The Emmy Award winning series, Modern Family, returned February 17th at 8pm on Sky1 in a double bill premiere of Season Five. Based on June 26th 2013, ‘Suddenly, Last Summer’ celebrates the Supreme Court ruling against DOMA with a hilarious and moving exploration of the relationships within the Pritchett/Dunphy clan Manny (Rico Rodriguez) prepares for a month-long holiday in Columbia, Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell) try to juggle their kids’ summer activities so that they can score the elusive ‘Kid-Free Week’ and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) battle to be the one to deliver the most romantic marriage proppsal.
Cam and Mitchell, Manny and Jay (Ed O’Neill), Claire and Phil — this trio are the show’s best comic duos due to the conflict-ridden nature of their relationships. Much laughter has been brought about by Claire’s deception of Phil’s naivety, Mitchell’s disapproval of Cam’s drama-queen tendencies, and Jay’s attempts to ‘man’ Manny up. However, in the cases of Claire and Phil, and Manny and Jay, we never forget that there’s a lot of love beneath the surface that makes these husband-wife, father-son relationships work. Therefore, the tender cuddle on the rocking chair between Claire and Phil and Jay’s girly tears over Manny’s letter are no major shockers (but that does not deduct from the misty-eye effect produced by both!).
However, often the love in Cam and Mitchell’s relationship is buried beneath their comical but explosive spars, sometimes causing us to question why they are even together if Cam resents Mitchell’s inability to share so much and if the mess left by Hurricane Cam in the kitchen would make Martha Stewart weep, let alone his neat-freak boyfriend? ‘Suddenly, Last Summer’ puts our queries at ease though, as both men embark on hysterical endeavours to propose to each other in ways that they know will make the other happy. An interesting perspective on the question, with gay marriage who does the proposing? By the conclusion, we understand that their love runs deeper than theatrics and does not always need words. I defy anyone to watch this episode without crying (tears of laughter and tears of the feels).
After the emotional premiere episode, ‘First Days’ settles us back into Modern Family’s typical light-hearted swing. Manny and Luke (Nolan Gould) are heading off to high school, leaving Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and Phil with a sad case of empty-nest syndrome, Lily runs into a pole as the eager to learn Asian her first day of school (I’ll ignore the minor racism), Cam fails miserably as a history teacher with Alex stepping in and teaching his class, and Claire is the new girl at work faced with the tricky battle of winning respect despite being the boss’s daughter.
Claire’s storyline is painful (in a good way), watching her change from Boss Mum to the desperate girl who hangs out with weird turtle guy as she navigates the workplace she has been absent from for 15 years makes you want to crawl under the sofa and die a little. However, Gloria and Phil are at hand to provide fabulous comic relief. Forlornly trudging into a coffee shop when by chance they are offered the opportunity to be extras in an advert! However, nobody puts baby in the corner, and these two steal the show (to the director’s dismay, to our delight), by mime-screaming into finger phones and applying fake lipstick. The loud Latina beauty and goofy dad make a brilliant recipe for laughter, and its always nice to see them as friends rather than the typical Phil ogling at Gloria’s ahem ‘assets’.
However, the Mitchell and Hayley thread felt a bit like a half-hearted filler, a way to stuff the actors into the episode without making the effort to tie their story-line to the others in any way. Mitchell takes a stand against his boss, who is more interested in making creepy (in a bad way) passes at 18-year old Hayley. However, at least this story-line gave us a fun dash of Lily-Sass as she plays at being Mitchell’s secretary: “Daddy’s office…you sound like a little girl! (hangs up)”
Conclusion: Modern Family hasn’t won the ‘Outstanding Comedy’ Emmy four consecutive years for nothing, its a brilliant recipe of heart and laughter with realistic and loveable characters (that only very occasionally slip into predictable caricature mode), and it appears Season 5 is following the same track of a safe, fun sit-com to perk up your Monday evenings.
Sidenotes: Phil in denim mini shorts. Best. Thing Ever. Also, baby-Joe looks terrifyingly like his father, Jay- as in he looks like a foot-tall 60 year old man -shudder-.
Modern Family airs Mondays 8.30pm on Sky1.