TV Recap: Modern Family, “Three Dinners,” (5.13)



January 22nd, 2014, 9PM, ABC

The Pritchett – Dunphys settle in for three different dinners; Claire and Phil take Haley out and try to get her to focus on her future (and moving out of their basement) and when they try to use their slacker waiter Brian as an example of ambition, Haley turns the tables on them and shows them that she might be more prepared for her future than the both of them combined – and that they have no plan for their eventual empty nest ; Cam and Mitch’s romantic dinner goes awry when they make friends with a couple eating at the adjacent table and become involved in their disastrous marriage proposal; and Jay and Gloria take in dinner with Jay’s friend Shorty and his girlfriend Darlene, after which Jay and Shorty fight over Shorty’s perceived lack of honesty and flakiness – but deep down, Jay’s afraid that Shorty’s latest move might separate them forever.

Modern Family isn’t the most classically sitcommy show on ABC’s Tuesday night line up; no, Modern Family occasionally has a dark, bitter sensibility to it, slightly edgier than the fare they typically serve up. Which is why “Three Dinners” is a perfect example of what they do well; some of the comedy contained within it is pitch black, especially most of the events in the Claire and Phil storyline, but it’s leavened and balanced by the tenderness of the Cam and Mitchell proposal storyline and the emotional bits of Jay’s. Within the show’s canon, it is a perfectly.

modernfamIt’s about time that Phil and Claire tried to get a handle on what their daughter’s doing with her life after a full year of her taking courses at a local collage and living in the basement. That Haley is more together than they presumed is an easy and foregone conclusion - after all, we’ve had a few weeks of Haley behaving as a counselor to other characters, and I was enjoying naively wise advice until tonight. The character’s never been known for her fashion sense, so to have her become a semi-famous fashion blogger is something of an eyebrow-raising twist. Maybe a little foreshadowing instead of portraying her every flirtation with men twice her age would have been fortuitous?

Bringing the classic sitcom plot are Mitch and Cam this week, who head out for a peaceful and Lily-free dinner, only to become entangled in the relationship problems of the couple stationed at the table beside theirs. There are misunderstandings, there are twists, there are proposals and near-abandonments and plenty of nearly paternalistic interference. It’s cheesy sitcom formula at its most classic, yet everyone involved manages to make it work beautifully. The show isn’t bland, but it isn’t particularly colorful in a memorable way this week, and perhaps

You know what you’re getting into when you watch an episode of Modern Family, and you know what to expect when you finish watch it. “Three Dinners” is amusing, lightweight entertainment gilt with a sarcastic edge. And it’s a good episode, though not even close to being Modern Family’s best.

The roundup

  • Jennifer Tilly and Chazz Palminteri play Darlene and Shorty, respectively.
  • You always knew Haley’d end up with friends in the drag community. Right? RIGHT?!
  • …And Haley and her grandfather have been drinking buddies? Well. That could be awkward.
  • The story Phil tells about Shorty and Mitch’s birth is remarkably lovely.
  • Notice that the rest of the Dunphy kids were missing – along with Lily and Joe. At least Manny got a scene of his own.
  • Next week: The Pritchett and Dunphy clans take the week off, and will be back – along with me – on February 5th.

[notification type=”star”]65/100 ~ OKAY. It’s been done, but the show looks good doing it.[/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.