ABC

A Not So Happy Ending

On May 3rd 2013, ABC took the decision to cancel critically acclaimed comedy Happy Endings,  just three seasons in to its life span. Despite efforts from several networks to revive the show – it remains dead.

Undervalued… Happy Endings has been wrongly terminated.

Gimmick… Alex ran out on her wedding in the show’s pilot episode.

Most people are probably unaware of what Happy Endings is all about. I’m sure many know it as an obscure featureless comedy that currently does the rounds on E4 on Tuesday nights but in reality, it rarely gets its due praise. The show focuses around a group of six thirty-somethings in a big American city – unthinkable, I know. But honestly, it’s not like Friends or How I Met Your Mother in any other respect. There is no laugh track, no producer manufacturing humour and subliminally telling you when you ought to giggle. Unlike other sitcoms, the relationships are already formed and the series kicks off with Alex running out on her wedding to boyfriend, Dave. Despite this, the group tries to keep together instead of splitting as two of its members break up. Typically, the characters explore all sorts of quirky ‘sitcomy’ scenarios with various combinations of the six main characters but unlike most sitcoms, that if we’re honest are watchable at best, Happy Endings is legitimately funny. The characters are all likeable, the stories engaging and the jokes all encompassing that you feel like they’re your’s and your friend’s very own private jokes.

Hilarious… (L-R) Penny, Brad and Jane are the stand-out characters.

You’re probably thinking if it was as good as I’m saying it is then it would still be in production and I suppose that may be true. Throughout its tenure, the series received resounding critical acclaim being called “one of the sharpest and warm-hearted comedies on the air” and “the most underrated, under-watched series on TV, that may also be the funniest”.  Initially, the show drew decent ratings stateside often exceeding seven million viewers during its first and second seasons. Then, Happy Endings became the unfortunate victim of schedule congestion and was moved to Friday nights, colloquially known as the ‘Friday night death slot’ among American TV buffs. The ratings plummeted as low as 1.73 million viewers by the series’ penultimate episode resulting in its cancellation. The hardcore cult following it had amassed was nearly enough to grant it a resurrection on a different network but alas, it failed to materialise.

Fortunately for you, the internet exists. I strongly recommend this TV show, which is a slow starter so give it four or five episodes before making a judgement. The characters from neurotic Jane and her quirky husband, Brad to naiive Penny and Alex, righteous Dave and stereotype busting slob, Max, offer something for everyone – especially Eliza Coupe, Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans Jr. who are masterful in their roles. Who knows? Maybe it will emulate Arrested Development and get a deserved redemption a few years down the line and we can see whether Brad, Jane, Alex, Max, Penny and Dave did get their happy endings.

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My favourite things

This blog is completely pointless and narcissistic but I feel like I moan a lot in my posts so I thought I’d share the things I really like and give them a bit of praise.

TV Programmes

“Shut up, I win”… Modern Family is my all-time favourite TV programme

1. Modern Family
Okay, maybe I’ve praised this show enough but then again, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of gloating about just how good this programme is. Its brilliantly observed  social commentaries, combined with impeccable writing of various types of humour make it a refreshing change from the average US sitcom. It’s already a classic and easily my all-time favourite TV programme.

2. Friends
Given the fact, I’ve spent my entire life watching re-runs of this show on E4 and now Comedy Central, it would be unfair not to have this among my favourites. Unlike Modern Family, it is a typical US sitcom, it’s just a lot funnier than the others.

3. How I Met Your Mother
Funnily enough, I was sceptical of HIMYM when I first heard of it. I assumed it would be a less-funny ode to Friends. And in all honesty, Friends is funnier but HIMYM’s interesting spin on the plot of an average US sitcom and it’s brilliant gimmicks make it stand out from the rest.

4. Desperate Housewives
I don’t even know why I liked this programme so much. It’s just so interesting, a perfect blend of drama and comedy that’s oddly relatable to every day life. At times, it is completely over-the-top and unrealistic but that can be forgiven when you consider it at its best. If you only watch one season of this show, make sure it’s season one.

Films

The force is with Star Wars… my all-time favourite films

1. Star Wars saga
Being honest, I’m not a big film person. Obviously, there are loads of films that I like but few that really stand out. Other than White Chicks and the Lion King, I struggled to think of anything that could compete with this, so it stands alone. Regrettably, I haven’t seen many of cinema’s modern classics (something I intend on correcting every summer but never do). Anyway, Star Wars is the ultimate sci-fi saga. I spent a lot of my childhood being obsessed with this franchise, meaning I have something like 20 lightsabers stored underneath my bed. It really is a great film, and yes the original trilogy is far better. It still shocks me that some people have never seen these films… and I hate them for it.

Albums

“‘Cause this is Thriller. Thriller night!”

1. Thriller
This is simply put the best album ever made. Featuring so many of MJ’s classsics including Thriller, Billie Jean, Beat It, P.Y.T., Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, The Girl is Mine and Human Nature, you can see why it’s the biggest selling album of all-time and my favourite.

2. Aim & Ignite
Okay, Fun. burst on to the chart scene in Spring 2012, with their hit “We Are Young” taken from their second studio album, Some Nights. While, that album is superb and only just misses out on a spot in the top 5, Fun.’s lesser known predecessor is even better. It’s melodic from start to finish with brilliantly crafted songs and lyrics that really make you think. It’s a shame they didn’t get much recognition for this album too.

3. Fearless
I don’t really care about the stigma attached to picking a Taylor Swift album as one of your favourites. I have a quiet love for country music and she has a well-known talent for song writing. In all honesty, I could have selected either Speak Now or Red to join the top five too but this album is just about her best.

