Modern Family, “The Day Alex Left for College,” (7.2) – TV Review

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MF College

September 30th, 2015, 9PM, ABC

Alex is so embarrassed by her parent’s presence that she moves to college early to avoid their fawning and Claire’s intense clinging – but within hours of showing up to dorm with Haley meets her nerdy, super-smart, hyper and much-younger roommate and almost wishes she were back home again. Luke is meanwhile stuck at Phil’s open house when he really wants to hang out with his gang of oddly-dressed hipster friends, and Phil finds himself struggling against the fact that his son is – much like Alex is with Claire – completely embarrassed by his personality and finds him to be deathly uncool. Jay and Gloria soon find out that Claire’s been hiding at their house by the pool to de-stress, which has disastrous results when Mitch and Cam discover that she lied to get out of going to Lily’s soccer game, causing Gloria, Manny, Jay and Claire to make up an elaborate lie that forces Jay to feign an injury that soon turns very real – not that Mitch believes him at first. Also, Mitch and Cam deal poorly with their suddenly extremely hectic lives, which include Mitch’s new job in estate planning and will probation, keeping an eye on Lily’s super-rowdy soccer buddies and trying to run a side business renting out the condo over theirs as a bed and breakfast, and the result is Cam blowing up while trying to substitute coach Lily’s team during an important game.

This is a weird little episode, combining extremely broad humor (Jay getting shot in the foot by a creepily homicidal Gloria is only a minor plot point this week) with strange little character moments (how does Phil figure out his son still cares about him? Why, he finds out his son saved some endangered duck eggs, proving that Luke isn’t quite a victim of monosyllabic hipsterhood yet). What works really works, and that is mainly the Alex and Haley interaction at Alex’s dorm, even if the show wants to rewrite history a little and make us forget that during their childhood years these two never, ever saw eye to eye.

The kids continue to develop apace. There’s no strong solo focus on Haley this week (a relief after last week’s choices) but Alex continues to be her intellectually-driven self. The show choosing to have her realize that even college won’t contain intellectual equals is a decent idea, and one senses that she’s going to be thawed a bit by the presence of her roommate. I continue to have absolutely no idea what they’re doing with Luke, but moving him away from selfish, peeping tom perv to vaguely violent hipster moper is a lateral storyline move. His storyline is mostly enjoyable due to Phil’s plucky spunk.

As for the hectic mess that is the Gloria-Jay/Cam-Mitch side of the plot, it’s pointless in the extreme, a building block to move the characters along (“Look at how hectic things are now that Mitch and Cam are working at home!”/”Look, Joe’s old enough to speak in full sentences now!”). It could have used a full rewite. A good, full rewrite.

“The Day Alex Left for College” is a lovely episode; there are bips and bobs and the Pritchett- Tucker plotline could’ve been dropped, but it overall works as a cohesive experience.
The Roundup

  • “As an actual glasses wearer, this is offensive!!”
  • “Luke, there’s no easy way to ask this – are you in a boy band?”
  • Joe speaks his first sentence in this episode. “HE ate the cronut”.
  • Phil used to work at his father’s grocery store, “Frank’s Food Hut”.
  • Cam and Mitch’s new limited bed and breakfast partnership: “The Artful Lodgers.”
  • One of Claire’s kids were involved in a sanitized fifth grade production of Rent in which the main characters were forced to battle head colds instead of HIV.
  • Cam gets thrown out of the game and ends up peeking over the hedge with binoculars; a fitting ending to his soccer coaching mini-career. He of course professional coaches high school football and has been thrown out of games multiple times in past seasons due to his zealous over-coaching.
  • “Help, there’s Norway out!”
  • Next Week: Haley talks Phil into convincing Claire to let Dylan move into her basement mini-apartment, and Phil immediately regrets lending his support to the cause. Meanwhile, Mitch starts working for Jay’s enemy and Cam and Gloria argue on how best to advise Manny on his girl problem in “The Closet Case”.
6.5 OKAY

A general improvement over last week’s episode, with actually funny plot points, even when the characters are behaving in an obnoxious manner.

  • OKAY 6.5
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About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of Firefox.org, has been watching television for all of her thirty-plus years, and critiquing it for the past seven. When she's not writing, she can be found in the wilds of the Northeastern United States.