Modern Family Review: “Other People’s Children” (Season 5, Episode 17)

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On the flipside, Phil grants a bit of time to a young man already in love and who knows much more about kissing (and, likely, woodworking). Using a green screen, Photoshop and lots of other computer programs, Phil wants to help Andy make a delightful video for his girlfriend’s birthday. As Phil tells us, joyously oblivious, this is his chance to make love on film – and now he does not have to do it by himself! Predictably, Andy’s unabashed sincerity does not quite gel with Phil’s Alfonso Cuarón-like filmmaking ambitions.

From this subplot, there is some foreshadowing with a potential romance between Andy and Haley. There is a lovely moment when Phil tells Andy to act out to Haley as if she was his girlfriend. Andy looks right at Phil’s daughter as he makes a deeply emotional speech. Haley is visibly moved, and Sarah Hyland knows how to turn from suspicions of his dad’s idea to smitten with Andy’s sincerity without forcing it unnaturally.

I really hope the writers decide to pursue Andy and Haley as a relationship for three reasons. First, it will make for another refreshing dynamic among the characters. Second, it ensures DeVine gets more screen time, as he fits in superbly with the cast. Third, Burrell and DeVine are, ahem, divine at playing off each other’s giddy awkwardness (remember, Burrell shared some fantastic moments with Reid Ewing’s Dylan in early seasons).

In the quantity of laughs, “Other People’s Children” is far from the series’ most bustling half-hour, even in terms of the episodes this season. It also starts off with a stumbling opening bit, which tries to force these various groupings together in a scant period of time rather unconvincingly. However, what this week’s installment lacks in hearty laughs, it makes up for in heart. The potential mined from mashing the kids with different parental figures makes for a lot of original situations and sharp comedy. This is probably what makes the four storylines all work on their own terms within 22 minutes without having a single one feel too condensed.

Modern Family usually succeeds in episodes where the characters get to split up into interesting groups with other members of the ensemble – and “Other People’s Children” is no exception. The comic timing is on, the pacing is swift and the potential for growth in various character relationships is vast. Also, kudos to director Jim Hensz for taking some creative risks with camerawork and having it pay off (it was also an appropriate choice for an episode with a funny Gravity send-up, given that film’s cinematographic prowess). Now, as for that hookup between Andy and Haley – it is inevitable, writers’ room. Make it happen!

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