Modern Family returned last week with its usual motley crew of carpools, family dinners and prepubescent step-uncles. The season four premiere picked up right where last season left off. The gang celebrated Jay’s birthday but spent most of the time making fun of how old he was; Haley and Alex came back from prom hung over and excited about trigonometry respectively; Cameron and Mitchell talk about the elephant in their room. Really. The headline of the episode was that Gloria announced her pregnancy. Looks like Haley, Alex, Luke and Lily are getting a new aunt or uncle!
Fast forward to this week and Modern Family gives us two back-to-back, back-to-school themed episodes. Those of us perpetually bemoaning Northwestern’s late start dates can take comfort in the fact that Haley starts college even later than we do. We see her go through the newbie freshman routine: hugging siblings goodbye, moving into the dorm, being overwhelmed in the cafeteria; and we say, “I’m not the only one!” Hopefully, though, my fellow Class of 2016 Wildcats did not go through move-in days as awkward as Haley’s. Phil mistakes Hayley’s roommate’s mom for his wife and squeezes her butt by way of introduction. Then, as both sets of parents attempt to clear up the molestation mix-up, the attention somehow turns to a bag of condoms and a set of My Little Pony bed sheets.
This week, Lily also starts a new chapter of her academic life. Although Claire points out that “Haley going to college is a miracle” while “Lily going to kindergarten is the law,” Cameron and Mitchell insist on celebrating the two matriculations equally. In spite or perhaps because of the weight they place on Lily’s first day, Cameron is called into the principal’s office for threatening Lily’s classmate and ordered to arrange a play-date to patch up the damage. The conditions of their punishment bring forth an interview-style explanation of why lesbian women and gay men have little in common. Venn-diagrams are included.
Meanwhile, Manny reconnects with his inner anxiety cat by enrolling Gloria and Jay in a prenatal training class. He is not the only one with child-rearing concerns: Gloria ignores her bulging baby-bump until her clothes (literally) rip apart at the mall while Jay frets about being emotionally unequipped if they have a girl. Cameron, on the other hand, is not looking forward with anticipation but looking back in nostalgia. With Lily in kindergarten, he spends his time making mermaid costumes for his cat.
For more than a season, Alex’s storyline has struck me as rather lackluster. The show’s writers have been trying to mend that in this week’s second episode, “Snip,” in which Alex goes goth. While I applaud their efforts, I think the black lipstick and vampiric getup should be tucked away in a closet (or coffin) until Halloween. There was little humor worth salvaging in this subplot. Even the scene when Claire accidentally shaves Alex’s friend’s head fell flat. In Claire’s defense, however, she had been under stress prior to the shaving incident, with Post-Office Traumatic Disorder due to Haley’s college mailing demands and doubts about Phil’s upcoming vasectomy.
There were fun times all round this week, but Phil takes the cake with his self-published book entitled Phil’s-osophy. Full confession: I love and respect barely-there humor, mostly because it is the only kind I can ever hope to master. Since Phil’s book is full of these monosyllabic chuckles, I wish it existed in real life so I could nab a copy and add to my funny-enough-to-be-considered-as-possessing-a-sense-of-humor-but-just-enough-of-one-to-not-always-feel-pressured-to-be-funny repertoire. I leave you with some Phil’s-osophy gems:
- “If you’re ever feeling lonely, just eat in front of a mirror.”
- “Success is 1% inspiration, 98% perspiration, and 2% attention to detail.”
- “Always look people in the eye, even if they’re blind. Just say, ‘I’m looking at you in the eye.’”
- "When life gives you lemonade make lemons. Life will be all like, ‘What?’”