4. Songs About Jane
When you were young, every family had that one album that you played in the car non-stop, every journey. This was ours. It really is brilliant.

5. Rumours
Again, a worldwide recognised classic. My love for this album probably again stems back to my quiet love for country and guitar music. It features many of the bands classics and is hard not to like. Although, funnily enough when I first heard this album, I hated it.

It’s worth noting, these are also my five favourite artists. Honourable mention to S Club 7 for providing the soundtrack of my childhood and yes, I still have a cheeky  S Club party every now and then.

Holiday destinations

Bude-iful… My favourite holiday destination

1. Bude
Ideally, an average looking seaside town in Cornwall is not the place you want to go on holiday. It’s mostly for personal reasons that I’ve picked this as number-one. Nearly everyone has a holiday destination their family goes to often. Bude is that for my family.

2. Los Angeles
Most people say LA isn’t as good as it’s hyped up to be. But it really is, the climate, the people and the sights are all incredible. It’s a place you simply have to visit.

3. San Francisco
San Fran is a great city of diversity, it has such a varied nature to it, there are rural areas, coastal areas, Skegness-esque areas and big city areas. Accompanied by the climate which is great too, it’s a must visit. In fact, if it weren’t for the USA’s gun crime problem, the San Andreas fault and its proximity to Yellowstone, I’d move to California in a heartbeat.

4. Canary Islands
Particularly Gran Canaria and Tenerife, these islands are wonderful, just off the coast of Africa, it is always hot and just a great place to be.

Top 25 Modern Family Episodes

Now updated to include Season 5!

34. Goodnight Gracie (Season 4, Episode 24)
“So, dear Alex, who I love so dearly, who’s probably too much like me for her own good, don’t be afraid to break the rules. You never know what might happen.” – Alex 
Everyone flies down to Florida for Phil’s mother’s funeral. Her last wish, to have Phil set her widowed husband Frank up with another woman, puts Claire and Phil at ends. Cam spends time with a few residents of the retirement community and thrives on the gossip-fuelled nature of their relationships. Phil’s mother leaves Alex a lighter that led to her meeting Phil’s father and Alex comes to understand what she meant to her grandmother. Jay runs into the woman he lost his virginity to before shipping off to Vietnam, but she has trouble remembering him from her other conquests. Gloria faces court over an arrest warrant for running a brothel, and brings Mitchell to represent her. A successful day in the courtroom as a posturing lawyer for Gloria and many desperate citizens prompts Mitchell to want to return to working in the courts.

33. Suddenly, Last Summer  (Season 5, Episode 1)
“Sometimes I don’t know if I love how much I fear Claire or fear how much I love her.” – Phil
As gay marriage is legalized in California, Mitch and Cam plan their perfect proposals, not realizing that the other has something planned. Cam calls for the help of Jay and Gloria and Mitch rallies Claire and Phil to help make their evening perfect.

32. Me? Jealous? (Season 3, Episode 14)
“You know, I should probably tell Manny this story. It might help him with that trainwreck, Danielle.” – Cameron
Claire believes that Phil’s new prospective client is inappropriate, but she cannot convince a trusting Phil. Meanwhile, Cam and Mitchell stay with Gloria and Jay, while their house is being fumigated.

31. Australia (Season 5, Episode 20)
“This country’s number one export is hot surfers. I’m not gonna buy the first one I see, I’m still browsing.” – Haley
The family travels to Australia as Phil tries to fulfill his mother’s wish for him to visit the country where he was conceived. Unfortunately, Phil’s attempts to embrace his native land are met by a lot of rejection, while Jay and Claire let work eat into vacation time, and Mitch and Cam get reacquainted with an old friend.

30. Truth Be Told (Season 1, Episode 17)
“All because he called you a dork-to-dork salesman?” “The Empire Strikes Back.” – Alex
Phil meets an old girlfriend on Facebook. Jay accidentally kills Manny’s turtle. Mitchell tells his boss the truth. 

29.  Fizbo (Season 1, Episode 9)
“I’m Fizbo, the ass-kicking clown” – Cameron
When Phil and Claire try to throw a party for Luke, things go wrong and leads to a trip to the emergency room; Cameron decides to dress up as his clown character Fizbo; Manny has a hard time impressing a girl after taking advice from Jay.

28.  Las Vegas (Season 5, Episode 18)
“Vegas, you have a gambling problem – and her name is Claire.” – Claire
The adults take a trip to Vegas in which Jay tries to obtain the best room. Claire rekindles her gambling addiction while Cam attends Mitch’s ex’s bachelor party. Gloria tries to hide a female version of the dog Butler. Phil presents his case to enter a secret yet prestigious magic society

27. Election Day (Season 3, Episode 19)
“She’s high, the whole family’s high – there’s your headline.” – Phil
On Election Day, the family does some last-minute campaigning for Claire; Claire experiences technical difficulties during interviews.

26. Airport 2010 (Season 1, Episode 22)
“You seem to know a lot about sneaking contraband on to an aircraft.” “Yeah, I’m Colombian.” – Gloria
Gloria surprises Jay with a trip to Hawaii for his birthday, but he isn’t pleased to find out that the entire family is tagging along. When everyone arrives at the airport, chaos ensues with forgotten identification, breaches of security, and flying phobias.

