“And One to Grow On” also showcases two of the most underrepresented characters on Modern Family: Luke and Manny. Nolan Gould has been mostly delegated to the sidelines this season. As impeccably sweet as Luke is, Gould has a surprising mean streak in the episode that he does not overplay. He knows how to hit his dad with the right insult – just call the original Footloose “Foot Loser” – and shows no remorse when Phil gets carted away in a police cruiser.
Although Phil and Luke have shared one of the most adorable father-son bonds on television in recent years, it is a sign of strength that the Modern Family writers are trying to create friction between the characters. Luke is going through some growing pains – the character’s first line seems to have been engineered to draw our attention to his cracking voice – and bringing conflict into their previously dynamic duo is a good way to show how the character is developing through his teenage years.
Likewise, Manny’s storylines are awfully skimpy, usually focused on his misadventures trying to woo a girl or his more effeminate interests (that usually collide with Jay’s perception of teenage masculinity). In this episode, there is yet another conflict between Jay and Manny; however, it is not Jay who is trying to coax some confidence into his son. It is Gloria, who wants her chivalrous son to chase after Amy, a head cheerleader, by treating her with respect and appreciation. Amy left her jacket behind at his birthday party, which he takes as a signal for her wanting to arrive and pick it up again as a plot to see him. Jay wants to set up Manny with a more manageable girl, although a man with such a voluptuous wife should probably know better.
The episode is not all family drama though, as there are a couple of strong gags. The best is Phil’s rhyming scheme to help Claire remember the place in the house where he stores the emergency cash. The second best is a predictably written, although still sort-of risqué bit, featuring a double entendre with masturbation during the end credits, a sort of edgy humour Modern Family rarely does.
“And One to Grow On” is more effective as a summation of a theme than as a flurry of jokes; however, the scenes at the Pritchett household at the end that allow the kids and their parents to realize the growing conflict between them is more honest than what Modern Family usually throws at us. In the future, the writing team should focus on integrating these solutions in a way that shows more than tells – at times, the conversations between the three family units were frantic, almost overlapping – but it’s a step in the right direction.