Modern Family has reached that magic place in sitcom-dom where the characters have become so indelible that they can earn laughs without jokes. Don’t misunderstand, there were plenty of jokes in the episode ‘Phil on Wire,’ but they are so seemingly effortless that you are laughing before you even know why.
Our three track story begins with Cam (Eric Stonestreet) announcing that he is going on a juice fast. As Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) explains, this is far from the first juice fast for Cam. Cam’s diets are legendary for their six stages.
Stage One: The Clean Sweep: in which Cam throws out all of the food that can’t be juiced.
Stage Two: Attack Mitchell: self explanatory.
Stage Three: Soap Actress: in which Cam breaks out the Lucci-esque waterworks.
Stage Four: A Rush of Epiphanies: “Look at this, Architecture is everywhere.” And “Spaniards make great athletes.”
Stage Five: Despair Again, self explanatory.
Stage Six: Rage.
What surprises will Stage Seven hold? Unfortunately, Mitchell is about to find out, at a party at his boss’s house. However, since Mitchell decided to join Cam’s fast in hopes of heading it off… well you can imagine where this plot is heading: Mitchell in the ocean searching for a seal lion.
Meanwhile at the Dunphy’s, Phil (Ty Burrell) and Luke (Nolan Gould) have apparently discovered the documentary “Man on Wire;” inspiring Phil to rediscover his dream of tightrope walking. Claire (Julie Bowen) on the other hand is left to deal with Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Alex (Ariel Winter), who now share a math class and a more pronounced sisterly feud than ever.
Though the episode is titled “Phil on Wire,” Phil’s story is actually really minor compared to that of Kate and the girls and Cam and Mitchell’s diet. Not surprisingly however, is how Phil’s story comes around at the end to provide both inspiration, and one of the better jokes of the episode.
“What was I thinking when I was up there? If I can do this, then I’ve got two ways to get across my lawn.”
Claire and the girls’ plot wasn’t as strong as the rest of the episode’s stories but Claire’s frustrated attempt at finding a good comeback against a mean parking guard(?) and her showdown with the same guard later were terrifically Claire moments.
“…sorry Law & Order: Special Parking Unit, not my fault.”
As for Jay (Ed O’Neill) and Gloria (Sophia Vergara), Gloria hates Jay’s dog Stella. The dog wakes her up at night, only eats her shoes and Jay doesn’t punish her. Instead, Stella sleeps in their bed, a privilege not offered to Manny (Rico Rodriguez), and Jay showers with the dog.
Frustrated in her attempts to prove the dog is out to get her, the plot closes with poor Gloria on hands and knees with one of Jay’s shoes in her mouth in attempt to show Jay how bad the dog is. Even the dog on Modern Family knows exactly when to turn to the camera to get the big laugh.
“Phil on Wire” wasn’t as funny as the hour-long pair of episodes that opened season three of Modern Family but the weakest Modern Family is still better than just about any other comedy on TV. Don’t you agree?