by Aprille Hanson
When “Modern Family” premiered in 2009, it gave us a taste of a variety of family types dealing with the absurdity of life. After 11 years, there’s countless memorable moments and episodes, but here are my top five:
1. Run for Your Wife, Season 1, episode 6
Not only is “Run for Your Wife” the best episode of the series, it’s one of the best of any comedy series ever. With typically three or more storylines running at once, it can be hard for each to be pure comedic gold but this one nails it. Phil (Ty Burrell) tries to bond with Claire (Julie Bowen), assuming she’s feeling sad because it’s the first day back to school when all she wants to do is go for a quiet run -- explaining he really doesn’t have to go with since she’s much faster than him. This turns into a challenge that ends with Phil getting hit by his daughter Haley (Sarah Hyland), who is learning to drive. Meanwhile, Manny (Rico Rodriguez) wants to wear a traditional Columbian poncho to school, something Jay (Ed O’Neill) discourages because fifth graders are mean as is -- while Gloria (Sofia Vergara) defends it. And what is by far the best storyline, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) takes a break from baby-proofing the house at Cameron’s urging to dance with daughter Lily to Cher. He accidentally bumps her head on the doorway and after rushing her to the doctor, they accidentally lock her in the car. I can still hear Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) screaming “I SWEAR TO GOD I’M GONNA BREAK IT” as he is rushing toward the window with a trash can as Mitchell explains to the 911 dispatcher “We locked our baby in the car and people are judging us!” Each storyline was so creative, each of the adult actors' unique talents were on full display and for anyone who wanted to understand what the hype around “Modern Family” was and is, this is the episode to watch.
2. The Incident, Season 1, episode 4
“Modern Family” has always done a fantastic job utilizing guest characters and Shelley Long as DeDe, Jay Pritchett’s ex-wife, was likely the best. DeDe shows up for a surprise visit, hoping to make amends after “The Incident,” in which she had to be carried out drunk from Jay and Gloria’s wedding, mocking Gloria’s Columbian accent after giving an awful wedding toast. DeDe visits each house, trying to play to Mitchell’s emotions, trying but failing not to insult Claire and desperately trying to apologize to Jay and Gloria, which will allow her to move on with her new love as they move to exotic “French Canada.” As she’s crazy, it ends with her trying to strangle Gloria. While the episode on its own is hysterical, we get on of the classic moments when boyfriend Dylan sings a song he wrote for Haley in front of the whole family called “In the Moonlight (Do Me).” The look on each relative’s face is still one of the best moments of the series.
3. Fizbo, Season 1, episode 9
When it comes to a series of unfortunate events, “Fizbo” is the episode to watch. It opens with the family at the hospital, going back to retrace how exactly the events of the day unfolded around Luke’s birthday. Mitchell doesn’t want husband Cameron to break out his clown Fizbo outfit, almost as much as Phil who is terrified of clowns, possibly because he found one dead once. Then Jay insists on getting Luke (Nolan Gould) a crossbow and the kids are fascinated by Jungle Tanya, who brings a bunch of reptiles and other creepy creatures. Haley releases a scorpion after boyfriend Dylan is a little too close to Jungle Tanya and Claire is trying desperately to make her craft table interesting. When Cameron defends Mitchell against a jerk trying to pick a fight, in the full Fizbo outfit, he’s no longer embarrassed by his husband’s clown costume … sort of. All the main storylines and the smaller subplots combine when Fizbo freaks out at the scorpion causing a domino effect leading to a crossbow deflating a bouncy castle. The episode was a great introduction for Cameron’s Fizbo, who appeared throughout the series.
4. The Prescott, Season 11, episode 10
While there’s bound to be misses over 11 seasons, it’s always a nice surprise to get an episode like “The Prescott” during the final season. When Alex (Ariel Winter) moves into a luxury apartment complex, paid for by her company, the family takes turns pretending to be residents to access the swanky amenities, despite specifically being told not to do it. Jay settles in for a movie before trying to find a food critic he despises and Phil, the “Foodie in a Hoodie” critic tries to get into the apartment’s restaurant to review the slider. Claire wants to get her hair done by Gloria’s enemy; Gloria gets stuck on a pool slide; Manny and Luke try to pick up older women and Mitchell and Cameron just want to meet David and Victoria Beckham. Higgins, actor Stephen Merchant, is hilarious as the concierge in the middle of all the madness. This episode was really a love letter from the writers, showing off how “Modern Family” has always flawlessly weaved in the different story plots.
5. Connection Lost, Season 6, episode 16
“Connection Lost” really should top any “Modern Family” episode list and not because it’s the most hysterical, but because it’s shown entirely on a MacBook Pro screen. A range of Apple products are on display, most prominently the Facetime function of an iPhone. Claire tries to get ahold of Haley after a fight and when she can’t, she starts virtually connecting with everyone else in the family. The show’s co-creator Steve Levitan told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015 when the episode debuted he got the idea after Facetiming with his daughter. It wasn’t so much about product placement, but “This just came from life, and it made sense,” he said in 2015. In a show that put the modern version of families on screen, it was such an innovative move to bring technology front and center.