There are plenty of episodes of ‘Modern Family’ with a focus on the Dunphys. In fact, it’s quite probable that every single episode has more Dunphy than the other families. This week’s episode is almost entirely Dunphy-centric, but that’s not a bad thing.
The first two acts of ‘Chirp’ focus on Phil’s continuing emasculation. He’s having trouble selling houses, he’s baking, and (worst of all) he can’t find the smoke detector that’s chirping. It’s a funny situation, but there just doesn’t seem to be much of a payoff.
Claire meanwhile is stuck in bed sick, and decides to use the opportunity to have some “girl time” with Haley. They catch a soap opera like they used to watch when Haley was young. Claire figures that this is the perfect time to suggest that Haley has been spending too much time with Dylan.
Both Claire and Haley speak in a sort of code about the relationship, which leads to a misunderstanding. Claire’s trying to get Haley to break up with Dylan, while Haley thinks Claire is talking about breaking things off with Phil. Again, it’s a funny situation, but – at least in the first two acts – there aren’t that many jokes.
This normally wouldn’t be much of a problem. Not every storyline has to be ripe with comedy. Since the Claire and Phil parts of the story take up most of the first and second act, though, we’re left with a less than spectacular beginning and middle.
There are small interjections from Jay, Gloria and Manny during these first few parts of the episode. One of Jay’s employees lets Manny drive a forklift, which he promptly crashes through a wall. Jay fires the employee, and Manny gets upset with him. Gloria keeps hinting to Jay about an anniversary. Gloria celebrates every anniversary, including the couple’s first date, first fight and even the first time she baked for Jay, so poor Jay is understandably confused.
Mitchell and Cam have an incredibly small part to play during the earlier parts of the episode. There’s a brief fight over whether or not Lily should take a part in a commercial. Mitchell says no, Cameron says yes, and neither is entirely happy.
Cam ends up taking Lily anyway, and we find out at the end of the episode that the commercial is anything but classy. It’s borderline racist and features a man in a giant lizard costume destroying a city of high prices.
I’ll admit, I’m not entirely familiar with the process of shooting a low-budget commercial, but I’m fairly certain you don’t record voice-overs at the same time as trying to shoot infants. I could be wrong, but the strange shooting process in the show left me a little distracted.
The third act pays off a few of these setups really well, but not all of them. Manny withholding information from Jay is fun to watch. Jay explaining the rationale behind firing the employee – “Nobody puts my kid in danger” – is incredibly sweet. The relationship between Manny and Jay is ripe for exploration, and I feel like further exploration would be really good.
The Haley and Claire story is wrapped up in a great way, too. Haley still misunderstands Claire, but Claire figures out what the problem in communication is. It gives Haley some time to shine, be the responsible one, and even be the smart one for a bit.
In the end, the Cameron/Mitchell story just doesn’t work that well. Nor does the Phil story. It may not have been about smoke detectors beeping for him, but it’s all about smoke detectors beeping for us. Claire coming to Phil’s aid is a nice piece of the puzzle, but the payoff with Phil, Luke and the smoke detectors just isn’t there.
Then again, it may have just hit a little too close to home. The new owners of the apartment complex I live in decided that today would be the day that they test the fire alarms. When I say “day,” I mean it. The alarms went off once every minute or so from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. During days like this, working at home doesn’t seem so fancy.
In the end, ‘Chirp’ is bound to be forgotten. It’s not a bad episode, but it’s not great either. Don’t worry, this isn’t the episode where “the other shoe drops,” as one reader put it. It’s just disappointing, especially after a really solid Halloween show.
Also? Alex isn’t in this episode at all. It’s not that she’s an essential character to the storyline, but her absence is confusing.