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'Modern Family' recap: Recipe for the perfect mom

May 5, 2011 |  7:48 am


One of the few qualms I have with "Modern Family" is the way it handles Cameron and Mitchell. While it's great to see a couple like this on network television, I sometimes wish the writers would be more innovative when it comes to this relationship -- why not give these two something to do other than bicker over Cameron's hypersensitivity, and while they're at it, cut the musical theater jokes by a third? 

Which is all to say that "Modern Family," despite having the best intentions, occasionally reinforces some tired stereotypes. So I'm happy that this week, "Modern Family" delivered a Cameron-Mitchell storyline that was insightful, funny and maybe even a little brave.

It's Mother's Day, and Mitchell surprises Cameron with a delicious-looking breakfast in bed (seriously, I'm still thinking about those pancakes). Cameron is deeply moved, until he realizes why Mitchell is showering him with such affection: It's Mother's Day. "You’re bringing me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. I’m your wife?! I’m a woman!?" Thus ensues an argument over the perception that Cameron is the "wife" in his relationship, that he is "slightly mommer" than his partner. 

Mitchell's not the only one who sees him this way; at a Mother's Day picnic, Cameron is asked to join in the mom group photo, since he is an "honorary mom." Cameron's meltdown continues, culminating -- as Cameron's meltdowns tend to do -- in some very funny slapstick (he hurls football, hits man on bike, man falls over). In the end, Mitchell convinces Cameron that being motherly -- "warm, nurturing, supportive" -- is not such bad thing. Cameron gives up on the "burny" scotch and agrees.

Now here's why I was impressed by this storyline. Viewers have known all along that Mitchell is the more stereotypically masculine partner, and it's been widely noted that, except for that whole same-sex thing, Mitchell and Cameron are probably the most old-fashioned couple on the show -- sort of a Ricky and Lucy for the 21st century. Still, that whole same-sex thing is a challenge for many people, though it's an issue of comprehension, not tolerance. As Mitchell eloquently puts it, "They don’t have the right vocabulary for us." It was, I thought, a very tactful way of acknowledging the challenges faced by gay couples in even the most open-minded communities.

There was a similar kind of bracing honesty to the the Gloria-Claire storyline. They're out on what's meant to be a peaceful hike for Mother's Day, but the kids nearly ruin the day with their moaning and complaining. Gloria and Claire leave them behind, and decide to hike the trails alone. (Side note: I adore Gloria's "outdoorsy look" -- a pair of tie-dyed spandex leggings) Claire vents her frustrations to Gloria, admitting that sometimes she just wants to smack her kids and watch them fall "like dominos." At first, Gloria pretends to be shocked by Claire's confession -- she's above such unseemly thoughts about her beloved son.  But soon enough, she unleashes a string of complaints: Manny is "pare-sneek-eety," he writes bad poetry, he doesn't like boy things like going outside and stealing.

I had a hunch all along that Manny was going to overhear his mother, and sure enough, he did. All kidding aside, those are pretty tough things to hear your parent say, and Manny, quite understandably, is upset. Gloria decides the only way to patch things up is by lying to her son, and blaming the whole debacle on Claire -- or should I say, "Diablo." In the end, all is returned to normal, but it was a refreshing look at the very real frustrations of being a parent. "Modern Family" is at its best when the comedy stems from an emotionally honest place, and this was a fine example.

Rounding out the episode are Jay and Phil, who are tasked with cooking dinner while the moms and kids are out on their ill-fated hike. Their storyline is mostly a rehashing of what we've seen many times before: Phil cracks jokes, Jay makes Phil feel inferior, and so on. Still, Jay's tears over his late mother were pretty sweet. Those onion goggles weren't fooling anyone. 

Lines of the night:

"I'm so bored I'd rather be reading." -- Haley

"Onion goggles. You should get a pair." -- Phil

"I was going to suggest the same thing." -- Jay

"More people have died hiking than in the entire Civil War." -- Luke

"Wake up and smell the Internet, grandma." -- Luke

"Put down the scotch, you’re not fooling anyone." -- Mitchell

"We're your mother now." -- Haley

"You can’t bitch all day because you’re not at the beach all day." -- Gloria

"It’s a spear, and it smells like lemon-lime, a flavor coyotes hate." -- Luke

-- Meredith Blake