Modern Family “When A Tree Falls” & Suburgatory “Friendship Fish” Review

When shows get paired together, interesting parallels can be found. Maybe it’s just the nature of comedy in 2012 that all sitcoms share some similarities, but it’s still weird to see shows deal with similar themes on the same night. It’s the TV equivalent of the pet and its owner starting to look alike. This week, we watched as Modern Family and Suburgatory both dealt with the continuing evisceration of a character we used to enjoy and people being placed in uncomfortable situations that we weren’t entirely ready for.

Developing winning characters is a pretty difficult task in today’s TV landscape. With so much offered to viewers, many shows will go to great lengths to make sure that a popular character remains that way. Sometimes it can lead to interesting places, and sometimes it can take us to a place where Cam climbs into a tree dressed as a cat from the musical. In season one, Cam was well-drawn, had multiple dimensions, and was one of the best characters on television. Instead of continuing to cultivate this character, Modern Family completely flattened him out and gave up on a lot of his depth as a character in the service of some cheap laughs about how gay he is. In what was mostly an enjoyable episode, Cam’s time as community theater understudy and part time tree activist just seemed silly by comparison. Furthermore, it caused Lily to have her most lines to date by a significant margin. Any storyline that features that many lines from Lily needs to be taken down off the idea board in the office.

The rest of the episode was rather delightful. I don’t enjoy Jay being humbled by Phil, but at least this time it featured an enraged Phil. Still, Jay is the alpha male and should be handled as such. I wouldn’t mind a Swanson-esque mystique to him. Your alpha male can get humbled a few times a season. I rather enjoyed them doing it this way. Furthermore, I always enjoy anything that involves Alex Dunphy. Ariel Winter is incredibly sharp and witty in her performance. Alex may not be the deepest character on the show, but she may be one of the most consistent. Alex has always has to available to make snarky jokes and outsmart everyone. Even though she is humbled by the end of the episode, they still let her point it out to the audience. It’s a solid way to bring her down a peg while not sacrificing any of her intelligence mystique.

While Modern Family continues to wreck Cam, Suburgatory isn’t doing Lisa Shay any favors either. Last season, I really enjoyed Lisa as Tessa’s Chatswin guide and lover of Malik. Now she is neither of those things. What she has been instead is an increasingly unstable version of herself. It dates back to the Ryan Shay is adopted test. Ever since she became involved in the family secrets, Lisa has slowly spiraled into being just another one of the Chatswin’s Crazies. Where Dallas has shown us depth of character, Lisa continues to recede with her character. It’s a disappointing development for what used to be an enjoyable character. All that being said, she did teach us a very valuable lesson tonight: (Fish) Meat shouldn’t smoke for 4 weeks. Once you eat that, not even the apps on your sexy new tablet can save you from a trip to the hospital. (I hope Jane Levy got good money for that amount of blatant product placement.)

They probably should have went with the smoked friendship tenderloin instead.