Modern Family was all over the headlines this week, first for winning the Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Comedy or Musical, on Sunday evening, beating other nominees New Girl, Glee, Episodes and Enlightened.
But the win was followed by a bit of controversy when a previously unheard of group called the “No Cussing Club” (no joke) and the Parents Television Council called on ABC to pull the plug on this week’s episode “Little Bo Bleep” because toddler Lily drops the f-bomb. Really? Pardon our French, but what a crock of sh*t (non)controversy that was.
Modern Family is probably one of the least offensive shows on television right now. (I dare you to watch five minutes of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or any of the Kardashian shows.) Modern Family creator Steve Levitan says that the child actor Aubrey Anderson-Emmons didn’t even have to say the f-word on set. She was instructed to say “fudge,” which was bleeped out during the show. Next time, if a toddler saying a faux f-word gets your panties in a bunch, we suggest the radical protest move of turning off the television.
All that being said, the context with which Lily uses the profanity isn’t the highlight of the episode; the profanity wasn’t well-integrated into the storyline. She just drops the word out of nowhere, which happens in real life with toddlers, but since this is the top network comedy right now, you’d think Levitan and team would build a good story around the utterance. But that didn’t happen, and it was kind of a missed opportunity.
Much funnier than the f-word was a dress that Lily had to wear for a wedding that the entire Pritchett and Dunphy clans were invited to. It was Lily’s time to shine—literally—as the flower girl decked out in an electric blue dress with Christmas-like lights sewn in to the dress. It was amazingly weird and kitschy, and when the dress arrived by messenger, we loved the exchange between Lily and her two dads:
“She’s gonna look like Little Bo Peep,” says Mitchell. “Or Little Bo Cheap,” Cam answers. “Look at this fabric; it’s already peeling….” When Lily says that she loves the dress, they both quickly answer in unison, “No, you don’t!” Fashionista training comes early in that household.
Again, an opportunity was missed by the writer Cindy Chupack (who also wrote the episode “Express Christmas”) on a real story here: Who was getting married? Why was the entire family invited to the wedding? And why was the choice of wedding outfits so cheesy? Viewers were left hanging.
The storyline that won the evening’s best laughs focused on a debate between Claire Dunphy and nemesis Duane Bailey in a lead-up to a town council election. According to a poll published in the local town rag, some voters find Claire “angry and unlikeable.” In his deadpan manner, Phil Dunphy turns to the camera and says, “To those voters I say, ‘Wait until she sees this….”
The Dunphy clan “help” Claire try to overcome that image by holding a mock debate in their living room, where they buzz, honk and stop her at any mannerism that voters might see as negative. They ding her for eye rolling, face touching, anger, pursing lips—and showing the audience the bad side of her face (though the kids and Phil disagree on whether that’s her left or right side).
The actual debate scene is even funnier when her opponent digs up dirt on Phil’s botched Valentine’s date with Claire, in which he ends up ready for some loving—in the wrong hotel room. Trying not to get upset during the debate, Claire looks like she’s unable to control her motor skills, and Phil tries to defend his wife’s honor, only making things worse and uncomfortable for the debate audience.
Claire’s campaign goes viral—for all the wrong reasons: Someone autotunes Phil’s speech on how he’s not a pervert and enjoys making love to his wife. That was a hysterical touch, adding a bit of modern weirdness to the mix, with a hat tip to the younger fans.
Gloria, Manny and Jay get the throwaway storyline of the night, focusing on how Stella the dog might be suicidal because she keeps throwing herself into the pool. It didn’t work on any level and served as filler between the other two stories—quite a shame since the trio usually has an awesome dynamic as a family.
The one redeeming line of the Stella storyline was a comment by Duane Bailey, a Puggle breeder when he’s not serving on town council. Overhearing Gloria’s dismissive attitude about a suicidal Stella, he steps in and says that canine suicides are a real problem. “It’s just not as sexy as feline AIDS.”
Now that’s the crisp dialogue that we love. Unfortunately, this week’s Modern Family squandered many more opportunities for humor by dropping real storylines and picking up on others that really should have been dropped. We’re sorry to report that this episode wasn’t as f*cking awesome as it could have been.