25. Regrets Only (Season 2, Episode 16)
“You don’t do one thing wrong. You do everything wrong, I don’t  know why she even talks to you. Chin up. Up!” – Gloria
Phil and Claire had a huge fight and Phil hasn’t a clue as to what it was over, so Gloria steps in to counsel Phil and Jay takes Claire. Meanwhile, Jay may have some regret in buying Gloria a karaoke machine, and Cameron is in full prep mode for a huge fundraising event and enlists help from Mitchell and Luke — which might not be the best choices.

24. The Wedding (part 1 & 2) (Season 5, Episodes 23-24)
“Thanks to 35 dollars on the Internet you are looking at the Good Reverend Phillip Humphrey Dunphy.” – Phil
Cam and Mitchell’s wedding arrives, but their big day gets questioned when things go wrong. Gloria and Jay give relationship advice’s to Cam’s parents, and things take turn for the unexpected. Phil and Claire get to know the kids better and Haley puts herself in the middle of a relationship breakup.

23. The Kiss (Season 2, Episode 2)
“He’s not gonna think I’m a lesbian!” “I thought you were, you totally have the sandals for it” – Haley
After Claire finds flirty texts from a boy on Alex’s phone, Claire tells Haley to give her advice, in which she tells Alex to kiss the boy, which makes her go up to the boy, and ask him in front of his friends, embarrassing him. Mitchell is having trouble kissing Cam in public, Phil works hard to fix Jay’s printer, and Jay must cope with Gloria’s customs.

22. Hawaii (Season 1, Episode 23)
“We had a fire drill not the hotel just us.” – Luke
Jay’s plans to do nothing but relax on vacation are interrupted by an unwelcome reality check. Meanwhile, Phil tries to make the trip romantic for Claire, Mitchell and Cameron disagree on whether they should go sight-seeing, and the kids get themselves into trouble.

21. Earthquake (Season 2, Episode 3)
“I wanna go to the museum of tolerance.” “Fine. How far’s tolerance?” – Haley
Claire gets stuck in the bathroom with the plumber when an earthquake hits, and Phil scrambles to hide the damage. Meanwhile, Cameron and Mitchell try to evade a friend’s party, and Jay takes Manny golfing instead of going to church.

20. Open House of Horrors (Season 4, Episode 5)
“You put egg on my house, I kill what you love!” – Gloria
Claire must rein in her enthusiasm for Halloween and keep her celebration kid-friendly; Phil decides to hold an open house on Halloween; Mitch and Cam have a costume party; Gloria’s hormones make her more quick-tempered than usual. Manny questions his judgement when given the opportunity to hang with the ‘cool’ crowd in recognition of something he did not mean to do on purpose.

19. The One That Got Away (Season 2, Episode 24)
“You are the prettiest, smartest, funniest girl in the sixth grade, I’ve enjoyed talking to you online and I think we should be boyfriend and girlfriend… Oh no, it’s not what you think I’m talking to a little boy” – Cameron
Jay wants to go fishing on his birthday, but the family insists he has a big party, leading Claire and Mitchell to get trapped in their childhood yard, Phil to encounter his college nemesis at the mall and Cameron to have trouble at the bakery.

18. The Old Wagon (Season 2, Episode 1)
“What’s the plan, Phil?!” – Claire
Phil finally agrees to sell the old station wagon, but only after a family trip down memory lane; Cameron asks Jay for help when Mitchell decides to build a life-size princess castle for Lily.

17. Schooled (Season 4, Episode 2)
“I wrapped my son with one hand while driving a stick. I know how to keep my kid safe.” – Gloria
Claire and Phil embarrass Haley when they drop her off at college. Manny makes Gloria and Jay take a class on how to care for a baby. Meanwhile, Lily gets into a tussle on her first day of kindergarten, and when Mitch and Cameron get into an argument with her assailant’s lesbian parents, the principal orders them to have a play-date.

16. Yard Sale (Season 4, Episode 6)
“I’m just 90% sure, he’s 100% gay” – Claire
Jay and Gloria hold a yard sale to help Manny and Luke with their school’s charity fundraiser; in the process, Luke and Manny unearth an old trunk of Gloria’s that she wishes to remain a secret. Mitch and Cam help Claire assess Alex’s new ‘boy friend’; Phil feels pressured to both sell and buy something; Mitchell struggles on how to tell a slimmer Cam that he is not fully confident he can keep his dietary practices going.

15. Punkin Chunkin (Season 3, Episode 9)
“I love your ‘I love you’, getting pretty tired of your ‘but’… I heard it” – Phil
A former neighborhood resident, now rich and successful, returns for a visit; Jay thinks Manny needs constructive criticism; Mitchell questions the authenticity of Cameron’s colorful childhood stories.

14. Tableau Vivant (Season 3, Episode 23)
“Is that jealous? My poor sisters.” – Gloria
Gloria and Jay bicker while trying to order lunch at a diner; Claire and Cam have different theories on how to discipline kids; Luke accepts an award under false pretenses; Phil has a hard time firing Mitchell from his temporary job at the real estate agency; the entire family participates in Alex’s living art display of Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving painting “Freedom from want”.

13. See You Next Fall (Season 2, Episode 23)
“Yes, I’ll be a carnivorous, amazonian fish.” – Alex
The whole family gathers at Jay’s house before heading out to Alex’s graduation ceremony from middle school, but while at the house, Jay is preoccupied hiding a botox mishap from everyone, Cameron is upset about Mitchell’s habit of laughing at him, and Phil tries to sympathize with, yet also criticizes Claire on her impending breakdown over the kids growing up too fast.

