TV Recap: Modern Family, “The Help,” 5.6



10/23/2013, 9PM, ABC

After firing five previous nannies, Jay and Manny balk when Gloria hires Andy, a young cheerful and can-do “manny” who irritates them both by trying to improve their health through exercise and modifying Jay’s meat-heavy diet. Meanwhile, Frank (Fred Willard), Phil’s still-single dad, is back in town – and Phil drags Jay into his plans to cheer him up by taking him to a meet and greet, which leads to Frank picking up an unexpected guest…who stays overnight and demands to be paid for her services before disappearing in the morning; and the inimitable Pepper Saltzman (Nathan Lane) is called in to help plan Mitch and Cam’s wedding, but he tries to take over the ceremony and ignores their wishes – so they set their sights on his more malleable assistant, Renaldo. Meanwhile, Alex and Haley clash when they’re forced to share room during Grandpa Frank’s visit.

Last week’s Modern Family felt completely relatable. This week’s…let’s just say it feels slightly less so. If you’ve ever jogged by a housewife with a two thousand dollar ergodynamic stroller, you’ve seen the Jay/Gloria part of the episode. It’s not only not very easy to relate to, the entire concept’s not even that funny; the groan-worthy jokes about Jay’s refusal to settle into a diet are as predictable as Cam and Mitch’s ongoing centerpiece-related battles. Diet jokes are as old hat as laugh tracks in sitcoms; it takes genius to improve on Lucy Ricardo and her pressure cooker, and the episode just doesn’t have it in it.

ModernFamilyTheHelp06That said, Andy’s enthusiasm is precious. Indeed, it’s fun to watch him try to blend into the Delgado/Pritchett clan; he’s got a sense of joie de vivre that’s fun. I’d like to watch him have a dinner with the equally irrepressible Cam; they’d loathe their mutually-held perkiness and it would make great comedy.

Yet what saves the episode is the hilarity of the Frank-related hooker plot, which is treated with so much gosh-darn joyfulness that it becomes goofily transcendent. Peri Gilpin is great as the takes-no-prisoners hooker; her bracing, witty screen presence is a nice change of pace.

As for the Pepper-related plot. I feel as if Mitch and Cam have been trying to get married forever – and not in a good way at this point. They’ll probably be marrying them off over May sweeps, so we have months to go of them arguing over place settings and lighting. While it was cute to watch Pepper finally find love, but I almost wish they’d found another way to do it, versus talk about the wedding some more.

“The Help” isn’t going to win Modern Family any awards. Indeed, it’s bland and predictable as anything ABC has churned out this year. Watch it for the Phil-related plot only, and be sure to keep an eye out for that fun stinger. And let’s all hope that the rest of Andy’s episodes go smoothly; the last thing this show needs is another extra set of limbs taking up space on its overly-crowded canvas.

The Roundup

  • Moment of the night: Mitch and Cam dueting on the made-up Wiggles song “Daddy, There’s a Man In The Bathroom”.
  • This is Pepper’s yearly appearance on the show; he’s popped up in every single season, and is one of Cam’s oldest friends.
  • Grandpa Frank also makes his latest appearance; in season three, Phil found out about his parents’ divorce, which they’d been hiding from here for years.
  • Mitch and Cam’s wedding plans continue apace, though they continue to struggle with them. Anyone else predicting an elopement?
  • This episode has to hold the record for least screen time given to the Dunphy kids ever.
  • Jay and Gloria’s French bulldog is again seen.
  • Next week is a repeat of last year’s Halloween episode. Have a safe and fun Halloween!

[notification type=star]GRADE: 65/100 ~ OKAY. “The Help” just sort of lies there, though it’s almost redeemed by the existence of the Phil-related plot. Heavily apply the fast-forward button and you’ll be fine.[/notification]


About Author

Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of, 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.