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TV Review: Modern Family Throws a “Princess Party”

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ABC’s Modern Family is nothing if not consistently funny. While other shows have great episodes, almost every week Modern Family has me rolling with laughter. Last night, with the help of a couple of great guest stars, not only did the show deliver, it left me with some unanswered questions, or really, wishes for things I want to see from the series in the future. For example, I am dying for a flashback episode where Jay and DeDe are still married. That’s what sets “Princess Party” apart from other fantastic stories.

For February sweeps, the show is bringing back successful characters from last year. Last week, we saw Phil’s (Ty Burrell) alter ego Clive Bixby, as well as Claire’s (Julie Bowen) Julianna. Last night featured the return of DeDe (Shelley Long), who is Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Claire’s mother, and Fizbo, Cam’s (Eric Stonestreet) clown character. Fizbo is over the top ridiculous, and not only did Cam pull him out, at first against Mitchell’s wishes, for their daughter’s birthday party, but he also tried a court jester variation with a cockney accent. Hilarious!

Of course, DeDe was the real draw of the story. Claire struggled to keep it together while welcoming her mother into her home. DeDe brought a surprise – Claire’s ex-boyfriend Robbie (Matt Dillon) – whom she had not told that Claire was married with three children. Never mind that, because DeDe was the one soon making out with Robbie, and then bringing him as a date to her granddaughter’s birthday. Dillon apparently does sitcom well, coolly delivering some interesting back story on Claire and her family, and pulling off the perfect loser who thinks he’s smooth.

DeDe doesn’t just stress out Claire. Jay (Ed O’Neill) and his much younger wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) were not happy to see her, Phil was soon doubting whether he was liked by his mother-in-law, and Mitchell took her stunt as a personal affront, ruining Lily’s party. This one woman has the ability to upset everyone in the family at once for completely different reasons, a rare trait, and one always welcome back on the show.

While great guest stars are a good get for a successful sitcom, how well the show does really depends on the principal cast more than anything else. Modern Family has hands down one of the most talented ensembles on television. Almost every single main character had funny bits and one-liners in this episode, which doesn’t always happen. Here’s a partial list:

*Phil’s kids tell him his hands smell like cheese. He replies, “I didn’t want to dirty a knife”. Later, after Phil touches Luke’s hair, Claire comments that Luke (Nolan Gould) smells like cheese.

*As Phil asks the kids to go easy on Claire during DeDe’s visit, Alex (Ariel Winter) enthusiastically offers to practice the cello, eliciting only reluctant agreements from her family.

*Gloria laments possibly skipping Lily’s party, wondering if she’s starting a trend that will mean missing “Haley’s (Sarah Hyland) weddings”, plural.

*When Mitchell finds out that DeDe is with Robbie, he reacts “No my god!”, which will surely catch on as a wonderful phrase variation.

*Jay makes a not-so-nice comment about his ex-wife DeDe dating a much younger guy while standing right next to his much-younger second wife.

*Twice Mitchell predicts and intones totally casually, almsot bored, “Cue gasp” just as Cam gasps.

*As they finish recording Lily’s audio book present, Manny (Rico Rodriguez) wants to re-record, realizing late that his character is a girl. Jay zings, “I think you nailed it.” Confused, Manny asks, “What is that supposed to mean?” but Jay just smiles.

*In the ending tag, Cam professes that he can’t believe Jay participated in such a great gift, just before the recorded Jay says that Cam will surely return the present anyway.

Those are eight things just off the top of my head, not from a list I wrote down during the show. And the thing is, I could make a similar, if not longer, list every single week! If you are not watching Modern Family, get on it! You are seriously missing out!

Modern Family airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com