Modern Family continued its fourth season with a full hour of gut-busting comedy.
“Schooled” centered around Phil and Clare taking Hailey to college. Any of us who has been dropped off at college knows very well the nail-biting anxiety you feel hoping that mom and dad don’t do anything to embarrass you on the first day. Any parent who has taken their kids to college knows all to well the stomach-churning dread you feel knowing that you’ll be travelling home to an empty (or emptier) nest. The writers took advantage of this scenario, and it resulted in genuine laughs (Phil wearing a shirt with a photo of Hailey as a kid) and a genuine feeling of bittersweetness (Phil and Clare hugging Hailey goodbye in a rush as she became too overwhelmed to have them in the room any longer).
The episode used the theme of school to show us how the other family members were doing a bit of their own learning—Jay and Gloria taking a parenting workshop and Lilly starting kindergarten. It’s cute to see how Jay and Gloria’s relationship seems much more fluid and harmonious this season; they were a badass team in the parenting class. It was also a good juxtaposition to pair the two gay dads against the two gay moms. It was fresh to see the writers playing off of gay-hates-lesbian and lesbian-hates-gay stereotypes, as well, when a confrontation between Lilly and a classmate landed Mitch and Cam in the principal’s office with the boy’s lesbian mothers. I wonder if we’ll see more of this lesbian couple. And kudos to the writers for actually playing out the scene where Cam slams the little kid into the jungle gym for pulling Lilly’s hair; we’ve all wanted to open up a kid of whoopass on a kid at least once in our lives!
In the second half-hour segment, “Snip,” we saw Phil prepare for a vasectomy (ouch!). Meanwhile, fashionable Gloria struggled with the fact that her baby bump was beginning to show and that she could no longer fit into her flashy clothes. Cam, too, had some demons of his own when he realized he had no purpose at home with Lilly starting kindergarten. The episode was a little slower than “Schooled,” but it still held interest and garnered a few decent chuckles out of me. It’s smart to have Hailey still on the show through the use of Skype chats to touch base with everyone back at home. Her one-liners with Alex are among the best laughs of the series, and the writers need to keep that in there every now and then.
All in all, they were two good episodes. The performances remained top-notch, as always, and the plotlines were identifiable to so many of us out there. Good start to a fourth season. In the wrong hands, the show could have already jumped the shark.