Modern Family Review: "Bringing Up Baby" (Episode 4.01)
In addition to celebrating a third Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy, the Modern Family ensemble has another reason to party: Jay’s 65th birthday. His big day falls on the day after the season finale, so the Pritchetts and Dunphys are right where we left them last spring: Gloria learning she’s pregnant, Cam and Mitchell forgoing the adoption of a second child and Haley deciding to go to college and prom.
The show opens with Manny testing out “insult comedy” (which he learned from Dean Martin roasts online, of course) on Jay. Usually a wiz at the one-liners, Manny’s jokes fall flat, and it’s hard to tell if that’s intentional. Jay is still in the dark about Gloria’s pregnancy, and he says he wants a quiet day without any surprises. Phil Dunphy is his son-in-law, so that’s unlikely to happen. With Shorty and Miles as backup, Phil kidnaps Jay, zip-tie and hood included.
Cam and Mitchell enjoy a quiet morning, which seems like a bit of a leap from their emotional state the day before. In the season finale, they had essentially just lost a child and decided not to keep trying. Call me crazy, but I don’t think I would be discussing coffee on my couch after a day like that. However, the literal elephant (and 800-pound gorilla) in the room did provide one of the best jokes of the episode later.
In the Dunphy household, we get a rundown on the prom. Because the other two storylines were the focus of this episode, there wasn’t much else going on with the Dunphy clan aside from Claire giving her daughter a “hangover cure” after a night of underage drinking. That’s just good parenting.
There are definitely laugh-out-loud moments that are reminiscent of the earlier Modern Family era, but there were also moments that felt like the downs of the season three ups-and-downs. Jay falling in the lake: funny. Phil jumping into the lake to save him: classic Phil. But Phil punching Jay in the face? A little too much. There was some nice dialogue between the men on the boat as well, but Jay falling in the lake a second time is right around where I almost gave up on this episode.
But I’m so glad I didn’t call it quits for two reasons: the elephant and the gorilla. They win this episode. In an effort to help Lily forget about not having a brother named Larry, Cam and Mitchell decide to get her a cat named Larry. This turns out to be harder than it sounds. As Cam gives the crazy cat lady a “piece of his mind,” Mitchell gives her an obscene show starring two stuffed animals. It’s comically a great scene, but it also gives Cam and Mitchell the chance to finally discuss the previous day’s events. This well-crafted mix of humor and heart is what helped this show earn three Emmys, but what seemed to be missing too much last season. Let’s hope it’s back to stay.
Finally back at Jay and Gloria’s house, everyone but Jay seems to know about Gloria’s pregnancy. Everyone is expecting a knee-jerk reaction from him, but instead they get heartwarming. He’s happy; Gloria’s happy; and as they embrace we circle around to the end of summer. Cam and Mitchell went on a trip (London), Manny spent his summer at poetry camp, and Dylan never left the Dunphy’s couch after prom. The summer jump would have felt like a normal show progression without the wrap-up ending, which made it feel more like an after-school special than a comedy season kick-off. Coming off a season of highs and lows, this episode didn’t help much in changing that criticism, but the moments that were good made it seem as if a better season is possible. Fingers crossed.
“I was so offended, I almost didn’t buy this Fiestaware creamer.”—Cam
“As my uncle used to say, let’s not let a botched kidnapping ruin an afternoon.”—Shorty
“Sometimes I just like to toss a grenade and run away.”—Luke
“Don’t be disrespectful, Luke. Anyone can do it with Gloria.”—Phil
Does a pregnant woman’s belly grow that much after three months?
Does anyone else still miss old (silent) Lily?
Why did Luke only have one line?
Who stole the show: the elephant, the gorilla or Stella?