Modern Family Review: “The Help” (Season 5, Episode 6)


Modern Family has won plenty of Emmys during its run, including Best Comedy for four years straight. Some weeks, that honour seems well deserved. Other weeks, the show’s accolades are dumbfounding. It is one of the most inconsistent shows on television, but at least there are enough superb writers, directors and actors working on it that there are weeks where everything seems to coalesce into an episode that is witty, quick, funny and genuinely sweet – sometimes all within the same scene. Discounting the two season five openers, the episodes this year have a pattern similar to the Star Trek movies: the odd-numbered episodes are lousy, the even-numbered ones strong. Naturally, The Help – the sixth episode of season five – is a winner.

All three of the plots in place within the family this week are quite original and make terrific use of supporting players. The typically extravagant Nathan Lane reprises his role as the cheekily named Pepper Saltzman. This week, he shows up at Cam and Mitch’s abode to give them advice on planning their wedding. (Cam and Mitch also debate when their wedding will be, although for it to run in alignment with May sweeps, Mitch’s proclamation of seven months seems about right.) While last week’s episode drowned under more shrill arguments between the gay couple – one that seems to survive despite all of the boisterous bickering – the future husbands are in agreement this week. They eschew all of Pepper’s ideas, especially the one that has them enter the chapel on a unicorn.

Over in the Dunphy household, Phil’s father Frank (Fred Willard, who really does look like someone that could be Nolan Gould’s grandpa) has been staying over to separate himself from an ex-girlfriend. Claire wants him to go into therapy. Phil believes his dad should move on and find a new lady friend. When Jay, Phil and Frank head out into town, the recently widowed Frank finds a, well, unlikely match.

Back at the Pritchett’s, where the storylines really seem to have sagged as of late, Gloria has fired her fifth maid – not caused by poor workmanship but more to separate her hormonal teenage son from the young women she hires. (Jay quips, “There’s an embarrassing press conference in that kid’s future.”) Out of options, Gloria finds an answer in a male nanny she meets at the park – a playful, wholesome, irresistibly sweet young man who can cook balanced meals for Jay and Manny. Adam DeVine (Workaholics) plays the male nanny and he gives the role just the right amount of animated gumption to make for an excellent juxtaposition with crotchety Jay without coming off as cloying.