I don’t know if there’s any device that epitomizes the classic sitcom more than a surprise party. Has Modern Family given us one before? If not, “Party Crasher” is more than enough, giving us the whole double-secret shebang, with Manny falling for the bluff and bringing home a girl to what he assumes is an empty house, then kissing her in front of a giant crowd of family and classmates. It’s all very pat and simple, which is fine, but the best part of this side of the plot is Jay and Gloria’s relishing of committing various minor crimes. It’s a fun moment for a couple that isn’t always allowed to have them, and I wish there was more of that here.
For the Dunphy family, it’s more of Haley reenacting her mother’s own youth, this time by dating a disgusting older man who sells jeans and “is amazing at telling the age of a soul.” Kenny, this man, is funny enough, but there’s not much here overall, and instead of following the (in my opinion) more fruitful path we saw last week, where Haley slowly gains responsibility on her path to adulthood, instead she just becomes a petulant child once again.
Over at Cam and Mitchell’s, Lily remains television’s creepiest child. No offense to the child actor, who I’m sure is delightful, but something about the way she floats around, getting injured and reacting as if nothing happened is all very disconcerting. Cam and Mitchell’s emotional kerfluffle here is also classic sitcom, a case of neglecting to communicate that was more annoying than entertaining. That said, the idea of the two fathers getting jealous over who gets to play-marry their daughter was very charming, and the way Cam got way too into it was perfectly in-character.
What Modern Family gives us every week is a dependable family sitcom, and I can’t fault it for doing so; in that way, “Party Crasher” is a perfectly competent episode. I just wish the show would give itself a little more room to breathe; let Haley mature, and let Jay and Gloria have their own small-scale, suburban Bonnie and Clyde situation. It could do the show some good.