‘Modern Family’ 3.01 – 3.03 Recaps: Return of the Dunphys

All right, so I’m a little behind on my ‘Modern Family’ posts. I’ve had some crazy busy weeks, and I honestly didn’t get around to watching anything until earlier this week when Hulu helped me catch up. The show is back and I’m going to do some quick hits on the episodes that have already aired.

All in all, it’s been a great start to the season. After being disappointed with a lot of last season, I’m glad to see that ‘Modern Family’ is back on track. The show maintains its usual mix of funny and sweet, and does a great job of limiting each so that neither gets overbearing. It’s not a perfect start by any means, but it’s definitely a step up.

‘Dude Ranch’

The new season starts out with an episode called ‘Dude Ranch’. It’s a nice reintroduction to the characters for viewers new to ‘Modern Family’, and has plenty of fun stuff for the longtime fans. It also features the very strange and quickly-executed departure of Dylan.

The whole Dunphy-Pritchett family, plus Dylan, heads off to a dude ranch to enjoy the cowboy experience, with complications along the way. Jay has issues with one of the ranch hands (Tim Blake Nelson) hitting on Gloria, Alex deals with romantic advances from a boy that she finds unpleasant, and Phil and Claire butt heads over the Dylan issue.

Mitchell’s struggle to be more manly so as to be a better role model for the boy that he and Cam are planning to adopt, is a highlight of the episode, especially when he teams with Luke to light off one hell of a firecracker. It’s also really nice to see Phil being good at something, which is pretty much everything he does at the dude ranch.

‘When Good Kids Go Bad’

The second episode in the season isn’t quite up to expectations after a really solid season opener. The whole thing just feels flat, without any really strong ups or downs. Actually, it pretty much hovers in the downs without jumping up much to even things out.

The brunt of the story revolves around Cam, Mitchell and Lily, but doesn’t really feel like it goes anywhere. Lily doesn’t like the idea of a new baby and is really vocal about it. She’s talking now, which is up for debate in terms of whether it’s going to add to the show or not.

The rest of the storylines just feel quick and shallow. Claire wants to be right all the time, and the family has an issue with it. There’s no resolution, just a quick blame shift at the end. Manny steals a locket, Jay calls him on it and that’s pretty much it. The storylines all have quick wrap-ups without anything actually being accomplished. The episode could have been a lot better.

‘Phil on Wire’

This is a mixed episode for me, but the strengths outshine the weaknesses. Gloria gets mad at Jay’s dog for taking attention from her in a storyline that does absolutely nothing for me, but the others work fairly well.

There’s a great bit of comedy between Alex and Haley – quick exchanges, witty dialogue and a few jokes that take a second to register. When Claire tries to teach the pair a lesson by encouraging them to work together in class, the plan results in a backfire.

Mitch and Cameron go on a juice fast, and the resulting comedy and drama are both top tier. Mitchell’s reveal of the stages of Cameron’s diet are cleverly done, and Mitchell’s eventual breakdown and journey into the ocean had me laughing out loud. That’s not something that happens a lot when watching TV at home alone.

Finally, there’s a Phil and Luke story that makes for a very cool addition to the episode. You get to see Phil and Luke working together to achieve the same goal, with Luke supporting his father through it all. The ending is a little hokey, but it works.

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