Splash Down: A review of Modern Family’s “Moon Landing”

In order to handle the emotional intensity of Friday Night Lights, I’ve been interspersing FNL with Season One of Modern Family. Sometimes, after watching Coach Taylor and Tami argue over something like a lawsuit from one of their players, all I want to do is watch Cam and Mitchell argue about how to behave at Lily’s playgroup. All family sitcoms are based on the idea of “Look! Their family is just like ours!” but really, that’s a straight-up lie. Yes, families laugh and fight and have tender moments, but if sitcom families were just like real families, no one would watch. (For that matter, if real families were just like sitcom families, nobody would want one.) So instead, we expand our belief system and pretend that everybody does love Raymond or that everybody’s dad is just like Tim Allen. That’s not the case, but it’s nice to think that way.
 If I had my druthers (so rarely do I have my druthers), I would have planned ahead and reviewed “Fizbo,” because that was a seamless episode, like a finely-tailored dress or a duct-tape wallet. But I already turned that disk into Netflix, so instead we get “Moon Landing.” It’s sort of a second-rate “Fizbo.” There were plenty of laughs, but it’s kinda depressing to watch when you know the show has so much potential.
Everything in the episode that matters revolves around Claire and her visit with a friend from her long-forgotten work days. I’ll be the first to admit that Claire is my least favorite Modern family member. In fact, I don’t really care for any of the Pritchetts, but I’ll save that for another day. Most of the time I expect Claire to grow a pair of steely wings and turn into a harpy. In this episode, it was gratifying to see Claire get her comeuppance.
The Dunphy house, as usual, is chaos. (Paging Max Smart!) Phil is dealing with a new mustachioed image and decides to roll with it. Instead of looking like a lethario, he ends up looking like a lethari-oh-no. (That was terrible. I’m really sorry. But not as sorry as Phil’s fake mustache.) Hayley and Dylan are taking the shortcut to splitsville. (We know it won’t last.) Alex and Luke in a rare display of sibling unity are collecting recycling to build schools in Africa. Luke gushes, “Wouldn’t that be so cool to go to a school made out of bottles?” I’m not in love with how the show always picks on Luke, but sometimes they do it so well.
Need an insta-plotline? Put two characters together that don’t ever spend time with each other! “Moon Landing” pairs Cam with Jay and Gloria with Mitchell. The reasons feel somewhat contrived, like they started with the idea of pairing those characters and came up with plausible reasons why they would have to spend time together. Cam and Jay both enjoy football, so…maybe the gym? And Mitchell’s a lawyer, so…maybe a fender bender? Neither really hit the mark. The one talking head with Cam and Mitchell reveals that if Mitchell ever gets to the Supreme Court, Cam will at parties tell people his partner is one of the Supremes. (I laughed really hard at that.) Cam’s other best zinger is when he’s describing the accidental butt bump. Jay makes a disparaging remark about how he must love that and Cam’s all, “It’s like a high-five…or a low-two.” We end up seeing way more of Jay’s pixelated butt than I needed to see and Gloria’s a bad driver, yadda yadda yadda.
When Claire and Valerie go out, it quickly turns into an underhanded battle of who has the better life. The whole thing is just as boring as when I watch girls do this in real life until Claire takes Valerie home. Haley is tossing Dylan out on his butt. (Sidebar: Man, I love Dylan’s character. LOVE. He fits so perfectly into their universe.) The kitchen is covered in liquor bottles, with a half-naked Luke confessing that he had an accident on the floor. Oh, and Phil is stuck in a porta-potty looking like an 8-bit plumber. There are times when physical comedy from Phil can save an episode for me. This is one of those times. Valerie is horrified and runs off, presumably, to one of her four lovers. All of the stray plotlines coming together in one big, messy collision is one of my favorite tropes. 30 Rock used to be particularly skilled at this. Claire, after being taken down a notch or six, finds herself in a greasy spoon, wishing after all that she were with her family. (Definitely not a peaceful walk in the park.) All is forgiven and is well, even if she’s not the head of the International Department. The tag at the end is superb, with an Abbott & Costello-esque Say Anything tribute.
Moral of the story: “Well, if you’re gonna be stranded, might as well be in a place full of cupcakes.” -Manny
Random Asides
  • “Let’s not fight! Let’s just discuss this like two un-immature adults.” -Dylan
  • “So you were just by yourself at an Anne Hathaway movie? I DON’T THINK SO!” -Hayley “Yeah! I like her movies! She’s every woman.” -Dylan
  • “What’s that in your hand?” -Claire “Jagermeister. Dad said it would make girls easier to kiss.” -Luke
  • “I used to never let people in and now I do…just now getting that metaphor.” -Mitchell
  • This is from the Christmas episode, but I adored learning that Phil’s father is Fred Willard. Because OF COURSE.
  • The giant cupcake on the hood of Gloria’s car is a fantastic visual.
  • Dylan’s “Do You Wanna” song sure does get stuck in your head, doesn’t it?
3 Responses to “Splash Down: A review of Modern Family’s “Moon Landing””
  1. Ashley says:

    I love everyone on this show, and as a result, I have a hard time criticizing it. It just feels like hanging out when I watch it.

    • Gretchen Alice says:

      When I finish the season (which should be approximately this weekend), I’m going to post a Top Ten Moments list. So…that should be fun.

  2. Abigail says:

    I hate Claire-hate. It’s so.. cliche. And what Ashley said.

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