This week’s Modern Family episode “Hit and Run” focused on several stories for the Pritchett and Dunphy clans. Cam and Mitchell argue about Cam’s anger management issues; Claire considers a run for town council; Gloria feels left out by Jay and Manny when they each deal with issues at work and school; Haley gets bilked out of $900 trying to buy fake IDs; and Jay feels old and humiliated when he has to work with a business partner’s son on building closets for a new high-rise.
Unlike last week when the show clicked on all cylinders, “Hit and Run” felt a little forced and disjointed. The characters slipped into patterns, briefly traveling into cliche territory. For example, after Cam and Mitchell get rear-ended by an SUV, the driver apologizes for damaging their Prius and then flees the scene. Mitchell tries to memorize the license plate, but Cam runs after the car—flopping wrists and all. (That’s not stereotypical.) Now this is the same Cam who was raised on a farm, played football and told Mitchell to man up during the season’s first episode, “Dude Ranch.”
The writers also focus on Gloria’s Columbian-ness, playing on her misuse of the English language. When Manny announces that he wants to be home-schooled because teachers these days are more into style than substance, Gloria responds, “Really Manny? Do you want me to learn you English?” (C’mon writers, you can do better than that.)
Little Manny steals the scenes in the Pritchett household. Manny complains that a classmate performed a freestyle rap for his report on Irish gangsters: “Maybe Riverdance,” he says. “Maybe.” Gloria reminds him that he can be a little old-fashioned, telling him that he scoffed when backpacks with wheels first came out. He fires back, “You’re going to school, not boarding a flight to Denver!”
Over at the Dunphy’s, Claire decides to run for town council against incumbent Duane Bailey, the same guy from last week’s episode who shot down her request for a stop sign. The councilman/Puggle breeder is slick and smarmy and reminds Claire he’s won six straight elections, and he won’t lose against a bored housewife. “Don’t quit your lack of a day job.” Oh, snap. No one pushes Type A, overachiever Claire Dunphy into a corner.
Phil assures Claire that he can run the household after school so that she can concentrate on the election. He tells the camera that he’s turned on by powerful women like “Michelle Obama, Oprah, Condoleeza Rice, Serena Williams…” he pauses, “Wait a minute…” But of course, Phil isn’t the Mr. Mom that he claims to be, accidentally punching Luke in the face and giving Alex the wrong allergy medication (the drowsy/loopy kind). And Haley’s busy trying to force her siblings into loaning her the $900. Luke has the cash saved up, but he can’t give it to her. “I heard about rich guys with frozen assets,” he tells the camera as he pulls up a wad of cash trapped in a block of ice.
The episode’s climax focuses on the men of the family going after the kid that ripped off Haley’s fake ID money. As they approach the target’s house, Mitchell warns Cam, Jay and Phil that they might go to jail, slipping in this hilarious one-liner in the process: “It’s going to be a big adjustment for the two of you!” Jay tells Mitchell to stay by the car if he doesn’t want to contribute, and as the kid tries to make a run for it, he gets tackled by Mitchell. He yells for back-up: “Help, he’s slipping out of his skinny jeans!”
Meanwhile, back at the homestead, the women are semi-bonding over drinks and making cupcakes. (By the way, how modern are these women since neither of them work?) Gloria forces Claire to talk about her reticence to run for town council; finally Claire confesses that this is her first attempt to do something outside of running the family in 18 years. “I don’t want to lose.” Gloria reassures her that she’s a strong woman—like her own cousin Maria Conchita who entered a beauty pageant despite having a huge honking nose—and that Claire is strong enough to both win and lose.
In this episode, we saw patterns developing that we hope don’t continue. Gloria and Jay, especially, are becoming a little one-dimensional, and the last scene pandered to the audience for cheap laughs. Back at the young developer’s office, Jay shows him the exact same layouts for the closets he was pitching earlier. The developer is wowed this time around because Gloria is with him, showing off the plans and her, ahem, assets at the same time.
Modern Family is at its best when the characters surprise us and don’t fall into the same old patterns week after week. (Though we have to admit that we’re cracked up by Phil’s recent references to old ‘70s and ‘80s bands. Last week it was REO Speedwagon. This week, it was England Dan and John Ford Coley—remember them?—and Crosby, Stills, Nash AND Young.)
Let’s hope that this episode was just a quick trip to cliche-ville in an otherwise good season for this TV sitcom.