September 24th, 2014, 9PM, ABC
Last Season: A full season of preparation and panic amounted to a hill of beans for Cam and Mitch, who, after battling pregnant best women, wildfires, crowded living rooms and interfamily breakdowns ended up with the perfect ceremony anyway and were married on Jay’s country club lawn by Phil. Thus did Jay finally get over the fact that Mitch and Cam were marrying and come to accept the fact of his son’s homosexuality and the permanence of his partnership with Cam…which leaves you wondering how he managed to avoid the fact of it way back when they adopted Lily. Meanwhile, Alex prepared for her senior year of high school and Hayley experienced angst over her attraction to Andy the Manny, eventually doing the right thing and encouraging him to get on a plane to go see his long-distance girlfriend.
This week is all about attitude shifts; Cam has a hard time getting out of ‘honeymoon mode’, and his lovey-dovey enthusiasm and smothering attitude (and habit of filling the house with flowers) starts to annoy Mitchell. Meanwhile, the Dunphys have a relaxed, awesome summer without Alex, filled with peace and almost stereotypical harmony and waves of good luck. But when Alex returns early from her summer humanitarian trip filled with rage and disappointment she suddenly brings a rain of discontent upon the household, and Claire and Phil try to figure out a way to ship her back to her post, then make her feel welcome within the family again. And Gloria tries to teach Jay a lesson about his sloppy appearance, first by sending his grubby old clothing to her family in Columbia, then by refusing to coif and groom herself to her usual levels of self-perceived perfection. She soonlearns why Jay’s let himself go so thoroughly .
Well, this was an episode. A pretty terrible episode filled with awkward, unbelievable comedy for the most part, but an episode.
To start with, I don’t really like what the show has to say about Alex in this episode; as if she’s some kind of dark cloud spreading misery everywhere with her serious, moodiness and sincerity, and she’s the reason the family’s awkwardness, arguments and dysfunction. While she’s always been portrayed as the serious, responsible Dunphy, it’s never been to the point of her character being the source of all misery. It doesn’t make sense from a character standpoint – and even worse, it’s not really funny. The sudden revelation that Haley’s been giving the internet a peep show due to her own negligence is the uncomfortable snot icing on the crap cake.
Then there’s the Gloria/Jay plotline. While it’s easy to imagine Jay giving in to his natural sense of slovenliness, it’s hard to buy that Gloria’s appearance is terrible in equality to his when she smears on clown lipstick and neglects to wear mascara….and looks like Sofia Vergara, a supermodel with a makeunder. Gloria giving her family her husband’s threadbare castoffs when she can afford to buy them new, unused clothing is also gross, especially in light of her grudging devotion to them in previous episodes.
The least-worst subplot of the episode is the Cam/Mitch plotline, but even that ends up getting creepy as the level of Cam’s devotion to Mitch is revealed . And really show? Having their first meeting set to ‘Caribbean Queen’? That borders on homophobic in a show that at least used to try to be properly inclusive and not quite as stereotypical as it could be.
What can I say about this mess? The show is getting lazy, and even more mean-spirited, on the weight of its own importance. In no way did it deserve an Emmy for Best Comedy at this year’s Emmys, and in no way will it deserve its inevitable Best Comedy Emmy at next year’s Emmys. Compared to its former sense of story and ability to tell a good joke, it’s a disappointment on every level.
I fear that someone will read this review and infer from it that I have some kind of grudge against the show. All I can say is that every plot I outlined above would be funny with the right tone, but I only managed a single giggle during the entire episode – the entire episode. I have faith that this won’t be a regular thing. I laughed at this show before, and I will again, but this episode was subpar in the extreme and a poor choice for the season premier.
Do better, show. Do better.
- ”Are we the kind of family that has cookies for breakfast? YES WE ARE!”.
- Apparently Phil really loves plums.
- ”Seriously?! Two hours rehearsing with Rosa?!” Lily continues to be a treasure.
- And yes, I did laugh once this episode: when Phil almost poisoned the family with his rhubarb pie.
- Next Week: The Dunphys follow Alex to California Tech for a tour, Mitch, Cam and Lily take a new family portrait and Jay and Gloria disagree over what kind of anniversary gift they want to give each other in “Do Not Push”.