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'Modern Family': We're like two peas in a pod, or Siamese twins, or a snake with two heads

April 28, 2010 | 10:41 pm
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Yes! Fred Willard is back, and finally gets the screen time to flourish.

In all honesty, I was a bit harsh late last year when he made his first guest appearance.

As much as I wanted to pretend otherwise, I was severely disappointed in Willard’s guest spot, I wrote then. Like any comedy fan -- and fan of this show -- I was excited when I heard he was cast as the Dunphy patriarch.  Whoever made that sublime casting decision, kudos. Sadly, in the first go-round he was on screen for less than five minutes. And worst of all, it was through a webcam. It was a severe disappointment that I put in the back of my mind because frankly the show serves up so much greatness week after week, I forgave them.

But my appetite had already been whetted, and I knew he’d return (I’d like to think my desperate pleas to ABC played a part, but I’ll be realistic). Thankfully he came back, and he brought the hilarity I felt cheated out of in December. 

The elder Dunphy drops in unannounced (well, of course Phil knew) to surprise the family in his RV, and he brings the gift every kid and stay-at-home mom wants: a new, cute, big dog.  Claire, realizing she’d be relegated to caretaker, wasn’t a fan -- she did after all have to pump her legs to complete Luke’s paper route. The unexpected trip offers fans a glimpse into how Phil became the way he is, and it was like the gates of heaven were opened. It all makes sense.

Phil and his father are literally like two peas in a pod (I would kill for a pic of that Halloween get-up), but because both are aloof jokesters, there isn’t much communication or real dialogue between the two. When Claire discovers her father-in-law sobbing in his RV she implores Phil to get to the bottom of it, fearing he may be in trouble with the old ball and chain. Instead we get a few immature but brilliant middle school jokes.

As for the tears? It was over the dog, because Phil's mom is allergic. But in prime Willard fashion he admits that if he can get a vasectomy, she can bear some flu shots.

As usual the other households got separate, yet funny stories.

Jay runs into an old drama classmate of Mitchell’s, who is now an actor. Jay decides to take Manny to see the film, which turns out to be a horror flick. Oh Jay, just because Manny puts up a good front about so many other things doesn’t mean he won’t get spooked, like any kid his age would. Bonus points for fans who remember the popcorn gag between the two from a few episodes ago.  Manny being petrified led to the inevitable sleeping with the parents scene, which I got an extra kick out of considering that Jay doesn’t seem the type to let a kid bunk with him. But he continues to surprise me with his sweetness, especially how quickly he folds to Manny. Way to melt my heart, Jay. In typical Jay fashion, trying to fix the problem only makes it worse as he asks the “actor” to come over to the house late at night to convince Manny it’s just a movie. Oh, and he asked the actor to bring the fake machete to show the kid that it's rubber.

Just when I thought my boys couldn’t get into any more messy situations, once again I’m proven wrong. Hayley’s boyfriend, Dylan, makes a return (I love how his character is less about how he interacts with Hayley, but with the rest of the family) and has a dilemma on his hands: His drummer has to leave before a big gig. Who volunteers to fill in? Cameron, of course.

His enthusiasm to be a part of the band led me to believe he would sound like, well, crap. But I was wrong. I forgot that he used to be a former teacher. After switching the sticks to the right hand -- only Cam would say something like that -- he unleashes an impressive solo, and voila, he’s in the band. But of course, Cam ruins the big moment. Though he dressed the part of an emo rocker down to the guy-liner and spiky hair, he took a bit too much liberty with his solo and hogged the spotlight.

This leads me to my one, tiny, complaint. I had read that all the adult actors were putting their names in the ring for supporting Emmys, which is a fantastic idea and shows that the cast is truly a family. The show is truly an ensemble, and while each person gets their moment to shine I’m not stuck with choosing whom to root for. How about we just get them one big Emmy? I guess that’s not a complaint after all.

Here are some of my favorite lines that required a rewind:

Phil: Actually, I did get one right mood a couple nights ago . . . but I cashed that in for something else.

Phil: I always felt bad for people with emotionally distant fathers, but it turns out I’m one of them. It’s a miracle I didn’t become a stripper.

Jay: The doorbell won’t stop ringing.
Manny: Maybe a demon is ringing it.

Cam: Did you hear that one lady screaming my name?
Mitchell: That was Phil . . . he had a Red Bull.

Cam: We're a very traditional family.
Mitchell: That’s what the disabled lesbian shaman who blessed Lily’s room said, too.

Claire: Well, we were out on a date, and he has a really nice car, so -- how do you think? He got it from the laundry basket!

Dylan: I’m just not sure we like the same sorts of music, you know.
Cam: Oh, what, because I’m gay I’m just going to want to play show tunes?
Dylan: No, because you’re old.
Cam: Well, that hurt more, Dylan.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy (Follow me on Twitter @GerrickKennedy)

Photo: Fred Willard returns to "Modern Family." Credit: ABC

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