12. Princess Party (Season 2, Episode 15)
“I’m screaming at a princess party, mom!” – Claire
The guest list for Lily’s princess-themed birthday party gets a little out of hand when Mitchell decides to invite his mom, much to Claire’s dismay, and disinvite Fizbo, much to Cameron’s dismay. Things get even more strange when DeDe shows up with Claire’s old high school boyfriend in tow, and Jay and Gloria each turn to their own unique methods of dealing with this gathering of misfits.

11. Manny Get Your Gun

Season 2, Episode 8

“Because you are our Daddy!” “I’ll always be your Daddy!”

 

The first of six season 2 episodes to make the top 10 is ‘Manny Get Your Gun’. The episode is set around the birthday party of Manny and his concern that he forgot to have a childhood, prompted by Jay’s gift of a gun for ages sixteen and up. Claire and Phil decide to have a race to the restaurant, Luke misconstrues when Claire says she and Phil are splitting up whilst Phil deals with the devastating news that Alex and Haley don’t want to go back to family camp the following summer. Meanwhile, Cam and Mitchell still have to shop for Manny’s birthday present before arriving at the restaurant. Mitchell becomes frustrated when Cam stops to help two cheating pensioners when he is trying to surprise Cam by performing in a flash mob. Cameron gets upset with Mitchell, feeling betrayed that he didn’t tell him about the surprise. The episode is scaled to fit the 25 minutes before Manny’s dinner party and shows the more hectic elements of the family combined with three thoroughly entertaining subplots. In fact, this episode should be in the top ten for Gloria’s shooting skills alone.

10. Arrested

Season 4, Episode 7

“It’s faucon disgusting”

Quite simply, the most relieving episode of season 4. Every MOFY was devastated when Haley went off to college in ‘Schooled’ and quite frankly, we were thrilled to see her booted out. Haley is ousted from university for assaulting a police officer (it’s not as violent as it sounds). Claire and Phil rush up-state with Mitchell, as their lawyer to bail her out of prison. Gloria and Jay get another delightful visit from Dede. Jay tries to hide Gloria’s pregnancy from her but only manages to deflect her disdain for Gloria on to himself. Cam meanwhile is left looking after the kids, in Claire, Phil and Mitchell’s absences and seeing as Luke and Alex end up needing medical attention, it’s safe to say he didn’t do the best job. The episode hits top marks from the start, and is indisputably up there with the series bests, if not with it’s consistency in hilarity and it showcasing Mitchell’s ability to provide comic relief in stressful situations but for the best quote of the show since Alex’s “The Empire Strikes Back” quip from three years earlier.

9. Coal Digger

Season 1, Episode 5

“Be one with me, Jay.”

The most obvious issue in the family’s dynamic was addressed as early as episode 5 when Gloria finds out that Claire has been calling her a ‘gold digger’ behind her back. The episode starts with Gloria, Jay, Claire and Phil being brought in to the school due to Manny and Luke fighting. Luke is upset that Manny refers to himself as his uncle and when Gloria infers that Luke is weird, Claire’s resentment is refuelled. The family gather at the Delgado-Pritchett’s to watch American football but Luke accidentally reveals Claire’s bitching just after her and Gloria had made peace. Naturally, Phil heads to Gloria’s room and takes many colourful thongs to the face in an attempt to resolve the feud. But in the end it takes Claire jumping in the pool to earn Gloria’s forgiveness.

8. The Incident

Season 1, Episode 4

“Baby, baby. I just wanna do you, do you”

Without doubt the best addition to the main cast of Modern Family is DeDe Pritchett played by Shelley Long. You might think that Phil and the kids wind Claire up but you haven’t seen anything until Claire’s mother starts to push her buttons. In episode four, DeDe returns to Cheviot Hills in an attempt to apologise to Gloria following the revelation that she ruined her and Jay’s wedding. The hilarious flashback of a drunken DeDe mocking Gloria and then being carried out of the room and subsequently destroying the wedding cake is just a prelude for the laughs that ensue when the family meets at the Dunphy’s house later on and DeDe attacks Gloria in front of everyone. And as if this wasn’t enough, Haley is still trying desperately to convince her parents that Dylan is responsible enough to take her to a concert. But what’s funnier is the very own concert Dylan treats the family to at the end of the episode…

7. Little Bo Bleep

Season 3, Episode 13

“I am not a pervert. I, like a lot of men in this town, enjoy making love to my wife.”

Admittedly, Season three may not have been Modern Family’s best but it still had enough about it to produce some genuine heavyweight episodes. A compliment especially apt for ‘Little Bo Bleep’. Claire is embroiled in a race to beat Dwayne Bailey and become the new councilwoman. So the Dunphys prepare her for a live TV debate in their living room, picking out her every flaw to Claire’s frustration. Of course, with all the in-depth prep, Claire’s debate is a complete disaster as Phil goes viral on YouTube in the season’s funniest moment. Meanwhile, Jay is battling to save Stella from her suicidal ways, believing that Gloria is bullying her and Mitchell and Cam are preparing Lily to be a flower girl but are concerned when she starts dropping the ‘F bomb’, to Cam’s amusement. Just like ‘Manny Get Your Gun’, this episode has three solid story arcs that each create moments of genuine hilarity. A significantly under-rated episode.

6. The Musical Man

Season 2, Episode 19

“We love the word?”

