Family Mashup: Slapstick, sheds and sibling separation

ERIC STONESTREET, JESSE TYLER FERGUSON
Eric McCandless / ABC/Courtesy

This week, while “Modern Family” relied on physical humor for some quick and easy laughs, “Young Sheldon” devoted its half-hour to showcase the bond that has developed between each of its compelling characters.

‘This Is Us’

New episodes of “This Is Us” will premiere Jan. 9.

‘Modern Family’

“Modern Family” competently uses its special brand of daffiness for the above-average “He Said, She Shed.” Joe (Jeremy Maguire) is finally allocated the center stage, Phil (Ty Burrell) and Luke (Nolan Gould) participate in another round of inane father-son shenanigans, and Pam (Dana Powell) manages to not resort to her usual (read: grating) antics for a whole half-hour.

The titular “she shed” in this week’s episode is a reference to Claire’s (Julie Bowen) attempts to build a shed for some downtime in her backyard. Phil and Luke wanted a batting cage, but the duo’s ambitions go up in flames after Phil loses to Claire in a staring contest.

Only, Claire doesn’t fare much better. She receives a rejection letter from the homeowners association for her “she shed”. Understandably furious, Claire decides to confront the HOA over its decision directly.

However, it turns out that Luke forged the rejection letter after mistaking Phil’s weird blinking after the staring contest for a winking go-ahead to sabotage his mother’s plans. Apparently, Phil has accidentally “winked” a bunch of times before — so there’s no telling what else Luke has done.

Phil cannot warn Claire about the misunderstanding in time, and she ends up furiously smacking down the HOA. Just as Claire’s anger towards Phil rises, Luke whips up a believable excuse and quickly reconciles his mom and dad.

Ultimately, Phil and Luke do end up getting their batting cage, but Claire uses it for her downtime instead.

The slapstick humor between Phil and Claire is a delight to watch in this episode. Even Luke’s special brand of lowbrow, Joey Tribbiani-esque humor is utilized well.

While the Dunphy family is battling over the “she shed,” Joe is showing off some some serious golf skills. His natural talent is noticed by Jay (Ed O’Neill), who jumps at the chance to intensively train and mentor his son. Gloria (Sofía Vergara) is concerned that Joe will inherit some of her passionate competitiveness for sports and tries to dissuade Jay from putting too much pressure on Joe. Predictably, Jay does not listen. In a tournament, he riles up Joe so much that Joe starts huffing and puffing and smacking everything in sight. Jay quickly tries to do damage control and rushes Joe away from the tournament.

Over at Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam’s (Eric Stonestreet) house, everyone is scrambling to throw a party for Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons). The potential to spend more time with Lily, who has consistently been the most underdeveloped character in season nine, is quickly robbed when Pam enters the show and quickly devolves the whole plot into another Cam meltdown.

During a tense conversation about families between Cam and Mitchell, Pam reveals that Cam’s father was unfaithful to his mother during his childhood. The revelation upsets Cam, but he tries to keep it together for the sake of his daughter. As “Modern Family” continuously reminds us, Cam can’t do that, and his passive-aggressiveness during the party convinces Mitchell to take him to see Mitchell’s therapist. Yet Mitchell hardly turns out to be the mature person in the room. Ultimately, he turns therapy into a competition for who can be healed the fastest, once Cam magically diagnoses and treats his own insecurities after one conversation with the therapist.

The whole thing devolves into an unentertaining mess. Another competition between Mitchell and Cam is unneeded at this point. Furthermore, whether intentional or unintentional, “Modern Family” has gone out of its way to show that Mitchell and Cam are far from the best fathers in season nine.

The show continued its trend of sacrificing character development for cheap laughs when it comes to the Pritchett household. Going forward, “Modern Family” needs to treat all of its motley group with the care and attention that they deserve.

‘Young Sheldon’

An Eagle Feather, A String Bean, and an Eskimo

Monty Brinton / CBS / Courtesy

“An Eagle Feather, a String Bean, and an Eskimo” is an amusing enough episode of “Young Sheldon”. Besides Georgie (Montana Jordan), whose character has been stuck in neutral since the show began, everyone gets a chance to shine in this well-paced half-hour.

Sheldon’s (Iain Armitage) intelligence, as well as his continuous participation in class, becomes a sore point for some of his instructors, causing the principal of the high school to start exploring some other options for Sheldon’s education. The principal pitches a private school in Dallas to George Sr. (Lance Barber) and Mary (Zoe Perry) as an alternative for Sheldon, noting that Sheldon’s remarkable intellect could get him a full-time scholarship at the school.

George Sr. and Mary understand that the school in Dallas could be a great academic opportunity for Sheldon but are nevertheless concerned about being far away from their son. After both Meemaw (Annie Potts) and Sheldon himself voice their approval of the school, the parents temporarily put their doubts aside and decide to respect their son’s wishes.

The ensuing goodbye is hard for everyone in the family. A conversation between Sheldon and Missy (Raegan Revord) — about how Missy is like the string beans on Sheldon’s plate that he will always eat — proves to be the highlight of the episode.

However, Sheldon is not gone for long. Everyone (except Georgie) begins to feel his absence in the house. After overhearing an argument between Meemaw and Mary, George Sr. reaches his breaking point and goes to Dallas to get Sheldon back.

Sheldon, too, hasn’t fared any better with the move. He can’t adjust to the habits of his hosts in Dallas and starts longing for the dinners he used to share with his family.

In the car ride back home, it doesn’t take long for Sheldon to thank George Sr. for coming to get him.

Though it took a couple of episodes, “Young Sheldon” seems like it has finally found its groove. This episode in particular gets bonus points for finally developing Missy, a character only distinguished by her sardonic humor in past episodes.

If “Young Sheldon” can do the same for Georgie, it could potentially set itself up for a refreshingly consistent freshman season.

Contact Arjun Sarup at [email protected].

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