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Modern Family - I Love a Parade - Review: "God Bless America, Hold for Applause"



"Has it been a year already?"
-Joe Pritchett

Yes, yes it has Joe. It's Fall again and that means the start of the 10th and potentially final season of Modern Family. The tone of the premiere is one that feels familiar, but in a good way. Many of the issues tackled during the season premiere are ones we've seen before on Modern Family - child facing the fears of moving on in to college and fear of your kids growing up and missing out on all the traditions developed growing up. But these are some of the themes that made Modern Family a high quality show, so getting back to basics in a way is a good way to kick off this 10th season.

As in typical Modern Family season premier fashion, we join the families during the Summer to see what they were up to while we were gone. Specifically, this one takes place over the 4th of July. Gloria and Jay are particularly excited as it's the one holiday a year you get to grill and blow things up. "Easter, take note." But things really kick into gear when Jay finds out that the Grand Marshall of the 4th of July Parade has been "MeToo'd" and they needed Jay to fill in. Check that one off the bucket list for ole Jay Pritchett. It seemed like things were going to be perfect because Manny was about to get back home from his Summer cross country trip. Things were looking up in the Pritchett house.

Well, except that Manny had suddenly developed an irrational fear of bridges and was in fact, not going to make it home in time. Though a domineering Lily was doing a great job of motivating him through insults throughout the episode.

Manny wasn't the only one dealing with fear. In the Dunphy house, Phil was super excited that for the first time ever he was going to be able to take part in the Father/Son hot dog eating contest with Luke. After weeks of prep including Phil dressing up in a hot dog costume to wake Luke in the middle of the night - "An angry stomach is 12% larger" - the 4th of July contest was upon them. However, Luke's mind was on more focused on his upcoming community college classes and worrying about which classes he should take.

Elsewhere in the Dunphy house, Alex and Claire don't get much to do this episode as Alex had spent literally the entire Summer on the couch in a onesie and Claire eventually slumped into the sloth as well. Somehow this leads to a very minor storyline where Claire thinks she has lost her ability to perceive what her family is actually going through. Alex and Claire's stories are probably the only misfires of this episode and that's all about all there is to say about them.

Haley, however, does have some fears she's facing as well and, of course, it's about her love life. At the beginning of the episode, Haley is preparing to bid farewell to Arvin as he leaves for an overseas trip. While Haley on the surface appears to be fearing that Arvin is leaving her for good and stresses to her family to not be so weird so that he actually wants to come back - but in reality, she's questioning the relationship (as she should...he's no Andy!). But perhaps most shocking is that it was the revelation that back when she was in the hospital, Dylan returned and got into her head - Dylan is actually a divorcee (from eerily similar relationship to Haley/Arvin) and drops some shockingly deep thoughts: "If you are always telling yourself how lucky you are, it's because your afraid to ask yourself how happy you are."

Meanwhile, at the Tucker-Prichett house, we find Cam and Mitch deep into now caring for their nephew with Cam's sister in jail for "accidentally" walking out of a store with another woman's purse. They find themselves stressing out over the fact that they promised to send her a video of young Cal
for her birthday, which was now weeks ago. Problem is, they are worried they haven't been doing a good enough job with him as he doesn't know his ABC's and isn't particularly skilled at anything. Their solution - deception of course, using stage tricks. What results is a hilariously obvious video with Cal on puppet strings and using peanut-butter to make it look like he's talking via obvious dub-over.

At the Parade/carnival, Cam and Mitch are still doing their best to find ways to show off Cal's skills - but unfortunately he's not even good at "waterboarding" clowns at the carnival games. But, there's one thing they did teach him - how to give a good hug. Which is sweet and all...except it's not really a skill. Or is it? A light bulb went off for Cam when he saw a "mutton busting" competition - or basically a sheep rodeo. Strap on little Cal to a sheep with those strong huggin' arms and sure enough, they have something to proudly show off to Pam in prison.

In the medical tent at the carnival, Haley was able to track down Dylan with some serious social media stalking and confronts him for "getting in her head." Of course, Dylan has no idea what she's talking about but once again shows surprising wisdom by getting to the bottom of the situation - Haley is the one questioning her own relationship with Arvin. A defensive Haley assured Dylan she didn't still wonder about him by giving him a kiss that definitely meant nothing...except her facial expressions when she walks o
ff says other things.

For Luke, the hot dog eating contest represented the uphill challenge of college and his fear of failing at community college which would pretty much ruin his life. With Phil's help, he confronted both at the same time. "You lose 100% of the hot dog contests you don't enter" - should definitely be in the volume of Phil-osophy books. In a great father/son moment, Phil's advice helps assure Luke about enrolling, encouraging him to take one thing at a time.  "Just worry about the dog in front of you." Again, great advice from the master. Advice that also leads to winning the contest!

But what about the Delgado-Prichett's? Well, the ribbon cutting for the parade did not go the way Jay had planned in his mind. And it was because Gloria was clearly distracted and upset when she received phone call from Manny. It took Claire showing up and gaining back her intuition to realize Gloria was upset that Manny was not going to be able to make it back and thus they would miss their annual apple pie and fireworks tradition.

I was actually surprised by some character growth him from Jay, who in the past perhaps would've made it about himself and sulked over missing the chance to give his Grand Marshall speech - but instead he is clearly more worried about Gloria and her feelings. With Claire's help, Jay tracks down some illegal fireworks and Claire arranges a video call with Manny (live from some diner) to share a slice of apple pie virtually while Alex sets off the fireworks. The tradition remains in tact after all.



Random thoughts:

-Overall, not a spectacular episode by any stretch but certainly an improvement over a lot of what we saw in Season 9. There seems to be some ground worked laid for some actual character growth this season, which would be exciting to see.

-Mitch and Cam were at their best when Lily was a young child. I was hesitant for the show to add another young child to the cast after Joe, but this episode brought some comfort that it could work out. And I'm actually glad they seemed to have aged up Cal a bit - with it being mentioned he was "huge" for his age.

-Speaking of child actors, Joe has a knack for stealing scenes he's in. Now that all the other kids are grown, they have lost all of the cute factor the show had back in the day...another reason I'm less opposed to Joe and Cal being around.

-This looks like the beginning of the end of Haley/Arvin, or at least I certainly hope. The chemistry was just was never there. I'm on the fence about Dylan, if he's back in the picture. Based on Haley's reaction after her kiss, it would appear we will be seeing more of him. On one hand, it was nice Haley had moved on from him...on the other hand, they always had great chemistry and he appears to have grown a lot since we've last really spent a lot of time with him. I'll reserve judgment for now.

-"I spent half my childhood in a Banana Republic. It was the only store in my village that had air conditioning." - Gloria

-"Mitchell is molding young Cal's brain while I handle the young boy's body." - Cam
"It's amazing we're not in prison." - Mitch

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