11/13/2013, 9PM, ABC
The Pritchett-Dunphys head to the kid’s school fair, where Cam’s recent losing streak as a coach results in paranoia and motivational speeches. Jay gets into a fight over a parking space that grows complicated when he and the man he accused are assigned to keep the peace during the fair. Alex tries to cement a friendship with a new girl by using Luke’s crush as a starting point. Gloria worries that Manny’s love for the pastry arts will lead to his social exclusion. Meanwhile, Phil and Claire’s individual plans for their anniversary derail when Phil is shown up by the family dentist during a concert with the band he hired to serenade her. It’s not over: Claire’s attempt at getting Phil home to see the Chinese acrobats she hired is nearly ruined by their tardiness; promptly, though, Phil throws her in “jail.” And somewhere among all of that, Hayley meets and tussles with Andy the Manny.
A good half of “A Fair to Remember” is fun and delightful. It’s always great to see Cam in coach mode, though it’s surprising that they’ve chosen to have him struggle with his new occupation this early in his career switch. The show’s fun when he gets dramatic, and Eric Stonestreet played the part to the hilt. The mock-drama with Jay and his ‘cop buddy’ provide the richest moments of humor this episode, mostly because we could never get enough of Ed O’Neill razzing himself. Phil and Claire’s plot is cute, happy, and fairly easy to relate to, in Modern Family’s bourgeois way-well, it was cute watching Phil trying to do his best to prove his worth. Claire’s side of the plot was pointless.
The problem, surprisingly, seems to lie with the kids. Manny’s plot is interesting, and seems poised to make a point about gender roles. Yet, it concludes with an ending that tells its young audience that it’s perfectly fine to have non-stereotypically gender-coded interests-as long as you’re good at something that’s traditionally gender coded.
I’m at a loss to explain what they’re doing with Alex and Hayley. Alex has always been the book smart one, the one who didn’t care about social popularity. Suddenly she’s a bit manic, a bit desperate to bludgeon people with her intelligence. It’s unpleasant to watch her incandescent desperation, period. And Hayley. Poor, poor Hayley. Having her character reduced down to “party girl who likes older men” is one thing, having her flirt with the babysitter is quite another. The thought-line behind her character has suddenly gotten very creepy, and it ought to be pulled back a little. Even a return appearance by her boyfriend would be preferable to her dragging Andy the Manny into this morass of terrible ideas.
- ”I’m the Hester Prynne of high school football!” Some weeks it’s impossible to not love Cam.
- Long before Ed O’Neill was Al Bundy, he played in the eponymous sequel Popeye Doyle, the Oscar-winning role made famous by Gene Hackman in “The French Connection.” I see you, Modern Family writers.
- Admit it – you cackled at “piece of sheetcake.”
- Jay’s adversary/cop buddy was played by Jordan Peele, who is best known for his work in the Comedy Central ensemble comedy “Key and Peele.”
- Two levels reached by Cam’s swinging hammer: “sassy granny” and “geriatric aunt.”
- Next week Claire tries to encourage Jay to attend ClosetCon, a large convention for interior designers, where he meets with old colleagues and Jay and Mitch take Lily to the Tucker farm for the first time in “ClosetCon ‘13.”
[notification type=“star”]GRADE: 55/100 ~ OKAY. “A Fair to Remember” is cute, funny, and fairly enjoyable, ultimately. That said, the Cam and Jay subplots shine, just not brightly enough to outdo the episode’s failures.[/notification]