Modern Family, Season 6, Episode 6, “Halloween 3: Awesomeland”
October 29th, 2014, 9PM, ABC
Yet another Halloween’s rolled around, and it’s time to look in on the Pritchett-Dunphy revelry. This year, Claire hands the planning of the Dunphy’s yearly haunted house over to Phil – and he creates a very non-scary attraction called AwesomeLand, which contains anything he finds awesome. Claire, naturally, is not-so-quietly driven over the bend by her husband’s sunny point of view when she prefers a Halloween filled with blood and guts. Her resolve to let Phil have his moment is soon sorely tested by new neighbor Ronnie’s haunted house contest – and when she learns that the winner takes a cash prize she takes down AwesomeLand and sets up an insane asylum theme. In response, Phil rebels and she accidentally offends Ronnie’s wife Amber. Meanwhile, Jay rejects Gloria’s suggestion that they dress up as Fiona and Shrek and instead tries on a multitude of wigs in his quest to be Prince Charming. He grows so attached to the winning wig because it brings about a fresh sense of confidence and an old sense of nostalgia, but after Gloria scrambles to figure out a proper couple’s costume for them and grows worried about his over attachment to the hairpiece, she eventually hides it with Stella the dog, leaving Jay to go out on Halloween bare-headed and learn to re-love his baldness. And finally Cam melts down under the strain of the season, feeling guilty over ignoring Lily during his busy winning season. His attempt at helping his daughter out with her school’s parent-child Halloween costume parade provides one disaster after another, and Mitch fares no better in the courtroom as he busily prepares for closing arguments in a major case after losing three trials in a row…and then finds himself sidetracked by the court’s Halloween spirit.
Sometimes Modern Family gets bogged down in over-the-top scenarios – and sometimes they positively nail the right tone with flying colors. “Halloween III” is the latter, balancing various types of humor while punching out character moments that keep us rooting for them as time passes.
The best and funniest plotline belongs to Jay and Gloria. Ed O’Neil works every ounce of available humor out of his prop wig, and he manages to make you feel sorry for Jay and understand why he becomes so attached to his wig.
Also funny is the Cam plot, to the point where the Mitch sideplot featuring the court case feels unnecessary, if any easy way to be rid of him to let Cam flail about on his own (we don’t even end up with a successful verdict rendered by the episode’s end). Nevertheless, it’s relatable enough for any parent watching along at home.
The worst part of the show is the Dunphy plot, and you can blame that on the new neighbors. I know that every sitcom needs antagonists, but Amber and Ronnie are irritating stick figure caricatures of white trash archetypes, and perhaps the worst recurring antagonists in the show’s history. It pains me to say this because I generally love Steve Zahn’s work, but it nevertheless remains true. If the show means them only to be an irritant, then they’re succeeding, but Modern Family’s always gone an extra step and thrown in a tiny bit of nuance into their recurring characters. The show was doing just fine for plots and plot ideas without them, so I don’t understand why the show’s producers felt the need to toss them in. Nevertheless, it has the occasional laugh and witty moments sprinkled about even here.
“Halloween III” works pretty well in general, though it has its bumps and bruises. It’s just slightly above the season’s average but isn’t quite as good an episode as the series’ first Halloween episode.
- Costume round-up: Lily is Waldo of Where’s Waldo Fame; Cam is Superman until he adjusts to match Lily’s costume ; Claire is a cheerleader, Hayley is a firewoman, Alex is Tess McGill from Working Girl, Luke is a dog and Phil is “the mayor of Awesomeland”; Manny is Frank Sinatra. As for Jay and Gloria’s costumes, I won’t spoil the surprise.
- Steve Zahn and Andrea Anders make another appearance as Amber and Ronnie, the Dunphy’s new neighbors after this past episode, “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?”
- Jay again recounts his history as a high school football player. It’s a detail he shares with another Ed O’Neil character, Married with Children’s Al Bundy.
- Claire’s haunted houses have been a repeated recurring feature on Modern Family, popping up in the episodes “Halloween” and “Open House of Horrors” .
- Next Week: Modern Family will be preempted for the CMA Awards. See you in two weeks!
A uniformly good and funny episode with a big, big minus for the Ronnie and Amber stuff, a classic case of unneeded characters thrown into a series late in its run.