‘Modern Family’ is usually really solid, but this week’s episode, ‘Princess Party’, feels pretty weak. The jokes are a little too easy, the plot is a little too cartoony, and some of the characters feel like parodies of themselves.
One of the things I really love about ‘Modern Family’ is that the characters tend to be treated with a certain amount of respect. They operate within their bounds and usually don’t cross the line between being believable characters and one-dimensional jokes.
In ‘Princess Party’, Cameron crosses the line. Being the consummate entertainer that he is, Cam is planning to bring out his Fizbo the Clown outfit for Lily’s birthday. He begs and pleads with Mitchell, only to be rejected.
That’s not the last we hear of it, though. Cameron is upset for the whole episode, going as far as tricking the princess that Mitchell hires into breaking character. He then berates her until Mitchell intervenes. It’s too much.
I have the same problem with the “You obviously don’t respect party themes” line that Mitchell delivers. I know Cam overreacts to everything, but the way he reacts to that line is way overboard. It makes him into a character rather than a person. The same goes for Mitchell using the “Cue gasp” line over and over again.
Claire’s story isn’t much better. Her mom DeDe is back in town, though I didn’t recognize her at first. I’m not sure if Shelley Long had work done or gained weight or what, but she looks completely unlike herself. Maybe it’s the glasses. Even pulling up the episode she guest starred in last season, she looks totally different now.
Shelley Long’s strange new round face isn’t the issue, though. Her storyline just seems so unlikely. DeDe invites one of Claire’s old boyfriends over and constantly harasses Claire. By the end of the night, DeDe and the ex-boyfriend, played by Matt Dillon, end up hooking up.
Alex playing the ‘Jaws’ theme on the cello? Cheap and easy.
The theme of Haley asking about Claire’s past is repeated, but to what end? Haley is trying to go out at the beginning of the episode, but the issue is never brought up again. A minute or two of the episode is spent on this and just thrown away.
At the end of the episode, DeDe calms down and talks to Jay seriously about her issue. It seems like there might be some character in there, but then she up and attacks Gloria. Again, this comes out of nowhere and is silly for the sake of being silly, rather than advancing the plot or the characters.
‘Princess Party’, as an episode, is flat. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, no one grows, and no one learns anything. If there’s a moral to the story, it’s not clear. Maybe something like: “Don’t invite your mom to a party.”
The episode was scripted by Elaine Ko, a new writer for the show. It’s her first episode. If she comes back for Season Three, hopefully there will be some significant improvements.