Modern Family, “The Big Guns,” (6.12) - TV Review


MF Guns

January 14th, 2015, 9PM, ABC

It’s partner against partner this week - Phil and Claire’s argument with the LaFontaines rages back to life when they drop an eyesore of a boat on their front lawn, which is parked way to close to the Dunphy’s property line. Claire is disgusted by the sight of the thing (in total opposition to Luke, who keeps spying on the LaFontaine’s daughter while she sunbathes on it and tries to date her), they approach their neighbors and try to broker a deal, but the LaFontaines are not happy to hash out a deal. Thus, Phil calls his dad’s caravan of suv-loving retiree friends into service to help them wage their battle, but they all soon fall for the LaFontaine’s casual, party-loving ways. Elsewhere, Jay and Gloria disagree over how to best potty train Joe, Gloria falling on the side of waiting awhile longer and Jay declaring he’s tired of buying diapers and wanting the kid to learn on his own – they then struggle over who will handle Joe’s education, and in the process Gloria’s lies about Manny’s genius status come to the fore. Cam, meanwhile, sneaks Lily off to clown school, as he considers clowning something of a religion even though Mitch would rather they keep their kid out of red noses – but Mitch only finds Lily’s clowning funny when she hurts Cam, which results in a lot of bruises for her protesting father – and another second secret motivation from Lily.

You know, sometimes I like to dance around the fact that Modern Family follows a group of folks who are of a certain level of wealth and privilege. This week’s episode was pretty blunt in its blithe delivery of class politics – the Dunphys are pretty blatantly WASPS cracking their monocles at the sight of the LaFontaine’s Kid Rock-esque aesthetic. Would the LaFontaines be annoying, were they somebody’s actual, factual neighbor? Oh yes. But there’s something weirdly off-putting about it – one realizes that in any other show, the Dunphys would be the villains. Sadly, the humor in the storyline doesn’t distract; the sight of Luke creeping on Tammy LaFontaine’s unconscious body was pretty painfully gross, watching him try to flirt with her afterward is even worse, and are they ever going to do anything with Haley besides make partying jokes at her expense, especially when she should be clean for her new job? There’s an attempt at kumbayaing and class bridging at the end, but the result is awkward and suggesting that we’re all the same in the eyes of the law in this day and age is wrong and uncomfortable.

Much better was the Joe potty training segments, which managed to squeeze warmth out of a situation where warmth is the last thing one expects. Surprisingly, there are no cheap laughs until the very end of the storyline, and the rest is spent on a gentle sibling rivalry between Joe and Manny.

That’s ‘cause all of the cheap laughs are spent over in the Lily/Cam/Mitch storyline, which is loaded with ridiculous physical humor. Lily may or may not have it in her to be a clown, but she certainly has it in her to be a serial killer. In any event, there are cracks a’plenty in this week’s episode. Is it worthy of a second viewing? I’m afraid not.
The Roundup

  • Ok, I’ll be kind and call them the LaFontaines from now on. If they grow personalities. Maybe.
  • Lies Lily and Cam tell about their library trip: she read Clifford the Big Red Dog and Cam read Richard Chamberlin’s biography.
  • No one insults Phil’s banana bread!
  • Phizbo, Cam’s clown personality, has been a series-long run on the show, last appearing during the Cam/Mitch wedding story arc.
  • The LaFontaines first appeared in this season’s “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor”.
  • Next Week: Modern Family’s on a weeklong hiatus! See you in February!

Uncomfortable and marginally funny, this one is saved by the b-story.

  • GREAT 8.3

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.