Tuned In

Modern Family Watch: House Hunter

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Earlier this week, I did an interview with a reporter who’s doing a story on how the recession (or crappy recovery, or whatever the proper term is) is or isn’t affecting TV. I’m always a little skeptical of the idea that news events strongly drive viewing trends; I tend to think people watch shows they enjoy and we shoehorn them into the zeitgeist after the fact. One example I mentioned is that, though it debuted into the teeth of the Great Recession, the most popular sitcom on TV is Modern Family, a show about an upper-middle-class extended family who take family trips to Hawaii, buy iPads and rarely seem to have to worry (in any significant way) about money.

Of course this week Modern Family does a storyline with a character worrying about money. And while it was not necessarily the funniest story the show was ever told, it was pretty satisfying on a character level.

Modern Family is not a show that needs heavy injections of stark reality, but I think it benefits it to show that, for instance, Phil is a breadwinner—in real estate, a business heavily effected by the bad economy—and that his behavior is driven by a need to prove himself, which in turn is driven by real pressure. Reflecting his anxiety with a little thing, the mysterious beeping smoke alarm telling him that he’s not a man, did this nicely while being in keeping with the spirit of the show. (Another nice little thing, in the clip above: before using his old cheerleading baton to smash the alarm, Phil gives it an instinctual twirl.)

And I can’t hate an episode that brings back Dylan, with his “it was just a dream” line and the perfect later callback to it. Your thoughts on the episode, or the recession-TV question generally? Feel free to chirp in.