Had the “Modern Family” season finale played out in a different way, this post would probably have been about how the show seemed a little too comfortable in its success this year, and that the laughs that once came so frequently and easily weren’t there as much anymore.
And frankly, when Cam, Mitchell and Gloria arrived at the hospital and seemingly stepped into the set of the telenovela they’d been talking about on the way there, “Baby on Board” seemed headed for a very pat, sitcommy ending. You could argue that Gloria’s news falls into that category too, but Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet got to play maybe the strongest emotional material they’ve had in the show’s run to date, and that made the episode a lot richer than we would have guessed.
Some critics and commenters (including this one, to a degree) have fallen out of love with “Modern Family” over the past couple seasons, largely over its predilection for warm fuzziness at the end of episodes and playing the same notes again and again, even though the actors are experts at playing those notes.
Good TV comedy often relies on the familiar, and no one, even the harshest critic, would expect Mitchell or Cam or any of “Modern Family’s” characters to have the same kind of character arc as, say, Walter White. But giving additional shading to the people we laugh with for a half-hour a week is what makes the best comedies continue to feel fresh.
That’s why Mitchell and Cam’s emotional scene after realizing they weren’t getting another baby worked so well. The telenovela nonsense at the hospital may have been a complete contrivance, but the reaction these two men had to the disappointment felt entirely earned. The scene was also maybe the purest expression of love Mitchell and Cam have ever shown one another — for all their Bickersons routine, this is an unquestionably committed couple, and it’s nice to be shown that once in a while.
So while Mitchell and Cam may not be getting the baby they want, Gloria, Jay and Manny are about to get a baby they’re not expecting. Jay and Manny spend the day watching Lily and her unceasing “Why?”s and unwillingness to go on stage at her dance recital unless Grandpa goes with her. The actually aging Jay and prematurely fogeyish Manny agree they’re both too old for that sort of thing … and yeah, OK, that’s pretty sitcommy. Sofia Vergara sells her closing monologue, though, and we see a lot of possibility in Manny being a big brother.
Also, whoda thunk Dylan would end up acting like such a grown-up with Haley? He’s still a doofus, but maybe he actually did learn a few things out there in Wyoming. (Also also, Phil and Claire’s tale of Haley’s bleak future was kind of awesome. It’s nice to see the Dunphy parents present a united front.) Plus, we got Phil dancing and Alex, always the smartest girl in the room, knowing and not seeming too bothered by her prom date being gay.
“Modern Family” was up and down a lot this season, but way to go out on a strong note, guys. Hope for Season 4 is higher now.
What did you think of the “Modern Family” season finale?