Maybe not as consistent as some of it’s predecessors, ‘The Musical Man’ makes it to number six for the brilliance of two of it’s three main stories. Ignoring Jay’s storyline with his cancer-inflicted brother; the episode could have been number one on the countdown. Claire becomes reminiscent about college as she tries perilously to convince Haley to leave the coup next autumn. However, unbeknownst to her, she is driving around in a car clad in an advert for Phil’s company that makes her and her daughter look like prostitutes. Meanwhile, Cam is back to pursuing his musical passions as the director of the Franklin Middle School play. The situations are intensified by Phil, when he is questioned about the physiques of his wife and daughter unbeknownst to him and like his daughter in the show’s seventh best episode, Cam drops a rather embarrassing ‘F bomb’ of his own…

5. Caught in the Act

Season 2, Episode 13

“I can still see it”

It’s probably fair to say that I like to go against the grain when it comes to things like this but it would have been near impossible to keep ‘Caught in the Act’ out of the top five, let alone the top twenty-five. The situation in this episode is centered around Haley, Alex and Luke walking in on their parents having sex; mix this in with a fiery, accidental e-mail from Gloria to Claire and you get a culmination of comedy at the Dunphy household. Claire and Phil are co0ped up in their room trying to figure out what to say to the kids who themselves have fled the household. When the pair finally work up the courage to talk to them they are met by an apologetic Gloria who assumes Claire is distressed by her forthright e-mail. Modern Family feeds off the humour created from misunderstandings and none of them have been as funny as when Claire misconstrues Gloria’s comments as an offer for a lesbian romp. Meanwhile, Cam and Mitch are out to impress the owner of a new restaurant, Amelia by organising a play date for their kids. Fortunately for the viewer, everything goes horribly wrong and the couple are left with a rug and vase to pay for.

4. Halloween

Season 2, Episode 6

“Come in… if you dare.”

Another critics’ favourite is in at number four.  The episode starts with the focus on Claire’s love for Halloween and her desire to host the scariest house of horror in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately for her, the family are not up to standard. Gloria is furious with Jay for insinuating that people don’t understand her so she drops her harsh Colombian accent for a ‘proper American’ one. Phil is intent on declaring his love for Claire at every possible opportunity due to the sudden divorce of a happy couple, the Dunphys know. Cam is haunted by a dreadful Halloween memory that he milks for every bit of drama he can get and Mitchell isn’t feeling participatory following a difficult day as Spiderman. All in all, ‘Halloween’ doesn’t serve up as many laughs as some of the other episodes in the countdown and the individual storylines are maybe not as strong, but for its adventurous and well-executed gimmick alone, it is worthy of its place.

3. Good Cop Bad Dog

Season 2, Episode 22

“Are you going to the ball, Cinderella? Live a little.”

Perhaps an unconventional choice for a top three spot but a fair one. ‘Good Cop Bad Dog’ sees two good story arcs pitted against a superb one. Jay and Gloria argue over the potential of Guillermo’s dog training system in a turn of events that eventually sees the introduction of Stella to the show. At the Pritchett-Tucker’s, Cameron is very unwell but the couple have tickets to see Lady Gaga, resulting in Mitchell having to battle with his morals and Cam over-reacting to his fire-haired partner’s betrayal. However, this episode truly belongs to Phil and Claire Dunphy who are on red, hot form throughout after they decide to switch parenting roles; Claire becoming the ‘good cop’ and Phil, the bad. However, things go horribly wrong for both resulting in car crashes and starvation. The pair are so good in this episode, they barely go a sentence or an action without inciting roars of laughter from the audience. A true Dunphy delight.

2. Family Portrait

Season 1, Episode 24

“Look at us all dressed up in white. What are we, a cricket team?”

The first season is crucial for the success of any new sitcom and that is true too of Modern Family. The opening twenty-four episodes accumulated a massive three Primetime Emmy’s but it was the season’s ultimate episode that would prove to be its very best. The episode is based around Phil, Gloria, Manny and Alex’s trip to a basketball game. Claire spots him on TV ignoring a phone call from her and when Jay is being interviewed by Luke, the little one is led to believe that Jay wants to fight him. The situation is a lot funnier when you realise Phil has just kissed Gloria on the KissCam. While all of this is going on, Claire is tirelessly organising a family photo but caves to her perfectionist disposition and asks to hold the shoot at Mitchell’s house, which is impossible as his house has been destroyed whilst he tried to spur the ambush of an invading pigeon. The episode makes it to number two for three reasons; 1) it’s chock-full of one-liners, 2) it encompasses the family ideal at the heart of the show and 3) it laid down the marker for the first season, establishing Modern Family as a genuine television force.

1. Mother’s Day

Season 2, Episode 21

“Sometimes, I wanna punch my kids.”

I can pretty much guarantee that any Modern Family fan who has followed this countdown all the way from number twenty-five to now would not have had this down as number one. Admittedly, it’s not a particular favourite of the critic’s, being labelled as ‘respectable’ and ‘satisfying’. In truth, had those critics bothered to look a bit deeper they would see that this episode of Modern Family is twenty-two minutes of comedy perfection. This episode, like so many of the show’s other greats, is centered around Claire and Gloria. The unlikely pair take their kids for a hiking trip, whilst Jay and Phil cook dinner. Claire and Gloria are left to battle with their whiny kids as they bemoan the walk, their mothers are making them face; Gloria and Manny reconcile but Haley, Alex and Luke are hoping to give Claire some grief for inflicting boredom upon them. Across town in Century City, Mitchell decides to dedicate the day to Cameron, who is offended given the nature of the day. The pair spend the interlude between the opening and the family meal, running in to situations highlighting Cam’s somewhat maternal nature. I’ve spoken before about the fact many episodes have story arcs with varying success but in ‘Mother’s Day’, they all hit the top bracket. The stories are funny, fresh and in Cam and Mitchell’s case, brave. In truth, not one of the eleven main cast members is off form, in this episode and if critics don’t think this can go down as one of the show’s greats, I struggle to think what else can.

