Modern Family Season 4, Episode 24: “Goodnight Gracie”
Written by Steven Levitan & Jeffrey Richman
Directed by Steven Levitan
Airs on Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on ABC
For the past couple of weeks, I have written about how Modern Family hasn’t really been that inspiring. With a number of episodes that have been lacking hilarity, the focus of this season has been built on episodes that are more emotion driven. “Goodnight Gracie” is one of the better examples of this and also makes up for a hit and miss fourth season.
Many sitcoms pack up their characters and send to them to Disneyworld or something, hoping to get a promotional boost from the novelty, as well as discovering new comic possibilities by moving away from the norm. This is a fairly transparent gimmick and something that has definitely been done many times. The best example of this I feel can be seen in Cougar Town‘s Hawaii episodes but this week’s Modern Family episode tops it completely serving as one of the best episodes of this season and the entire run. It’s extremely impressive because these writers are used to writing for the characters in and around their homes.
“Goodnight Gracie” is driven by the recent death of Phil’s mother, which leads to the entire family visiting Phil’s father’s retirement community. Everyone has arrived for the funeral and in sitcom tradition, the recently deceased has left some items behind for everybody. For the Dunphy children, a box of treasures where everyone finds something meaningful and unique, expect for Alex. Up until this point, she has been repeatedly bragging about how close her and her grandmother were and how they had a “special bond”. When she receives a lighter with a note: “This is a lighter.”, she spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out the meaning behind it.
Phil receives an odd request, a note from his mother that requests him to fix up his father with a particular woman that she feels will be perfect for him. It’s an odd situation and runs the risk of being not only uncomfortable but not funny. Luckily, this isn’t the case at all as it ends up providing a funny moment as well as an extremely heartwarming one. After knocking on the said woman’s house and pretending to sell vacuum cleaners, Claire and Phil come home only to find Phil’s dad being fussed over by the neighbourhood women. Deciding to do what his mother asks, he informs the woman and ends up talking about his mother. As his emotions get the better of him, it’s a sad moment. Phil is a character that spends his life being anything but serious and he is usually the but of his family’s jokes. To see a more serious and emotional side of him is a surprising change and makes us feel for him even more. It’s a lovely moment when she tells him he was a good son.
Meanwhile, there are a number of other subplots playing out and this week they’re all great. I have always praised Modern Family for its excellent ability in making stories fall into place, but the stories rarely share the same quality. Jay’s storyline, once again, is definitely the weakest of the three. He figures out he knows one of Phil’s dad’s neighbours because she took his virginity before he shipped off to Vietnam. In a development that is unsurprising for sitcom lovers, he spends the episode trying to get her to remember him only to find out she sent many soldiers off to war happy. But it’s Jay’s reaction to this news that is the funny part. The scenes where the Modern Family members talk to the camera are always outstanding.
Despite predictability, Cam’s storyline is, as always, hilarious. He falls in with a group of elderly mahjong-playing women and almost breaks them up by repeating gossip. It’s simple and brilliant, Cam is always entertaining and here he is at his best.
But it’s Mitchell that shines this week, continuing the running gag that Gloria has a history of legal troubles in every country she’s been in, Mitch agrees to help her clear up some old criminal charges. When she moved from Florida, her roommate turned the apart into a house of prostitution with her name still on the lease. Starting with a subtle and funny visual gag, it was clear this was going to be the best storyline. Whilst they’re waiting for Gloria’s case to called, a number of other defendants request Mitch’s legal assistance. When he has some unexpected success, he lets it go to his head. The best part about this scene is probably the ridiculous folksy expressions he says and how annoyed and worn out the judge looks by the time they get to Gloria’s case. It’s so over the top and suits Jesse Tyler Ferguson perfectly because Mitch is usually pretty miserable.
The episode ends with Alex finding out the real meaning behind the lighter. She fulfils another dying request and violates the rules of the memorial service bringing the family together, and closing the season perfectly. There’s also a great ending credit bit between Luke and Manny.
Thanks for reading the Wednesday Comedy Roundups. Whitney got cancelled, but Workaholics and Modern Family will return for the 2013-2014 season!