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'Modern Family': Parenting, much like basketball, is deceptively hard

April 15, 2010 | 12:50 pm

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Wednesday is always a weekly highlight for couch potatoes with a sense of humor. With “Modern Family,” “Cougar Town” and “American Idol” eliminations it’s impossible not to laugh the last hours of your hump day away.

But this Wednesday was particularly bittersweet for me, and I’m sure many, as “Ugly Betty” came to an end. What am I going to do with that void hour of prime television watching? If ABC thinks for a minute that I’m watching that “Happy Town” mess, joke's on you.

While I mourn the loss of one favorite, I cling to another for dear life. Ever since Phil blew out the candles on his iPad, there have been lots of talks among techies online about the game changer that was the “product placement” (parenthesis are required given ABC says they weren’t paid by Apple and blahdy blah lawsuit blah favorite show blah). Though I eventually decided not to get the doohickey after all – I realized I’m just a little more needy with my computer than Phil is. I mean, seriously, other than Facebook and to look at porn, what’s he gonna do with it?

Thankfully the show wasn’t hawking any products on this episode and instead got back to the basics: the not-so-complex mechanics of family.

The episode, which would have played perfectly near Mother’s Day (reminder, buy gifts – Jay would suggest earrings), was all about the dynamics of mother and child. Even better the wickedly testy relationship between mother and teenage daughter.

First the boys. Luke and Manny are star players on the Little Dribblers basketball team. OK, they're really bad, but they are stars in my eyes and in Gloria’s eyes. Gloria, like any mother would, smothers Manny, who is just wretched at the sport, with love and support. Of course Manny, being a suave, cool-as-a-cucumber man trapped in a boy’s body, feels embarrassed and bans her from the next game.

Sigh. When will Manny accept and realize that his take-charge, man-of-the-house-in-training persona is just a front? He is a mama’s boy and that’s part of his charm. The basketball subplot, though, about the kids, was heavy on Phil and Jay as they both fought over power to coach the team (who else let out a huge "awww" when Jay was trying to apologize and on his list of things he thought Phil wanted to hear was, “I love you”).

Gloria’s ouster from the basketball court leads her to take baby Lily out to the mall, where she bumps into Claire, who has been ousted from a mother-daughter shopping trip with Alex – who noticed her, like, much cooler and like, less lame friends. Way to dump mom. Free clothes or quality time with a bunch of mean girls who will dump you the second they get breasts before you? Girl, take the free clothes and time with mom, who won’t always be opening her wallet for you. I like how Gloria has somewhat eased into the stepmother role nicely to Claire without it being over the top -- after all, Claire probably still thinks Gloria is a "coal digger."

Of course there could be no completely enjoyable episode without Mitchell and Cam. Mitchell is following up on a random job lead he’s afraid to tell Cam that he’s interested in, while Cameron is afraid to tell Mitchell that he wants him to take the job so he can quit his (he’s a greeting card seller, that writes itself – no offense to any of you that are, but come on). My personal highlight of the episode was an unexpected guest star. I was completely surprised, excited and shrieking like a Justin Bieber fan when I saw Justin Kirk as Mitchell’s new boss. If you don’t know him, he is absolutely sublime in “Weeds.” I’m praying to the comedy gods above that he makes more appearances. My only complaint is I feel cheated out of potential storylines. It’s not that easy to get a job nowadays, especially in California. Mitchell literally fell into a new job – no awkward interviews, or job hunt scenes – all of which would be a laugh riot.

As usual, my favorite zingers:

Phil: Let's show these guys what kind of team they're about to beat.

Luke: Manny and I are going to practice layups.
Manny: They are deceptively hard. A curious mix of dance and strength.
Luke: You're ruining it again.

Phil: One day I'm gonna be a grandfather and then everybody better hide their meat.

Mitchell's new boss: Do you guys surf?
Cameron: Only for bargains on the Web!

Cameron [on his relationship with Mitchell]: Business partners, mergers and acquisitions. Just kidding, we're gay!

Mitchell: I'm going to have to go talk it over with my bull in a china shop.

Phil: A relationship with your father-in-law is tough. You need to prove you can stand up to him, while being respectful. It's like walking a tightrope, which by the way I can do, because I went to trapeze school.

Jay [to Phil]: I saw how you broke out Peaches (raises right fist) and Herb (raises left fist). (I could hear my parents laughing 3,000 miles away)

Cameron: I can't pressure Mitchell. But I really, really, really just want him to get a job so I can go back to being a stay-at-home dad/trophy wife.

Mitchell: It's Cameron's turn to be out in the world interacting with other grownups while I get to stay at home and plot the death of Dora the Explorer.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy (Follow me on Twitter @GerrickKennedy)

Photo: Phil and Jay coach -- and fight -- their way to victory, or at least their idea of it. Credit: ABC

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