This week’s episode of “Modern Family” proves that the third season is just as reliable as the first two. It can be difficult to pack a lot of laughs into a sitcom featuring a large ensemble cast, but everyone involved pulls it off without a hitch this week. As usual, the comedy derives from the quirks of the characters, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from this show.

The Players:

  • Director: Scott Ellis
  • Writer: Abraham Higginbotham
  • Cast: Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Sarah Hyland, Nolan Gould, Rico Rodriguez, Ariel Winter

Episode Title: “Go Bullfrogs!”

Phil takes Haley on a tour of his alma mater, but when she goes off on her own, his paternal instincts kick in. In the meantime, Claire has the night to herself and ends up spending most of it with a man who she thinks is gay. Manny is keeping something secret from Gloria and Jay, and while Jay is content to let boys be boys, Gloria is not happy with his behavior. Cam and Mitchell accidentally “steal” a car.

The Good:

  • Cam and Mitchell: Despite having probably the least amount of screntime of the major characters this episode, these two still manage to deliver the laughs, whether it be in subtle ways (“We get tired on Fridays”) or not-so subtle ways (“We are driving a stolen car!”). Both Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet consistently manage to provide viewers with some dependable comedy, and like the best actors, they never make it seem like they are trying.
  • Phil, Haley, and a Police Officer: The humor of “Modern Family” often involves several different elements of an episode coming together to result in a misunderstood confrontation, often to great comedic effect. Case in point: Phil, dressed in a college hoodie, embarasses Haley at a party and follows her as she stalks off. A nearby police officer misinterprets this scene as a girl being pursued by a drunk boy with bad intentions. It’s a small moment, but it’s also very funny.
  • Jay and the soap opera: It’s a joke that’s been thrown into countless sitcoms: a character ends up being forced to sit through a corny soap opera, only to be taken in by the melodrama and begin obsessing over the plight of the characters. Usually, it’s too much of a cliche to work, but something about seeing Ed O’Neill getting way too concerned about a terrible TV show is terrifically funny.
  • Manny’s secret: For most of the episode, Jay almost has the audience convinced that Manny is, well, exploring his changing body. When we find out what he is actually up to, we laugh for two reasons: 1.), because it is completely ridiculous and unpredictable, and 2.), because at the end of the day, it is typical Manny, and we almost feel like we should have seen it coming.

The So-So:

  • Claire’s night: The premise was decent. Claire finally has some time off from being a mom, and she decides to relive her high school years, partying and socializing, only to end up unintentionally hitting on a man whom she thought was gay. Sadly, this subplot just didn’t quite score the laughs that it was aiming for. Rather than being funny to watch, it’s really just uncomfortable.

Overall:

Nothing to complain about here. Sure, one of the major subplots of the episode isn’t as funny or entertaining as it could have been, but that’s bound to happen every now and then. For the most part, this was a strong episode in what is turning out to be a strong season.

Rating: 8/10

“Modern Family” airs every Wednesday night on ABC!

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