Thursday, 4 November 2010

Modern Family: "Chirp"

While I know that "Chirp" wasn't the funniest episode the show's produced, it's one of the most unique episodes. Like "The Dinner Party," the best episode of The Office, it lets the comedy develop out of quite serious dramatic issues which are clearly on the edge of blowing up.

Having now seen Ty Burrell outside of a purely comedic role (as Diane Arbus's put upon husband in Fur), I've realized that part of what makes Phil Dunphy so effective as a comic character is the slight sadness that always seems to be hanging behind his eyes, a bit like Charlie Chaplin or Madeline Kahn. As a result we never completely write Phil off as a complete doofus. And like last week, except more subtly this time around, we see Phil's silliness driven by very normal insecurities (not the sort of la-la dreamland ones that Michael Scott is often plagued with in lesser episodes of The Office). His existing fears are only amplified by the fact that not only is he failing at his own job, but he's failing at doing Claire's job while she's sick.

As for the Pritchetts, we get to see Gloria being hilarious as usual (she really has become the scene-stealer in a show full of scene-stealers).

And as for the gays, it starts off as a usual parental disagreement: Cam wants to be a showbiz dad, and Mitchell absolutely does not. But Cam sneakily gets Lily into a commercial anyway, and while this could go into predictable Cam and Mitch fight and then make up territory, it takes a left turn into...RACISM YAY RACISM. As it turns out, Lily was only cast to be one of two Japanese twins fighting off a monster that can only be described as Foreclosure-Zilla (straight out of Arrested Development). So blah blah, Cam makes a big speech about the nature of stereotypes to the director of the commercial, and then, in a twist that's too funny to imagine, HE TAKES THE WRONG BABY. Because all Asians look alike.

Now I know I didn't write about last week's episode (which I really should have, it was too hilarious for words. Especially when Gloria talks in an "American Accent"), which was one of the show's comedic high points. But this episode showed how strong the cast is, that they can do a little bit of drama just as well as anything else.

Chirp chirp!

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