After a couple of decent first episodes, season 3 of “Modern Family” seems to be shaping up into another strong year for this show. Last night’s episode offered up enough laughs to keep us entertained for half an hour, and it did so the way this show ought to: by playing off the quirks and personalities of the well-drawn characters. Read on to see how we felt. . .

The Players:

  • Director: Jason Winer
  • Writers: Danny Zuker, Bianca Douglas
  • Cast: Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould, Rico Rodriguez

Episode Title: “Phil on Wire”

Cameron’s decision to go on a diet worries Mitchell, who knows all too well the effects that such an undertaking can have on Cam’s emotional well-being. Alex gets bumped up into Haley’s math class, with predictable consequences. Phil decides that he should learn how to tight-rope walk, and Gloria is irked by the tendency of Jay’s dog to chew her shoes.

The Good:

  • Cameron and Mitchell: Two of the most entertaining characters on this show get to shine in this week’s episode; the dynamic between these two is always fun to watch, but it is especially powerful when their dieting leads to much emotional distress. Any episoe that ends in two grown men running towards the ocean in search of a long dead seal is a winner in our book.
  • Phil: If you’ve been following this show up until this point, you’ve come to accept the fact that, for all the extravagance of many of the other characters, Phil is clearly the least realistic member of the Dunphy clan. His child-like demeanor and seemingly low intelligence is more reminiscent of Homer Simpson than an actual modern dad. However, if you can look past that fact, he brings in a lot of laughs, and that’s definitely the case in this episode; his earnest attempts to master a rather specific skill would be endearing in an eight year-old. In an adult, they are hysterical.

The So-So:

  • Alex and Haley: Throwing these two into the same math class should have sparked a little more humor than it did. Sure, we got some laguhs out of the situation, but clearly not as many as the writers had in mind when they thought of this concept.
  • Gloria: The same can be said for Gloria’s obsession with Jay’s dog, primarily because this subplot climaxes in a moment of ridiculous humor that should have been side-splittingly hilarious, but was instead only mildly funny. It was one of those moments where the audience can’t help but think, “nice try.”

The Bad:

  • Life Lessons: As per usual, this week’s episode ended with a voiceover from a main character talking about the lessons that the audience was supposed to take home from the episode. While that’s really sweet, it has never felt genuine. It is entirely possible to create a show about a dysfunctional family while still gracefully reminds the audience that they love each other. Maybe the writers for “Modern Family” should pay more attention to classic episodes of “The Simpsons.”

Overall:

Like always, we can’t complain. Best episode of the series? Far from it. An especially entertaining half-hour of television? For sure. “Modern Family” never fails to deliver exactly what fans expect, which is what makes this show enjoyable. It’s a comforting group of people that we get to return to each week.

Rating: 8/10

“Modern Family” airs on ABC every Wednesday night.

So, what did you think about last night’s episode? Enjoy it? Not so much? Tell us in the comments!