“Best Men” is the Modern Family industrial complex chugging away at full cylinders, or whatever the real version is of the metaphors I’m mixing with that statement. It exemplifies everything the show aims to be: dependable, occasionally funny; nothing radical to get overly excited about, but nothing horribly disappointing, either. Some of the jokes land, some don’t, and the same goes for the times the show shoots for earnest sentiment. And, in maybe the biggest shock of the episode, I actually laughed at something Lily said. It was her whisper at the end, in the fight with Elizabeth Banks.
And Banks is as good a place as any to start. We’ve only seen Sal once before, but she feels like any recurring character out of any television comedy institution. If Modern Family keeps barreling forward, as all signs indicate it probably will, I’m certain we’ll see her again, with some flippant remark about her divorce setting the stage to let her play Ghost of Parties Past to Mitchell and Cam. Which is all perfectly fine; it’s a nice angle that’s worked before (like the series of gay bars they tried to attend in an earlier episode this season), and this time, it ends on a sweeter note, of appreciating things like lining your cabinets together.
The other most enjoyable storyline was Claire and Haley’s next step towards reconciliation, a gradual character shift that’s been happening for a while, and that I’ve been a fan of. Taking the rebellious daughter (which we’ve always been told is exactly the kind of daughter Claire was herself) and forcing her to side with her mother, the old matron of teenage oppression, is perfect, and when it happens because Alex is secretly cool and neither knows how t handle it, I’m all for it. It’s a good week for the ladies Dunphy.
The gentlemen Dunphy, however, are stuck in something that feels completely contrived and forced, while Jay and Gloria are stuck making the same boob jokes they’ve always made about Sofia Vergara. There, too, we get an attempt at sentiment, in the form of a mother realizing the kindness and skill in handling children of her nanny, but it just kind of farts out. To be fair, my negative impression of that part of the story could all be sourced from my intense annoyance with almost everything the show does with Manny. But, some lame chunks aside, “Best Men” never loses momentum, and it hits enough that all my complaints feel, even to myself, like pointing out fleas on an elephant’s legs, or something; it doesn’t really matter, in the end. Modern Family has built for itself a sturdy, long-lasting engine, and, most of the time, it works just fine even with some fleas. (Again with the mixed metaphors here.)