Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 26, 2016)
Perennially popular sitcom Modern Family returns for its seventh year with more antics of the extended Pritchett family. I’ll look at all 22 Season Seven episodes in broadcast order. The plot synopses come straight from the discs’ menus.
Summer Lovin’: “Haley’s (Sarah Hyland) attempt to stop Andy (Adam Devine) from proposing to Beth (Laura Ashley Samuels) will force both Haley and Andy to cope with their emotions.”
I admit that I don’t much like Devine, so he acts as a drag for any episode in which he appears. At least “Summer” offers a mix of other topics to make it overcome the tedious Andy/Haley subplot. Here’s hoping we don’t see much of dopey Andy in the future.
The Day Alex Left For College: “Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen) are feeling snubbed by their kids when Alex (Ariel Winter) intentionally gives them the wrong college move-in date, and Luke (Nolan Gould) would rather hang out with some guys from school than spend the day with Phil.”
Yay – no Andy! The various subplots mostly work well, especially when we see the ridiculous house Phil tries to sell. Any episode that mocks soccer also scores points with me.
The Closet Case: “An out of work Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) finds himself in a tough spot when he’s offered a job representing Closets, Closets, Closets, Closets – which is owned by Jay’s (Ed O’Neill) arch enemy (Jon Polito).”
“Closet” gets a little sappier than usual, and that makes it a lackluster episode. Family works best when it avoids sentiment and accentuates snap. Some of those moments emerge, but the program’s overall impact remains less than great.
She Crazy: “Phil has become obsessed with three orphan duck eggs he’s been incubating at home. Meanwhile, Claire is worried about the closet designs she’s pitching to her dad and the pretentious creative team.”
I’ve always disliked Cam, and his antics here don’t help, as his needy behavior makes him more annoying than ever. I do like aspects of Jay’s closet business, and Gloria’s obsession with a telenovela actress becomes unusually funny.
The Verdict: “Gloria (Sofia Vergara) has been summoned for jury duty, but her overeagerness to take part in a trial may just prevent her from performing her civic duty.”
An episode in which Cam says something funny? That’s hen’s teeth rare, and it comes as part of a solid show. Gloria’s moments work best, but all aspects of the program fare well.
The More You Ignore Me: “Luke is arrested for driving without a license and Phil is furious, but Gloria is relieved to see Luke show some rebelliousness.”
Cam goes back to being typically annoying, and Andy returns to the series – could anything good come from this? Yeah, “Ignore” offers a few laughs, but the Cam/Andy issues hamper it and prevent it from being better than mediocre.
Phil’s Sexy, Sexy House: “Phil’s got a hot new house listing – a sexy house with all the bells and whistles that prove to be irresistible to everyone in the family.”
The notion of the “sexy house” shows promise, but the episode misuses the location for cheap humor. Throw in more soap opera between Andy and Haley and the program disappoints.
Clean Out Your Junk Drawer: “When Gloria accidentally bids on a session with a self-help author (Catherine O’Hara) at a school auction, she and the family get more than they bargained for.”
Any episode with a guest spot from the great Catherine O’Hara can’t be a flop, and parts of the therapy session amuses. However, it doesn’t soar like it should, and more Haley/Andy melodrama mars the show. It’s better than “House” but still a little flat.
White Christmas: “In hopes of the perfect white Christmas she never had in Colombia, Gloria rents a cabin in the mountains for the whole family – including Andy – to celebrate the holiday.”
Another episode, another guest spot from an SCTV alum, as Andrea Martin shows up as an unlikely house guest. Martin provides easily the show’s funniest moments and adds life to an otherwise unexceptional episode.
Playdates: “Claire and Phil have dinner plans with a great couple they met on vacation – the only problem is they never pick up a check and Claire is intent on making them pay this time.”
It’s cameo-a-rama with “Playdates”, as it throws in guest spots from Ray Liotta, Orson Bean, Keegan-Michael Key and Barbra Streisand – or her disembodied voice, at least. Surprisingly, the guests don’t become a gimmick, as they fit the show well and bring flavor to a pretty good episode.
Spread Your Wings: “Sick of having the ducklings around the house, Claire and the kids seize an opportunity to help expedite the ducks leaving the nest while Phil is off visiting Alex at college.”
