“And One to Grow On” will not go down on anybody’s list as one of Modern Family’s funniest 22 minutes, but it is one of the only episodes this season to focus on a theme and run with it, successfully. The final scene is another family gathering, to celebrate Fulgencio’s 1st birthday. To mark the occasion, however, the Modern Family writers uses the pre-party storylines to focus on the ways that growing up is not an easy thing. Episode scribe Jeffrey Richman does a stellar job at weaving the strands and similar behaviours from the different stories together, wrapping up the drama in satisfying ways.
This half-hour of Modern Family also diverts some of the more obvious sitcom archetypes that the episode could have used. The moment you see that the oblivious Haley is going to help an anxious, alert Alex learn to drive, you fear for the moment later in the episode where Alex is going to wreck the car. Alas, Richman swerves from that predictable moment. Phil tricks his son into attending a class on ballroom dancing and anyone already oriented with Phil’s foolishly endearing (or endearingly foolish) attitude will expect him to interrupt the class and embarrass his son. Instead, the police take Phil to jail – not for his obscene dance moves, but on behalf of the 18 parking tickets Haley racked up while driving his car. Also, another obvious comedy collision avoided by the show’s creative team.
The episode looks at a generational divide in the families, as the parents react to their little babies blossoming into autonomous, anxious teens. Claire is mortified at Alex becoming a driver. Meanwhile, Luke is growing up and taking his own interests, rather than his dad’s, which mortifies Phil. At the Pritchett household, Jay is jealous of male nanny Andy (Adam DeVine), who can coax Fulgencio into saying “Da-da,” while Jay cannot.
Refreshingly, the episode uses two of the show’s more typically superficial characters, Haley and Gloria, as voices of reasons in telling people a generation older how they are failing to equip and satisfy the needs of their children. Using Haley as the conduit to explain to her younger siblings and her parents the root of their strains with each other is not just surprising, it works to the characters’ social savvy. Finally, Sarah Hyland gets a moment to be dramatically revealing and it does not feel contrived to the flow of the episode. Although Modern Family likes to touch on the generational gap, it uses an integral episode about the friction between parents and their kids to add insight and build on the characters’ relationships even further.