I’ve dispensed a lot of verbiage in this space about what makes an episode of Modern Family work or not. Is it better when it brings the three family units together, or keeps them separate? Is it better when it’s sentimental, or forgoes the warm ending monologues? But “Unplugged” has me reconsidering my theories. My new one: Modern Family is funnier when it’s funny.
Thus, I can’t really make the case for “Unplugged” on any larger plot or originality level. The main storyline—the Dunphys compete to give up technology the longest—is essentially a story The Brady Bunch would have done had it existed in 2010. And yet it made me laugh, repeatedly and hard.
It’s all about execution. Much like getting rid of a rat.
I’ve also frequently said in this space that doing weekly reviews of sitcoms often amounts, when they’re successful, to little more to listing the things that made you laugh. Herewith, a list of things that made me laugh:
* “Who are you really mad at, Larry? The dog or your wife?” “Who the hell is this kid?” Also: the neighbor mistaking Gloria for a parrot. Also also: Manny sipping espresso and reading The Old Man and the Sea. “Don’t most kids drink soda?” “Who knows what they do?”
* “Is that the rat shovel? Are you checking it for signs of dog?”
* “What’s the difference between a gamete and a zygote?” “Don’t fall for it, Claire. She’s just making up words.” But better yet: Alex storming off awkwardly with her cello case.
* “This is the first time that being gay is a competitive advantage. They’re choosing teams for gym class and we’re finally getting picked first.” “I always got picked first. I could throw a dodgeball through a piece of plywood. But I see your point.” [In fairness, though, Cam’s Native American imitation, which was far too dense for his character, really blew the subplot for me.]
* Great physical comedy bit by Julie Bowen, jumping on the chair and screaming, “Representative! Representative! Representative!”
* “She carved a telephone out of a bar of soap.” “Holy crap, we’ve been Shawshanked.”