This Modern Family episode had a very classic theatrical structure, in that (for the most part) it took place in one location and in real time. Usually, the show follows the various characters in different settings and then culminates with all the characters in an explosive final scene. It was interesting to see the mix of the modern documentary style of storytelling with the classical, one-location, real-time method. While there was no unifying theme to this episode, there was unity in location and time.
The writing was brilliantly executed, which comes as no surprise not only because this show has set the bar quite high, but also because of the writer of this episode, Emily Spivey. Spivey recently joined the writing team of Modern Family, and this is her first episode. Her writing credits include MADtv, SNL, Parks and Recreation, and creating the show Up All Night. Her writing has awarded her both an Emmy and a WGA award.
It’s autumn in the real world, where town fairs are in season. Appropriately, this episode is centered around a fair. While this wasn’t a holiday episode per se, it was nice that it mirrored real life. The family heads to the fair, and each character participates in it in their own hilarious way. Alex and Luke are both obsessed with the same girl: Alex wants to be her best friend, and Luke wants to be her boyfriend. To his parents’ chagrin, Manny is entering the cake-baking competition where his rivals are all old ladies. Cam (a.k.a. Coach Tucker) harasses his failing high school football team. It’s Phil and Claire’s 20th anniversary, and Phil is planning to sing a romantic song on stage to Claire at the end of the fair with the “The Dads Beats” band. Haley, of course, snubs the fair and spends the day at Jay’s pool, tormenting yet flirting with Andy the male nanny.
The fair is definitely one to remember. Claire spends the entire time trying to drag Phil home for her anniversary surprise. In competing for Sienna, Alex and Luke try to thwart each other and just end up creeping her out. Cam flips out on his football team, acting completely juvenile. Manny has to rush to get his cake into the competition and busts through crowds with it. It turns out Manny is the lead blocker Cam’s football team needed all along. When it’s his turn to sing, Phil doesn’t want to go up because the dad that sang before him had an incredible voice. While he is downtrodden about his failed performance, Claire finally brings Phil home to her present. Since it’s the 20th anniversary, the theme is china, and she has appropriately hired Chinese acrobats to do a show. Phil is ecstatic.
-Mitch asks Lily “Want to get your face painted like a pretty butterfly?” and Cam answers, “No, I’m just not in the mood.”
-When Claire reveals to Alex that Luke has a crush on Sienna: “Have you seen the way he looks at her? The same way he used to look at Halloween candy.”
-When Phil hears the other dad sing: “Turns out Harold Grossman, our pharmacist, is a rock star. His voice is the drug he should be dispensing, because apparently it’s a cure for everything.”
Jokes that didn’t hit as hard:
Lily, when referring to her dad, Cam, freaking out over the failing football team: “She’s a mess.”
-Haley, to Andy, referring to crying baby Joe: “Your boss is calling you.”
There are certain landmarks Modern Family always goes back to, like holidays and celebrations. The series skipped their usually epic Halloween special this season (Claire is a Halloween fanatic), which was probably a good call since they have done so many excellent ones in the past. It’s better not to tarnish the Halloween special memories by doing a subpar episode. It’s the sign of smart writers to stop a joke when it is at its peak. Along those lines, Phil and Claire’s anniversary has always been about failure on Claire’s part, and it was a nice surprise to see that turned around. Manny’s character has been criticized for always having the same repetitive storyline. That will now be shaken up by him joining the football team. It will also be an opportunity to have Cam and Manny threads, which there haven’t been much of in the past, so it will be fodder for fresh hilarity. And of course, with every episode, we get closer to the wedding.