Mid-May is an odd time to observe Thanksgiving, but last night’s episode of Modern Family had an undeniable Turkey Day theme. It featured a skewed take on a traditional holiday tableau when, in what might be the most ambitious high school art project ever, the family dresses up in old-timey attire to re-create Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting Freedom From Want, while Jay tries to introduce Gloria to the Jay Pritchett sandwich (complete with turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, peppers, and anchovies). And, as we come to expect both from family holidays and from this past season of Modern Family, what all this bonding time leads to first and foremost is a ton of bickering.
Let’s give thanks, then, that last night featured some new combinations of combative characters (Mitchell and Phil make surprisingly satisfying enemies), even as Jay and Gloria’s fighting felt as fresh as week-old leftovers. In the world of Modern Family, of course, the realizations and resolutions come as fast and furious as the insults and jabs; no sooner does everything fall apart that everything gets pieced back together again (until next time). Modern Family–style conflict resolution is unrealistic and simplistic and pat, and also — as with the best episodic comedies — lots of fun. Let’s meet the combatants: