Modern Family” returns with the obligatory Christmas episode, but thankfully, unlike so many other family-centric sitcoms, it doesn’t come off as some kind of PSA. The humor is strong, all the characters are in play, and the episode, overall, is a success. Read our review to find out why. . .

The Players:

  • Director: Michael Spiller
  • Writer: Cindy Chupack
  • Cast: Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Rico Rodriguez, Sarah Hyland, Nolan Gould, Ariel Winter

Episode Title: “Express Christmas”

Realizing that the families will be unable to spend Christmas together, Phil proposes that they celebrate an impromptu “Express Christmas” as a substitute. With only a few hours to organize the event, everyone is given a job to do. Mitchell and Alex are tasked with finding a tree, Haley and Claire head to Target to pick up the gifts, Phil and Manny go out to buy the food and get a special birthday gift for Jay, Cam and Jay wrap gifts, while Gloria and Luke simply do more harm than good.

The Good:

  • Cam and Jay: Given the clear potential for comedy when these two characters interact with each other on a one-on-one basis, it’s a little surprising that situations such as this one don’t occur more often in the series. Cam’s the emotional guy who can’t help but to be in a cheery mood, while Jay is, well, Jay. Their scenes together in this episode don’t last very long, but they earn some good laughs.
  • Target line: Anyone who has ever gone Christmas shopping knows that standing on a long line while buying gifts is a surefire way to kill any holiday spirit you may have had. This insight isn’t particularly new, but it’s one that is exploited well in this episode, with Claire holding up the line so that Haley can arrive with the last gift on their list.
  • Manny’s fear: An offhand comment by Luke about the possibility of Manny getting kidnapped when he goes to Mexico City with Gloria for the holidays takes a greater toll on poor Manny’s emotional well-being than anyone could have possibly anticipated. Rico Rodriguez can go over-the-top in a very entertaining way, and this episode was no exception, with his paranoid fear coloring every interaction he has.

The So-So:

  • Product Placement? We may be reading too much into this, but it seems like this episode featured a small dose of product placement in comparison to other episodes in the series. Claire and Haley don’t go to the store to shop, they go specifically to Target. Phil doesn’t just pick up a turkey, he picks up a Butterball (granted, this is used for comedic effect, but it’s still hard to ignore). Were the writers trying to make a comment about the commercial nature of Christmas? Was this genuine product placement? Are we really, honestly, just reading far too much into all of this? They are all possibilities, but they are also all very distracting.
  • Phil meets taser: The mild slapstick comedy of Phil getting tasered isn’t really as funny as it might have been. Phil is obviously an unrealistic character, and when he has to react to being tasered, it’s tough to find that middle ground between being humorous and being believable.

The Bad:

  • “Look” and “Luke”: We don’t have anything against jokes based on Gloria’s accent, but the gag this episode — in which Luke can’t distinguish when she is saying his name and when she is telling him to look at something — goes on for too long and is treated as if it were remarkably clever. Well, sadly, it wasn’t.

Overall:

A funny holiday episode that, of course, gets a little sappy towards the end. All episodes of this show do, though, and while sometimes that element seems as if it were forced into the episode so that it can have a nice tidy moral, we can let it go for Christmas.

Rating: 7.5/10

“Modern Family” airs every Wednesday night on ABC!

What did you think of the episode?