After the fun of the last cameo-packed episode, Season Seven sags with the limp “Wings”. It tries too hard to cram in “life lessons” and lacks a lot of punch.
Clean for a Day: “With big changes afoot, Claire decides that it’s time for some spring cleaning – to everyone’s dismay.”
“Clean” turns into a decent but unexceptional show. It works better than “Wings” – mainly because it seems less sappy – but it still doesn’t hit on all cylinders.
Thunk in the Trunk: “Jay lets his jealousy get the best of him when a life-size cut-out of Gloria – used for her grocery store hot sauce display – garners plenty of unsavory attention from men.”
Matters improve with the pretty good “Thunk”. The thread in which Phil becomes a “trophy wife” amuses, and some of the other bits work, too. It’s a fairly solid show.
The Storm: “A huge thunderstorm brings city-wide power outages and the whole family congregates at Jay and Gloria’s to use their generator.”
And Andy’s back! That can’t be a good thing, and the gimmick of the electrical storm doesn’t help. While we get a smattering of laughs, the flaws make this a mediocre show, though a scene in which Phil helps Jay work through grief becomes genuinely touching.
I Don’t Know How She Does It: “Claire has turned into Super Mom, running Jay’s closet business and still performing her duties at home.”
Once again, a guest actor benefits S7, as Nathan Lane’s recurring role as Pepper adds spice. Claire’s secret also amuses and this turns into a fairy good episode.
The Cover-Up: “Phil has a new client who happens to be ‘his type’. Knowing that might get him in trouble with Claire, he tells some seemingly innocent lies.”
Any episode that finds Cam in severe pain is A-OK with me, though other aspects of “Cover-Up” seem less than stellar. I do like Jay’s Internet show, but the main plot about Phil’s secret crush falls a bit flat.
Express Yourself: “Cam’s (Eric Stonestreet) sister Pam (Dana Powell) is staying at the house since her husband left her, but her emotional outbursts are driving Mitch crazy.”
The funniest thing about Pam? Her full name is “Pameron” – and that’s where her comedy ends, as she’s annoying without other merit. Add to that the return of Andy and “Express” doesn’t add up to a good show.
The Party: “Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Luke are in charge of babysitting Joe (Jeremy Maguire) so that the adults can enjoy a day to themselves. Things go awry and Claire becomes convinced the boys are secretly throwing a party.”
Of all the series’ regulars, Rodriguez and Gould have always been the weakest actors. They’ve gotten better as they’ve aged, but they’re still mediocre at best, and that makes their thread less than stellar. Other aspects do okay for themselves, but none catch fire – not even the odd couple of Jay and Cam.
Man Shouldn’t Lie: “Claire brings home a stray dog and gets the kids to help her hide it from Phil while she tries to find its owner.”
Though the segment goes for easy laughs, the part in which Cam and Mitch deal with the Christian rock band amuses pretty well. The other parts also fail to become too ambitious, but they still entertain and turn this into a fairly solid episode.
Promposal: “With prom coming up, Mitch helps Luke with his ‘promposal’ while Cam helps with Manny’s.”
Dear God, am I happy I finished high school before “promposals” became a thing – just ask for a date without fuss, dagnabbit! That annoying trend aside, the threads of this episode mostly succeed, especially when June Squibb’s “Auntie Alice” gets to show her conniving side.
Crazy Train: “Dede (Shelley Long) is getting married remarried, and Manny convinces the family to take the train up to the wedding.”
This episode goes somewhat gimmicky, as the train setting acts to trap all the characters in one place. That said, “Train” offers a good collection of comedic bits, almost all of which succeed. Heck, even Cam prompts a couple of laughs!
Double Click: “Claire can’t seem to find the right time to fire one of her employees, while back at home, Phil thinks he caught Luke with a girl in his bed, and no one seems to notice that Alex has moved back home for the summer.”
With the season at its end, “Click” goes more sentimental than usual. It still musters some laughs – Jay’s issues understanding the “double click” are pretty funny – but too much sappiness occurs. Throw in a heaping dollop of Andy and “Click” finishes the year on a spotty note.