Modern Family : My Favourite Characters

Modern Family is fronted by a cast of eleven brilliant characters all the way from Jay down to Lily. Here is my ranking of their comedic performance and overall contribution to the show.

11. Lily Tucker-Pritchett

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“Daddy, Daddy! F***!”… Lily is the clan’s least popular member

The proverbial wooden spoon is awarded to the family’s youngest member, who is played by Aubrey Anderson-Emmons. It is very rare for the show’s characters to come under scrutiny but when they do it is usually Lily who takes the fall. She is often criticised for being annoying. I personally don’t share that opinion. It’s her sparing usage that sees her take last place.

10. Manny Delgado

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“I’d forgotten to have a childhood.”… Count Manny opens the top ten.

This might come as a surprise to most fans of the show but number ten on the countdown is ‘count-like dressing’, coffee drinking Manny Delgado. For the most part, Manny is very popular among the show’s fans and don’t get me wrong I do like him as a character but he just doesn’t make me laugh as much as some of the others. He’s just not ‘my cup of tea’, terminology I’m sure he’d appreciate.

9. Haley Dunphy

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“How far’s tolerance?”… Ditzy Haley is on cloud nine

The first Dunphy to appear on the countdown is eldest sibling, Haley. Again, Haley is rarely used as the main story of an episode but when she is, she can serve up some pretty funny moments as the role of the ‘typical’ teenage girl, especially when paired with her scathing sister, Alex

8. Luke Dunphy

“Are you doing sex?”… Luke is gr-eight

It may come as no surprise to you given Luke’s incredibly funny portrayals that actor, Nolan Gould is in fact an official genius with an IQ of 150. However, his dopey alter-ego couldn’t be more different. Luke is an inquisitive, overly-stimulated kid with the ability to leave the viewers in stitches with his goofy antics. There is literally nothing to pick between Luke and his two siblings when it comes to comedy, himself and Haley can count themselves unlucky to not be ranked higher.

7. Alex Dunphy

“The Empire Strikes Back”… Geeky Alex is number seven.

The next on the countdown is super-nerd, Alex Dunphy. In my opinion, Claire and Phil’s middle-child is by far and away the show’s most under-rated character. It’s fair to say that her sometimes snooty attitude can be off-putting but her razor sharp banterous exchanges with her aforementioned older sibling are often welcomed by cackles of laughter. And if she doesn’t deserved seventh place for that, she is also the coiner of the show’s best quote to date.

6. Gloria Pritchett

“I’m Colombian. I know a fake crime scene when I see one!”… Gloria is one of the big guns at number six.

“JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” Feisty diva, Gloria is next on the list and she has every reason to be placed so high. Her contrasting naive and scheming sides allow her to be the show’s most versatile character. Her wonderful accent is a hidden gem that amplifies the comedy of just about anything she says. On top of this, her quick-to-anger attitude and colourful accounts of her small Colombian village make her one of the show’s most popular characters.

5. Cameron Tucker

“Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice.”… Drama-queen Cam is the show’s most flamboyant character.

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Fifth place on my countdown of the best Modern Family characters is no other than flamboyant music teacher Cameron. Mitchell’s other half is a permanent manifestation of laughter. It’s almost impossible not to break out in fits of laughter when Cam unleashes his dramatic mood swings on the box. In fact, caving in to his hilarity is downright inevitable.

4. Phil Dunphy

“You’re all the porn I need.”… Doting dad, Phil only manages to reach fourth place.

Fourth spot goes to goofy salesman, Phil Dunphy. It’s pretty much impossible not to love ‘cool Dad’, Phil. He rarely fails to deliver in any episode. His outrageous antics vary from being tasered to relentlessly chasing his dearly sought after, iPad. Phil is a first class character and well worth a spot in the top four but unfortunately for our resident goof, there is another Dunphy lying in wait…

3. Mitchell Pritchett

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“There’s a little bit of me in that princess castle”… Mother’s boy, Mitchell is given bronze.

The first Pritchett to be taken out of the running is ‘fire-haired’, Mitchell. Mitchell has some hilarious moments opposite his life partner, Cam. His witty comebacks particularly against his father with whom he shares a turbulent relationship are always perfectly timed and executed.I used to find him annoying, until I realised it’s because we share quite a few traits. He’s a ‘grower’, not as obviously loveable as the likes of Cam, Phil and Gloria but he is a Pritchett after all.

2. Jay Pritchett

“I understand about 20% of what goes on around here.”… City tough Jay dons Phil’s onion glasses.

Just like Mitchell, it takes a little longer to warm to Jay than some of the other’s. The family’s patriarch just misses out on the top spot in this ranking. Jay is often prominent in every episode starring alongside his wife, Gloria and step-son, Manny which frequently leads to hilarious culture clashes with the two Colombians.  His vitriolic put-downs, often directed towards Phil are hellaciously funny and enough to make him one of the show’s most quotable characters. I think the quality about Jay, I love more and more, every time I cycle through my Modern Family DVD collection is his cheekiness. It’s a wonder Ed O’Neill hasn’t picked up an Emmy for his perfect performances.

And the winner is…

1. Claire Dunphy

“We were having fun!”… Super Claire Dunphy rules supreme.

I realise that this is an unconventional choice but in my view wholly justified. There can be no arguing that stressed-out, Claire Dunphy is by far and away the most realistic character to grace the screen. Many see her as nothing more than a nagging buzz-kill but Queen Claire is so much more. Whether, she’s battling town council with her scathing sarcasm, tripping over the various hazards she stumbles across in the Dunphy household or simply berating Phil and the kids, Julie Bowen expertly grafts a superior character that is not only charmingly realistic but a genuine comedic delight.

