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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Modern Family/Cougar Town

I was a little worried about Modern Family coming into tonight's premiere, because let's face it, there are reasons aside from alliteration that the phrase "sophomore slump" is a cliche. I was even more worried after the show opened on a relatively weak joke. But rest assured, the rest of the show demonstrated that my fears were way overblown.

I think my vote for line of the night goes to Phil's reassurance to Claire after she fears she's overreacting to the sale of the car: "No, I love it when you're human." Just a great line that really captures the dynamic of that relationship. That story line gave us the humor of the kids protests against the family night out, and the sentimentality of their bonding after the night goes awry.

The sale of the station wagon is just one of three great plots tonight. Gloria gets possessive when Manny brings a girl from school over, going so far as to deny the tastiness of her chocolate milk recipe. (Just add salt?) Meanwhile, Cameron goes behind Mitchell's back to get Jay to help with the construction of a play palace for Lily. This joke hit its zenith when Mitchell, trapped inside by a faulty doorknob, pops his head frantically out of the little windows.

If every episode is as strong as "The Old Wagon" Modern Family may well be headed to its second straight Emmy.

As for Cougar Town, I think here we see a classic demonstration of the dangers of the Big Name Guest Star. Cougar Town is never going to blow anyone away, but at its best its a light, breezy, but thoroughly enjoyable way to kill the half-hour after Modern Family. This light humor is encapsulated in tonight's "Movie Mashup" drinking game (a drinking game in that they drink while playing.) But as soon as Jennifer Aniston enters the scene as an incense-lighting new age therapist (who shockingly! isn't as put-together as she seems) the show veers off-course into overly nutty and ultimately unfunny territory.

If you tuned into Cougar Town tonight for the first time, give it another chance because you didn't really see it tonight.

I'm interested to see if the show will keep on using the (Still) Cougar Town title sequence. It's odd, isn't it, that a show is on the air with a title that almost everyone involved with the show hates?

P.S. I gave the hour-long legal drama The Whole Truth a shot tonight, largely because it's set partially where I work. The show's premise is that it will show cases from both perspectives and then go "beyond the verdict" to show you what really happened. (Of course, since this is all fiction, they're really just flipping a coin each week, but we'll let that slide.) The show is trying to do a lot in 42 minutes, and what's sacrificed is credibility or any sense of realism. I wouldn't suggest adding it to your schedule.

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