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Modern Family Review: "Phil on Wire" (Episode 3.03)

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<i>Modern Family</i> Review: "Phil on Wire" (Episode 3.03)

In last season’s Modern Family episode “Good Cop, Bad Dog,” Gloria practically begs Jay to save a cute French bulldog from being sent to the pound. Jay, in his grumpy old man mode, doesn’t give in until the last possible second. And while the dog’s been persona non grata since that episode, it comes back with a cute vengeance in the show’s latest episode, “Phil on Wire.”

The show opens with Gloria nudging Jay about his snoring—only he’s not snoring. It’s cute little Stella tucked under Jay’s arm. Gloria isn’t happy about sharing her bed. We can see from the outset that there can only be one top bitch in this household.

Stella has become Jay’s BFF: He buys her gourmet doggie cupcakes and treats, and she follows him everywhere—including the shower. Gloria is upset because Stella only chews her shoes and not Jay’s. In one funny moment, we see Gloria trying to feed the dog one of Jay’s shoes. She even demonstrates by getting on all fours and putting the shoe in her mouth. At this point, naturally, both Jay and Manny walk into the room to witness the spectacle.

In the end, Jay realizes that Gloria is jealous of the dog. Duh. She says that in Colombia there’s a hierarchy of “wife, mistress, dog” that shouldn’t be broken—and Jay’s messing big time with the golden rule.

The night’s other big storyline focuses on Cameron’s decision to do a juice fast. Mitchell is a bit concerned about Cam’s timing. They have to attend his boss’s charity event, and Mitch describes his better half’s previous diet attempts as a “slow dissent into madness.” In solidarity, the two decide to go on a juice diet together. For better or worse, right?

On day four of the juice fast, Mitchell recounts the stages of Cam’s dieting: “Cam has gone all Girl, Interrupted.” Mitchell’s descriptions are intercut with hilarious shots of Cam being a dramatic “soap actress,” having “epiphanies,” despairing and raging at little things—even ripping down a kitchen cabinet door after bumping his head.

Things come to a boiling point at the charity event. After hearing a story from his boss about a sea lion caught in a plastic bag, it’s Mitchell who emotionally breaks down from hunger, running into the ocean to find Snorkles the sea lion. They realize that they love each other, love handles and all.

They break their fast when they get to Gloria’s (who’s babysitting Lily) by gorging on the first things they see—cupcakes on the counter. Yup. Stella’s cupcakes.

These two stories are rife with enough ideas to fill a 22-minute sitcom themselves, and we wished we could have seen a few more situations built around food and dogs. But with a cast as large as Modern Family’s—11 characters including Lily the toddler—sometimes it feels as though the writers are trying to squeeze in too much, introducing C and D storylines that could have been better had there been more time.

In this episode, the Dunphy clan—particularly the women—get the short end of the story development stick.

In reference to the episode’s title, we find Phil and Luke mesmerized by an old film of men who crossed between skyscrapers on tightropes. Seeing these men pursue their dreams only inspires Phil to chase his dream—of walking on a tightrope.

But for hapless Phil, it might be an impossible dream. He can’t walk a straight line chalked in the grass without falling, and he’s downright dangerous with the balancing pole in his hands. (The ease of Ty Burrell’s physical comedy is a joy to watch. It’s as nuanced and as graceful as Phil is graceless.)

In the end, Phil walks the walk seven feet above ground, showing his family that dreams can come true. So what was he thinking about during the momentous occasion? In true Dunphy fashion, he tells the camera: “If I can do this, then I got two ways of walking across my yard.”

Alex and Haley are trying to merge the geek and cool worlds of high school when they’re put in the same math class. We would have liked to have seen more interaction as Alex does Haley’s homework for a seat at the popular lunch table. But as presented, the narrative falls a little short.

And in yet another back-back-burner story, Claire tangles with a school parking cop. As she rips up the parking ticket, she delivers one of the best lines of the night, calling the rent-a-cop a member of the “Law and Order, Special Parking Unit.” Her encounters with the cop really could have been saved for later and fleshed out a little more.

Only with Modern Family can you complain that there’s too much funny in one episode.