Modern Family. Modern Classic.

“Welcome back to the Modern Family awards” was the line Jane Lynch comically read out as Modern Family continued to steamroll its competition at the most recent Primetime Emmy awards. As it takes its rightful place at the top of the TV throne

In just three short seasons, comedy sensation Modern Family has already received eleven Primetime Emmy awards as well as thirty-one nominations, more than FriendsSeinfeld and Desperate Housewives, a feat achieved in a third of the time of the other three.

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We are the champions… Modern Family wins big at the Emmys.

The reasons as to why Modern Family has achieved such remarkable success since its debut in 2009 comes down to two key factors; hilariously diverse characters and impeccable writing.

Modern Family features an ensemble cast headed by the wonderfully-talented adult roster of Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Jay Pritchett (O’Neill) is the extended family’s patriarch now living with his much younger, fiesty Colombian wife, Gloria (Vergara) and her son, Manny. Bowen plays stressed-out mother of three, Claire Dunphy who lives with her husband, Phil (Burrell) and gay couple Cam (Stonestreet) and Mitch (Ferguson) complete the cast. Just from these six characters, the show throws up a unique blend of personality. The characters are remarkably relatable and allow the writers to venture in to various comedic scenarios from performing an ice-skating routine in a car park to being attacked by a ruthless pigeon.

But perhaps what is most promising about the sitcom’s brilliantly talented cast is the hilarity of its kid stars. Many TV shows would be more than satisfied to throw the kids in to the back seat but Modern Family is different, relying nearly as much on its child cast to provide laughs as its adult one. Sarah Hyland (actually 21), Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez show no signs of inexperience often proving pivotal in the series’ funniest moments.

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“What are we, a cricket team?”… The family pose for a family portrait in season one’s finale

The writing is the other key attribute that has helped propel Modern Family  to success. The show is set up as a ‘mockumentary’, complete with interviews from the family members revolving around the events of the episode, allowing the inclusion of more plot detail in order to further the story or set up a gag. This style of filming also allows the cast to acknowledge the camera; the stolen glances towards the lens often leaves viewers in stitches of laughter at the most opportune of moments. The writers also take the opportunity to wrap up the majority of the episodes with a warm, charming life lesson pertaining to the current episodes, creating an authentic family atmosphere about the series.

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“Now all that driving your mom does will serve a purpose.”

Of course, Modern Family‘s success cannot just be measured by it’s massive collection of 138 award nominations (that’s 1.9 awards per episode) but by its viewership. In the States, Modern Family is going from strengh-to-strength with ratings increasing from on average of 9.39 million viewers in 2009 to 13.01 million in 2012, seeing it regularly beat the American version of The X Factor in it’s Wednesday time-slot. Modern Family even has a loyal band of followers here in the United Kingdom, regularly achieving close to a million viewers without the benefit of a prime-time slot nor a major channel.

Modern Family continues to storm award shows and the ratings with it still feeling as fresh as ever 72 episodes in to its glorious reign as TV’s hottest sitcom. Personally, Modern Family is a favourite of mine, it could be due to its incredibly gifted cast, the sharp, intelligent writing or the fact that the show reminds me of my own family. But the fact of the matter is, Modern Family is getting stronger and funnier with each passing episode as it continues its quest to cement its status as a TV classic. I know that throughout this article, I’ve nearly run out of superlatives to describe this near flawless show but it’s imperative that you don’t get me wrong. Modern Family is no Seinfeld or Friends… It’s much better.

P.S. I dare you to watch and not love it – http://www.cucirca.com/2011/01/23/modern-family-season-1-episode-1-pilot/

Desperate Housewives – Top 5 Episodes

In honour of the passing of Desperate Housewives I have compiled a list of my top 5 episodes.

5 – Down The Block, There’s a Riot (Season 7, Episode 10)

In the ultimate ‘disaster episode’ of the series. The street is rocked by a riot that erupts due to Paul Young’s plan to introduce a half-way house on to Wisteria Lane. In the resulting fracas, Susan is badly trampled and Paul Young is shot.

Riot… Susan is crushed by protesters.

4 – Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)

You know it’s a good pilot when a major character is dead within the opening sixty seconds and that’s what happens when Mary Alice’s warm commentary opens up an 8-year-journey packed with scandal, secrets and desperation.

First meeting… the housewives toast Mary Alice.

3 – Bang (Season 3, Episode 7)

In the show’s first ever ‘disaster episode’. Carolyn Bigsby holds a cluster of people hostage in a supermarket including Lynette Scavo and Julie Mayer. This episode is packed with tension and drama, particularly during the death of Nora Huntingdon. However, this episode is perhaps most memorable for the most chilling scene of the series, Lynette’s final dream of Mary Alice.

Wronged… Carolyn Bigsby prepares to shoot Nora.

2 – Look Into Their Eyes and You See What They Know (Season 5, Episode 18)

The penultimate episode on the countdown is that which follows the death of Edie Britt. This episode provides a unique look at one of the show’s most dimensional and entertaining characters before she is given a poignant send-off with the scattering of her ashes around Wisteria Lane.

Pensive… Edie predicts her premature death.

1  The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (Season 5, Episode 13)

The winner of Desperate Housewives best ever episode goes to the 100th episode of the show. The episode is based around handyman, Eli Scruggs and the housewives’ remembering the things he did to help them before he died. The show incorporates charming flashbacks tying previous storylines together in a wonderful self-praising sixty minutes.

