horrified, “Oh jeez.”
Again, there’s a lot of plot and characters for viewers to keep up with, but “Door to Door” keeps the laughs up throughout the episode. The difference between this week’s episode and last week’s was that the comedy was integrated better into each of the scenarios. Most of the storylines and characters also were united under one central theme, with the secondary ones segueing nicely, not coming seemingly out of left field.
The dialogue was top-notch in this episode, with all the actors delivering perfect punchlines. We’ll leave you with this Phil Dunphy gem, explaining to Claire how he wasn’t paying attention while out exercising: “My bad. I got lost in my jams. Dangerous combo. Speedwalking and Speedwagon. Oh…I wasn’t even trying for that.”
And that’s exactly how primetime comedy should be. Easy.