I had a few reservations about Modern Family in my review of last week's pilot. Last night's episode, The Bicycle Thief, blew my doubts away. The second episode was consistently funny, often hilarious, and showed plenty of heart.
The theme of the episode was fatherhood, and it showed plenty of insight into how the heads of the three families deal with their children and each other.
The Delgado-Pritchett Family
Ed O'Neill continues to amaze me with his understated performance as Jay. His passive-aggressive tendencies and petulance, combined with his pragmatism and genuine decency, make for great television. The ceiling fan scenes set you up to start disliking him for being such a jackass to his stepson, but when the chips are down and Manny's dad flakes out on yet another promise, Jay doesn't hesitate to be the hero. His final words for the episode really hit home for me, scoring major points for the show overall.
Jay may not be the funniest character on the cast, but he really is the emotional core of this show, keeping it from being just another shallow sitcom about dysfunctional people leading dysfunctional lives. There's a depth to Ed O'Neill's grumpiness that adds subtle layers to his humor and keeps me fascinated by him.
The Dunphy Family
Addition by subtraction was a huge factor here - the Dunphy segments of cut most of the girls out of the picture entirely, with the shrewish Claire mostly reduced to a background presence. Phil's constant nervousness and glances over his shoulder were funnier than any of Claire's lines, and the ability to focus on just two characters instead of having 3 characters screeching for attention really helped give the Dunphy family an identity.
The Dunphy segments were mostly a one-man show, as Phil fought against Claire's henpecking and failed utterly on so many levels that it was riotously fun. Ty Burrell took advantage of this, really owning his scenes and turning what I previously called a Steve Carrell impression into a really great parody of the TV dad. Seeing his plans backfire time after time may turn into a highlight of the show!
Mitchell and Cameron
Mitchell and Cameron had great chemistry as an odd couple comedy team as usual. Their awkward attempt to integrate themselves into a Mommy and Me class was pure fish-out-of-water gold, from their tense whispered exchanges ("No slapping your own butt." "But that's how I make my horsey go!" had me rolling) to Mitchell's neuroses making him cheat at block stacking.
I just love it when these two are on screen, and this episode did nothing to change that.
All in all, the episode was an unmitigated hit, with comedy high notes and some strong family scenes mixed in. I'm fully on board now and am a Modern Family fan. What about you?