After dominating the Emmys again last Sunday, Modern Family returned with a fourth season premiere that confirmed why it’s the best “conventional” sitcom on television. While it lacks the innovation of comedies like Louie, it’s certainly not stale or expected. This episode picks up the morning after the season finale, with Gloria worried about how to tell Jay she’s pregnant, Haley nursing a hangover, Dylan trying to convince the Dunphys to let him live there, Mitch and Cam dealing with the aftermath of not getting the baby, Jay preparing for his birthday, and Manny getting ready to go to poetry camp for the summer. It makes sense that some of these things would need to be addressed on-screen, but for some reason I just assumed that the season would start with a jump ahead a few months.
As Mitch and Cam dealt with both the big elephant and the 800-pound gorilla in the room (complete with a great pan over to show the giant stuffed animals gifted to them by well-meaning friends), Lily decided that if she couldn’t have a brother named Larry, they should at least get a cat named Larry. There was a great callback to the hurt of last season when they were at the cat adoption place, having to go through a long process to determine whether they would be fit cat parents. Mitch was great: “I thought the process was that I say, ‘We’ll take this one,’ and you say, ‘Thank God because we have too many cats.’” It’s nice that the writers aren’t brushing off what would be a devastating loss, but are also finding ways to bring it up in humourous ways.
However, the reactions to Gloria’s pregnancy were of course the centre point of this episode. Everyone reacts predictably enough, from Manny’s concern that he’ll be replaced as the cute one, to Claire’s glee about Gloria’s impending weight gain. Predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – it shows that we know the characters and that they have recognizable motivations. Throughout the episode, Gloria is justifiably concerned that Jay won’t be very happy about the new baby. This concern is seemingly emphasized during Jay’s fishing trip with Phil, Shorty, and Miles (in which Jay spent more time in the water than on the boat). Shorty and Miles spend the entire time telling Jay how, now that he’s 65, his life is just beginning, since he’ll have so much time to spend gardening and sitting around and Jay seems to be accepting this new phase of his life. After some flashbacks that show how Jay is a notoriously-bad bad news taker, Claire tries to intercept him and tell him to just be gracious at whatever news he’s about to get. This is followed by a funny and touching scene of Jay graciously supporting Cam and Mitchell’s decision to adopt a cat named Larry before Gloria bursts in with the real news.
Jay’s reaction to Gloria is exactly why Modern Family is a great show. He’s not mad – he’s relieved. He wasn’t ready to spend the rest of his days gardening, and now he gets to start over and have a baby with the woman that he loves. It was adorable and unexpected. I loved it.
I also loved the flashforward that happened as the camera spun around Jay and Gloria hugging to reveal it’s several months later, Gloria has a bump, Dylan has moved in with the Dunphys and is now on his way to being evicted, and Mitch has scratches on his face from Larry. I’m happy to have skipped the nearly-mandatory “Gloria has morning sickness” episodes and to see that she’ll definitely be having a baby before the season finale. It’s a nice twist from the writers and shows that it’s not quite as stuck in the conventional sitcom rut as its detractors claim it to be. I look forward to what else this season has in store!
Other great lines this episode:
- From Luke, after planting the seed that Manny will be replaced by the baby: Sometimes I just like to toss a grenade and walk away.
- From Dylan, trying to convince Claire to let him live there: It’s okay, because he can just stay at a friend’s house; well, not in the house but in the garage; actually there are no walls, it’s more of a port-cochere; but there’s a bathroom; more of a half-bath; it’s a coffee can.
- From Dylan, as Claire is kicking him out after living there for several months: he can stay at a friend’s place, not so much of a place as it is a storage pod, and it’s not so much of a friend as it is a racoon.
- Shorty, arguing that Phil should grow a beard, which would make him look like “Jon Hamm between projects”
- On Lily’s obsession with naming something Larry, Mitch asks if it’s from a show, and Cam replies, “he’s not, that’s what’s weird!”
- Not a line, but the continued shots of the giant elephant and gorilla in various compromising positions on top of the car killed me