Welcome back to arguably the most consistently funny show on TV. In just over two seasons Modern Family has become, if not the most original comedy on TV, the finest executed comedy on TV. That brilliant execution was on full display as the series kicked off its third season with an hour-long premiere filled with big laughs.
The Modern Family clan at a Dude Ranch is comedy gold. Add in the brilliant Tim Blake Nelson as Hank, the head ranch hand, ready with a western nickname for each member of the family and you are simply piling pleasures on top of pleasures. And now we have Buffalo Phil, Old Man (Jay), and Bossy (Claire) to enjoy forever.
Ah, but going to a Dude Ranch does not mean that we are getting a break from some terrifically funny continuing story lines. The season two finale found Mitch and Cameron planning to adopt again, Claire hating Haley’s boyfriend Dylan ever more and the rise of Jay’s fears about being able to keep his hot young wife Gloria.
Each of these stories continued in unexpected ways in The Dude Ranch as Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) decide to wait before telling the family about the adoption. That is, if there will still be an adoption. Mitch and Cam want a boy but Mitch is worried that he isn’t macho enough to be a father to a boy. As he brilliantly states his fear: “I want to be able to teach my son all the things my dad taught Claire.”
Speaking of Claire (Julie Bowen), her hatred of Dylan (Reid Ewing) is reaching a boiling point after Phil (Ty Burrell) agreed to let Haley’s (Sarah Hyland) idiot boyfriend join the family getaway. At Phil’s urging Claire tries to be tolerant but when Dylan attempts to ask Haley to marry him, things go straight to hell and Dylan winds up going missing.
As for Jay (Ed O’Neill), his fear of losing Gloria (Sophia Vergara) has lessened since last season but since she remains incredibly attractive, the jealousy was bound to linger. Thus, when the ranch hand Hank goes out of his way to flirt with Gloria, nicknaming her Desert Flower, Jay’s irritation is stoked to comic heights. Sophia Vergara can be grating at times but her chemistry with Ed O’Neil and her moments of outsized lunacy are worth those few scenes when you wish she wasn’t talking.
The resolution of The Dude Ranch is a little too neat given the problems at hand but the episode needed to end somehow and getting rid of Dylan, no matter how far-fetched his ending, is quite welcome. As was having Lucas (Nolan Gould) teach Mitch about boy stuff which amounted to: stuff blows up good.
The second half of the hour-long season premiere, “When Good Kids Go Bad,” started slow but built to a final, brilliant crescendo that is Modern Family’s bread and butter. Claire and Phil are at a grocery store when Phil backs a cart into Claire knocking her into a display of canned peaches. Phil claims that Claire fell on her own. Claire is determined to prove him wrong and the lengths that she goes to prove herself correct are glorious.
Mitch and Cam are ready to tell the family about the new adoption. But, first they must get Lilly to stop threatening to kill her as yet un-adopted sibling. FYI, three year old Lilly is every bit as adorable as baby Lilly, even when threatening murder. Mitch believes that Lilly’s problem stems from Cameron’s coddling; her attachment to him has become murderously possessive. However, we will come to find that Lilly really has a problem with sharing which likely stems from Mitch’s many, many issues with sharing.
Watching this issue with Mitch wind back to Claire’s need to be right and crossing in the end with what was seemingly a weak storyline for Jay, Gloria and Manny (Rico Rodriguez) was one of those great sitcom moments.
It’s moments like the final seconds of “When Good Kids Go Bad” that remind us why we love sitcoms.
Welcome back Modern Family!