Modern Family: What Sophomore Slump?

If you didn't enjoy last night's Modern Family, well, you weren't the only one. There was a scene where Cameron pretended to be Native American so Lily would have a better chance of getting into a snooty preschool, and one where Gloria gets annoyed with Jay's anti-Colombian jabs, but then makes fun of Peruvians herself. It was a misstep in what has otherwise been a hot streak, and it's bound to happen.

Modern Family is still on a roll, though. Even last night's unconventional episode fits into the conventions by which the show has become a hit. Here's what the show is doing well this second season go-round:

It messes with sitcom tropes
I'm not bothered by the way Modern Family includes traditional sitcom touches. The most obvious one is the way it ties episodes together at the end via voiceover—and yes, sometimes it's forced. I mean, it is a sitcom. But what I love about Modern Family is the way it manages to keep some surprises up its sleeve. Cameron busting out "My white man name is Tucker" was something I don't think any of us saw coming. I'm enjoying the way episodes twist and turn; if a joke falls flat, it's still admirable that the show's got cajones—especially given that it's so sitcom-y. If only Two And A Half Men took as many risks…

The characters, even the ancillary ones, are pretty fleshed out
I'm majorly in the Phil/Cameron camp, but I love that even with just one or two lines, someone like Luke or Manny can make me laugh not just for their outrageous sayings, but for how well I seemingly know them. Last night's episode gave us Luke at the breakfast table, playing his Nintendo DS while hands-free slurping up cereal right from the bowl. Every episode the show's ever done includes scenes like that, and after two seasons, I can get a kick out of it for such a Luke-specific reason.

Episodes are self-contained, with tinges of previous gags
The brilliance of Arrested Development and Seinfeld was that each episode referenced old ones. You could watch episodes as stand-alone entries into the pantheon, but there was some joy that came from knowing the entire run of the series. Modern Family is getting to that point; earlier episodes this season have made mention of the bum step on the Dunphy stairs and off-handed remarks Jay's made to his family. Now Hayley is going to get a car, hopefully in an episode that references what went down in this one. Modern Family has begun to think about the big picture, and can reap the sweet, sweet longevity rewards.

Did you guys like last night's episode? Are you enjoying Modern Family in general, why or why not?

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