Week to week, I look forward to Modern Family for a good laugh and possibly even a couple of tears. But this week’s episode, “Australia,” left me underwhelmed in humor and a little overwhelmed with all the storylines that were going on. Every season the family takes a big trip. Last year they went to Florida to visit Phil’s recently widowed father in a retirement home, and the family united to help Phil’s father move forward in life. This year, they all go to Australia. But—like juggling balls—the classic, magic number of storylines in television is three. This week Modern Family had six, and they definitely dropped a couple of balls.
In “Australia,” Phil goes to the country/continent on a voyage to reconnect with his late mother, who wished for him to go there because that’s where he was conceived. The other family members tag along. Lily has been allowed to buy one souvenir, and Haley helps her pick it out. Haley, on the flip side, has allowed herself one Australian boyfriend. Manny and Luke learn that there are topless beaches in Australia and, hoping to see boobs, spend their time on the beach. Cam and Mitch hang out with an old, annoying acquaintance, Fergus. But when they learn he is famous in Australia, they ditch their entire family. Alex walks around recording pretentious phrases into her phone, trying to build her college essay. And finally, Claire and Jay keep working on a file at work, not enjoying the trip.
Whew. That was exhausting just recounting it. With all these storylines going on, the episode was a manic mix of Australian promo shots and super-fast jokes with no build-up. I cry pretty easily whenever there are scenes about missing moms, and usually Modern Family gives me a good, cathartic, feel-good cry. And, of course, Phil always makes me laugh. But his scenes felt like they were on fast-forward, and before I could emotionally process what I had just seen, boom, they were onto a different plot and scene. Thank God Gloria left Joe back home in California, otherwise I can’t imagine what yet another storyline would have done to the plot. On top of all the plots, this trip felt like it was planned by the traveler who wants to check all the big sites off a list, rather than take time to enjoy a few of them. There were many postcard-worthy shots of Australia, and with the Australian tourism commercials that aired in the breaks of this hectic show, it’s possible the show received funding from the Australian tourism board to get certain shots and lines in. So I guess as a half-hour comedic commercial for Melbourne, this episode was a success, because now I do really want to go. Though I’m not as excited about next week’s Modern Family.
A couple of hits from this week’s episode:
Phil, after a random Australian man compliments him on being very Australian: “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
Random Australian: “I think I am.”
Phil: “I’m Crocodile Dunphy!”
Mitch: “Are we gonna see Hugh Jackman in a bathing suit? What do we say to Hugh Jackman in a bathing suit?”
Cam (seeing the boat): “Oh my god, it’s so big.”
Mitch: “A bit direct, but, you know, he might be flattered. Oh, you’re talking about the boat.”
Jay: “Claire has an incredible work ethic. She’s like a Young Me. Young Me was our accountant from Korea. Died at her desk.”