Tuned In

Modern Family Watch: Selected Shorts

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ABC

There’s often less to say about a decently successful episode of a sitcom than a bad one, which is about where I stand on Modern Family’s “Strangers on a Treadmill.” Three of the four storylines hit (the miss being Jay’s quinceanara foul-up, which was pretty much one underdeveloped joke), and maybe the most noteworthy accomplishment of the episode was something it didn’t do: no closing monologue about how love is about wanting to protect people from mistakes, but sometimes you have to let people make them, and birds have got to fly, &c.

Or perhaps the second most noteworthy, because one thing I particularly enjoyed about “Strangers” is that it had a rare successful subplot solely involving two of the kids: Haley and Alex are well-enough defined now that big sister’s attempts to school little sis in popularity—and taking motherly pride in her—were funny and a little sweet. And the payoff scene (Alex masterfully negging Mackenzie on the phone, until she slips up with a homework reference and then falls apart) was beautifully handled.As for the title storyline, I liked how the plot departed from the movie inspiration by having Mitchell, the one who had the “Criss-cross!” idea, be the one to fail to hold up his end, which grew out of his conflict-averse character.

In all, not a remarkable episode, but one with several nice moments—and pixellated bike shorts!—that thankfully left the monologue where it belonged: on the podium at a real estate banquet.

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