If you missed my review of last week’s Modern Family season premiere, check it out here.
Modern Family received many accolades for its first season. From “saving the sit-com” to its portrayal of different family types with respect and aplomb, the show garnered kudos from many corners. If there was one criticism of the show, that morphed into a bit of a movement, it was the fact that Mitchell and Cameron, the loving same-sex couple, were never shown kissing or giving each other any show of affection other than a hug. For many of us who support same-sex marriage and an accurate portrayal of gay and lesbian relationships in the media, it was a bit odd that a series that seemed to have no hesitance in showing a loving, devoted same-sex couple, would not have them demonstrate the most common sign of love. The series’ creators promised that a kiss for Mitchell and Cameron was always being planned, but it was with great excitement amongst many (though admittedly, not all. Just check out the comments in my previous review for an example of a differing opinion) that the title of this week’s episode was greeted. The only question remained, how would a show with such great comic timing and a nice helping of pathos treat this semi-monumental moment? In my opinion, perfectly.
“The Kiss” centered not solely around the physical act of kissing, but also about the relative importance of what a person presents to the public at large. Alex, scared by her sister that she would be considered a lesbian if she didn’t kiss a boy soon (she is thirteen after all, according to Haley), asked the boy she liked, Jeremy, to kiss her…in front of his entire soccer team, mortifying and embarrassing her to no end. Phil was excited that he’d finally be viewed as helpful by Jay. Gloria was worried that her expression of her cultural traditions is being lost. Claire has always put on a front to her children that she was a “good girl,” despite evidence to the contrary. Mitchell, finally, has never liked demonstrating his love in public, regardless of the sex of his partner.
These situations themselves, of course, were recognized and dealt with throughout the course of this very funny episode. Jeremy shows up and says he’d like to kiss Alex, but she decides they should get to know each other better. Phil fixes Jay’s printer issue and gets the recognition he craved. Gloria gets Jay to recognize and honor her traditions by embarrassing him. Claire admits to Alex that she was indeed picked up by a cop for skinny dipping with her boyfriend and did get a bad reputation, but that eventually passed (albeit in ten to fifteen years). Mitchell comes to grips with his lack of affection after admitting that it was the lack of affection from his father that made him that way. It was here, in the situation that led to Mitchell’s (and Jay’s) realization, that the excellence of the episode arose.
It would have been easy for the writers to use the same set up of Mitchell physically dodging Cameron’s kisses, and then have the payoff be an at-first begrudging, but eventually undeniably passionate kiss between the two at the end of the episode. If that transpired, however, it would have felt like the kiss was done just so the audience would get off the show’s back. Instead, “the kiss’ that is referred to in the episode title was actually the one between Mitchell and Jay. Claire and Gloria inform Jay that his lack of outward affection has had a profound effect on how his children show affection to others. If Jay could more outwardly express his love for his family, perhaps Mitchell could as well. It is revealed that Jay hasn’t kissed Mitchell since his son was twelve. What wold have been the unfulfilling pushing and prodding of Cameron and Mitchell to kiss, turned into a very fulfilling and earned moment between father and son. They are, indeed, begrudging at first, but a meaningful expression of their mutual love is eventually displayed. This was the breakthrough, monumental moment, not Mitchell and Cameron.
So, what about Mitchell and Cameron? Well, this is where the brilliance of the episode, thanks to the writers and especially the director (Scott Ellis), comes in. After kissing Mitchell, Jay turns to Claire to show his affection for his daughter, as well. The camera then cuts to Jay kissing Claire in the front right of the screen. Since the audience has been directed to watch them, our eyes go there first. It is behind them, further back in the room on the couch, that Mitchell sits on Cameron’s lap and gives him a small, sweet, understated kiss. It is a kiss that is completely ordinary in every way, which is exactly why it is perfect. The whole point the show tries to make on a weekly basis is that homosexual relationships are the same as heterosexual relationships, with the same concerns, trials, victories, everything. In downplaying Mitchell and Cameron’s kiss, and allowing the familial/father-son breakthrough be the actual surprise of the episode, Modern Family was able to satisfy all parties, while well-servicing the show, too.
All of that aside, I thought “The Kiss” was much stronger than last week’s season premiere. It didn’t seem like the characters were being reintroduced to the audience again; they were just who they are. I thought the different storylines worked well together, and there were some very funny moments (Cameron flipping over the couch, the post-embarrassment Alex/Claire/Haley fight, Manny and Luke being scared by Phil in the attic). If I had any quibble, it was that it sure seemed like everyone was yelling the whole episode. It’s common now for me to turn down my TV’s volume when commercials come on because they are always so much louder than the show I’m watching, but I actually had to turn down parts of the show, too. Maybe I’m just becoming an old crank at 32. Oh, and I didn’t mind the voiceover at the end of the episode as much as I usually do. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy Sofia Vergara’s accent so much. Anyway, here were some of the great lines from the episode:
Claire: How come we never have the same number of containers and lids. How could they ever get separated?
Phil: Resentment. Money issues. A younger lid.
Phil (a little later, holding up a container and lid): He blew his lid when she tried to contain him!
Cameron (to the camera): One time, on New Year’s Eve, Mitchell tried to give me a High Five. Two things: One, gays don’t High Five. And two…gays don’t High Five.
Cameron: You don’t like Kiss Buggy?
Jay (calling on the phone): Hey Phil. It’s Jay.
Phil: I’ll go get Claire.
Jay: I’m actually calling for you.
Phil lets out a high pitched scream of excitement
Haley (to Alex): If you don’t kiss a boy soon, everyone is going to think you’re a lesbian. You totally have the sandals for it!”
Alex (to Haley): You’re the one who said I had to kiss him or I was a lesbian.
Claire: Did you say that to her?!?
Haley: Don’t turn this on me. Look at her shoes!
Gloria (to Jay): Because of you, your son can’t kiss his own lover.
Mitchell (simultaneously): We don’t use that word.
Cameron (simultaneously): We really don’t like that word.
So, that’s what I have for “The Kiss.” Again, I thought the issue of Cameron and Mitchell actually kissing was very well-played, and more importantly, the issue was handled in a manner that served the show. Further, the episode was really funny, and had me audibly guffawing a number of times. This is the Modern Family I really enjoy watching, so I hope it continues going forward. What did you think of the episode? Did you like the way the kiss was handled? Would you had rather a big to-do? How do you compare this week to other Modern Family episodes? Please leave your comments below or in our Forums. I’ll be back next week with another review. Until then, I’m off to be delivered home in a squad car with nothing more than my underwear and a police blanket.