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Forgiveness and Folly: An Advance Review of This Week's Episode of "Modern Family"

In its few weeks on the air, ABC's warmly witty and imaginative comedy series Modern Family has quickly become one of the viewing highlights of my entire week, turning out some of the best crafted bon mots and well-constructed (if lovably flawed) characters on television.

In the hands of its supremely gifted cast, the tangled relationships of the extended Pritchett-Dunphy clan are not only humorous but also touchingly realistic. They squabble, they feud, they make up, and occasionally they hit one another in the face with remote-controlled airplanes. The subtle beauty of the humor makes repeat viewing a necessity (blink and you could miss some truly stunning nuance) as well as a pleasure, making the Pritchetts one family that you want to spend time with week after week. (And really, I can't think of another recent comedy family that that's true of, other than the Bluths.)

This week's hysterical episode of Modern Family ("The Incident"), which airs on Wednesday evening, ups the ante by bringing in comedy legend Shelley Long as the family's errant matriarch Dede Pritchett, the new agey ex-wife of Ed O'Neill's Jay. The Pritchett kids--Julie Bowen's Claire and Jesse Tyler Ferguson's Mitchell--already have a complicated relationship with their dad and Dede's arrival into the relatively placid family creates all manner of chaos. (Look for a major omen of doom at Jay and Gloria's house to signify something wicked is on its way.)

I don't want to spoil the titular incident (it's a doozy) but I will say that it stems from Dede's truly horrific behavior at Jay and Gloria's wedding and Dede needs to apologize for her awfulness so she can get on with her life, which includes moving to a "far and distant land" (read: Canada) with her new boyfriend Chaz. Her smooth manipulation of mama's boy Mitchell, against the wishes of Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), result in a major showdown between Dede and Gloria (Sofia Vergara) at a family dinner at the Dunphy's.

Likewise, the episode gives the audience an opportunity to take a closer look at the relationship between siblings Claire and Mitchell, who square off over their mother. Bowen and Ferguson are absolutely perfectly cast as brother and sister and this episode in particular plays to their strengths; it's easy to imagine their childhoods with Jay and Dede and both actors do a phenomenal job bringing those conflicts into focus here. (Not surprisingly, Mitchell--who accidentally refers to Dede as "mommy" in a Freudian slip"--is often her catspaw and typically cleans up her messes.)

As for Shelley Long, age hasn't dimmed the brightness of her star. The former Cheers actor proves that she's game for anything and everything, including some truly withering lines of dialogue and some deft and jaw-dropping physical comedy. Modern Family producers, I'm hoping that we haven't seen the last of Dede as she adds a nice dose of smothering malice to the mix here.

Additionally, there's a sly and surprising storyline in this week's episode about Sarah Hyland's Haley and her seventeen-year-old boyfriend Dylan (Reid Ewing) attending a concert together that will have you uncontrollably singing Dylan's song, entitled "In the Moonlight," for, oh, the next week or two. (Look for an iTunes release of the song after the episode airs.) I don't want to say too much here but not only is the song fantastic (and funny) but make sure you stick around for the episode's tag.

In fact, "The Incident" is so flawless, overflowing as it is with pitch-perfect reaction shots, hysterical throwaway lines, and genuine emotion, that my only complaint of Modern Family is that each installment is over far too quickly. In a time of diminishing viewer attention spans, an intelligent and scintillating series that has you craving more week after week is a true find. So do yourself a favor and tune in to Modern Family tomorrow night. Your funny bone and your heart will thank me.

Modern Family airs Wednesday night at 9 pm ET/PT on ABC.


Rachelle said…
I love this show and can't wait for Shelley Long who I'm sure will add even more "fun" to this hilariously dysfunctional family!

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