Handyman… Mary Alice meets Eli Scruggs.

Desperately Disappointing

Desperate Housewives signed off after a successful 8-year-reign on ABC with it’s 2 hour finalé which aired in the States last night.

The show is often credited for ‘changing television history’ and is constantly praised as ‘iconic’.  You’d think having started off with a bang  (the suicide of Mary Alice Young) the finale would go out in the same manner? Well it didn’t,  it went with a pathetic whimper. The show has been declining in the ratings for years and after the dross, Marc Cherry served up last night. It was almost complimentary for the series finalé to have averaged 11.23 million viewers (40 million less than ‘Friends’).

Kiss them goodbye…The housewives have one last poker game

The show explores story arcs of the four main housewives and Renee and Karen;

Bree’s trial is in full swing and more and more evidence is being stacked against her; Ben is reluctant to answer any questions and Renee’s testimony reveals that she saw Bree return from the woods after she had buried Alejandro.
Gaby and Carlos are preparing to reveal the truth when Karen McCluskey overhears and subsequently ‘confesses’ to killing Alejandro in what can only be described as the best moment of the finalé.
Bree spends the second hour spurring the advances of her lawyer, Tripp only for her to go back on her decision and settle (I stress that) with her final love interest.

Susan spends the first hour serving no real purpose. It is revealed that she is hoping to move away from Wisteria Lane sooner rather than later and Lee has already been enlisted to help her sell. Despite, the odd attempt to hide her plans from her friends she is merely a bystander for the first hour.
During the second hour, Susan is seen frantically rescuing her daughter from giving birth in the back of a limousine and spends a solitary couple of minutes pondering her future with her daughter, Julie.

Lynette’s storyline is perhaps the most predictable albeit necessary of the episodes. She finally gets back together with Tom to close part 1 – ‘Give Me The Blame’.
She is then slapped with a CEO job offer in New York from returning, Katherine Mayfair. She ponders the decision and after a run-in with the same woman she runs in to in the supermarket from the pilot. However, she realises that Tom and her family are all she needs to be truly happy,  a delightful coming together for the show’s most realistic character.

Gaby spends the finale as we’ve become accustomed to seeing her in the last few seasons; quietly cracking jokes and mischievously pushing the plot along. Her ending is like Lynette’s, anticipated but appropriate. The viewers are treated to a happy ending in which Carlos and Gaby quietly bicker in to their old age, but they don’t have a particularly big part to play in the finale.

Elsewhere on the lane, the writers devote far too much time to Renee Perry and her wedding. ‘Edie Lite’ is seen on screen perhaps as much as the four main characters. Something, I thought inappropriate for a series finale. In direct contrast,  the death of Karen McCluskey was treated with grace and dignity.

With all this going on it’s easy to forget the delightful first meeting of Martha Huber and Mary Alice at the start of ‘Finishing the Hat’. It was just what the finale needed to boost any absent feeling of nostalgia.

However, in what could have been described thus far as a more than satisfactory series finalé. Marc Cherry left his audience not with a tingling down the spine but more a tingling slap to the face as a great TV show was dealt the injustice of this poor coup de grâce.

The final scenes depicted the four girls having their last ever poker game before vowing to keep in touch, however it is swiftly revealed that this promise was in vein. Omniscient narrator, Mary Alice then treats us to three flash-forwards revealing that Lynette moves to New York with Tom and the pair go on to have  six grandchildren. Gaby opens her own shop and becomes a presenter for the Home Shopping Network and Bree moves to Louisville with Tripp, where she is eventually voted on to the State Legislature. There is no denying that these endings are apt for where the characters started back in 2004. Lynette reaches the top of the corporate ladder, Gaby and Carlos are living the high life in a Californian mansion and Bree is paraded as the proud Republican she is.

The scene then switches back to Susan, the first to leave Wisteria Lane; she welcomes new housewife Jennifer and assures her that Wisteria Lane is far from boring. Susan then leaves before taking one last drive around the neighbourhood, as she is surrounded by endless cameos of dead characters from George Williams to Nora Huntingdon, Mike Delfino to Mary Alice Young, all clad in white during the tackiest moment of the series. This, accompanied by Mary Alice’s final poignant narration should have closed the show but instead Cherry chose to present one final cliffhanger as Jennifer is shown looking distressed as she hides a box in her cupboard whilst Mary Alice reminds us that “no secret stays hidden.”

Overlooked… Mary Alice didn’t wrap up proceedings.

What Went Right 

  • Bree avoided prison.
  • Lynette and Tom were reunited.
  • The conclusion of Lynette’s journey as a character.
  • The inclusion of Martha and Mary Alice’s first meeting.
  • The charming montage to Johnny Mathis’ ‘Wonderful! Wonderful!’

What Went Wrong 

  • The exclusion of Lynette, Gaby and Bree in the ultimate scene.
  • Ending on a cliffhanger rather than a poignant Mary Alice quote.
  • Bree settling for Tripp.
  • The girls leaving Wisteria Lane.
  • The unnecessary re-brand of Katherine’s character.
  • The tacky ghosts.
  • Not enough Mary Alice Young – The show didn’t come full circle.
  • The absence of Edie Britt, one of the show’s most popular characters.
  • The rushed, contrived and poorly elaborated finish.

Episode rating: 6/10 – I was expecting a lot better. Perhaps because it was a series finalé and my expectations are high or maybe because Marc Cherry has known how it was going to end for 8 years and he never realised just how awful his plan was.