by Todd McFliker
With more than 11 million weekly viewers, ABC’s Modern Family (Wednesdays, 9/8c) remains one of the most popular shows on television. In last week’s episode, “Earthquake,” creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan’s three modern families continue to deliver comedy, insight and lessons on the challenges that face America’s increasingly diverse families.
As the episode opens, it’s chaos as usual in the Dunphy house. Phil’s feelings were crushed that his wife had to call a plumber to repair a bathtub he’d promised to fix years earlier. “Well, I guess I’m not a professional plumber, but I have spent a huge amount of time in that tub,” he says.
When the quake struck, Luke wasn’t injured until he ran into a wall and knocked himself out. Claire got trapped in a bathroom with the plumber. Haley figures she’ll use her Mother’s situation to get out of studying for the SAT and head out to a party. And Phil realizes he’ll be in big trouble for never anchoring the cabinet to the wall, so he gets a bright idea: He’ll leave his wife trapped in the bathroom while he quickly secures the cabinet. “It’s like they say, sometimes when God closes a door, he closes it so hard that your wife can’t get out.”
Stuck in the bathroom, Claire discusses parenting with the plumber. He helps her realize that the reason her daughters drive her so crazy is that they are just like her. As a result, Claire thinks twice about being so harsh.
Nathan Lane returns as Cameron and Mitchell’s flamboyant friend, Pepper. The pair looks for an excuse for missing his get together, as Pepper’s theme parties have become too much work. Pepper’s fiestas have included Studio 54th of July Barbecue and Passover’s Seder-day Night Fever. While pondering which reason they’ll use, the sudden earthquake hits and provides some new options that lead the couple to begin damaging their own home.
At the Pritchett place, Jay claims that he’s done with church for good a moment before the earthquake hits. Despite the tremor, he still goes golfing even if Gloria thinks it’s a sign. After insisting God could give him a more direct sign rather than shaking all of Southern California, Jay backs over his own golf clubs.
Young Manny is immediately influenced by his stepfather’s anti-churchgoing belief, and decides to skip Sunday services and go golfing as well. On the course, Manny continually questions Jay about his personal theory of God and church. When the kid is told there’s no hell, he begins worrying about the bad people living among the good in heaven. Manny hyperventilates after pondering his afterlife and the spiritual repercussions of skipping church, insisting Jay’s theory is too weak to risk the wrath of the divine.
The mockumentary’s enduring popularity as a show families watch together says much about America’s increasing acceptance of diverse portrayals of love, family and commitment. In this week’s episode, “Strangers on a Treadmill,” Phil prepares to deliver a humorous speech at a realtors’ convention while Claire tries desperately to talk him out of it. Haley advises her little sister on how to be cool. Jay and Gloria attend a Latin quinceañera, the celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday, and Mitchell has a hard time getting Cameron to change his wardrobe.