Modern Family is possibly the most popular traditional family sitcom on the air today, and so relies fairly heavily on the established tropes of sitcom plotting. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se, but it can begin to feel a bit stodgy, and when an episode like “New Year’s Eve” comes along and lets things breathe a little, you realize just how annoying the episode that came before it truly were.
The show has a tendency to lean on the plot device of someone having to keep some kind of information or plan secret from one of their loved ones. It’s an easy engine for conflict, but when overused, it can make us forget why, exactly, any of these people are spending time with each other to begin with. So when “New Year’s Eve” throws each of the couples into their own boats, and pushes them off to have fun and bump up against conflict together, it’s more fun than the show has had in a long time.
Cameron and Mitchell’s adventures in trying to feel young again were fun enough, as was Jay discovering Billy Dee Williams playing a poker game in the back of his beat-down hotel, leading to the most successful out of any of the New Year’s nights in the family. The one sore thumb was Claire and Phil’s encounter with the nudists; while I appreciated seeing them as an affectionate couple, the ending just felt a little cheap.
What’s maybe most exciting about “New Year’s Eve” is the glimpse we’re given of a new road for plotlines with Alex and Haley. It’s a million times more fun to see them team up together than it is to watch them butt heads yet again, and Luke’s puberty is the perfect common enemy for the show to utilize to unite them. Haley resorting to her own mother’s tactics was great, and I hope we keep going down this path and get to see her struggle with the possibility of turning into Claire.
All in all, “New Year’s Eve” was a solid episode, tight and not annoying, with a few good laughs. Modern Family can do a lot worse, and has. How did y’all feel?