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TV That Matters: Modern Family and @midnight

By John Thomas Columnist

Man, oh man, this was such a sexist episode. As often happens in “Modern Family,” the separate households have similar plots that converge at the end, though they usually aren’t quite as indistinguishable as they were last week.

Gloria, Cam and Claire each occupy a different part of the nagging-wife spectrum – a spectrum devised by casually misogynistic husbands across America. Gloria takes too long to get ready, Cam manipulates Mitch, and Claire won’t let Luke stay home alone because she’s concerned about his safety. I’m not asking for a novel, or even quirky plot from “Modern Family” any given week.

The show excels at waxing comedy about, let’s face it, rather conventional family dynamics, but I expect a slightly more compelling, progressive framework than this.

You might question why I grouped Cam in with the other wives, however I would suggest that you direct that question to “Family’s” writers’ room instead.

The reason I watch the show is the uproarious banter that comes out of the Tucker-Pritchett household, but I think that that banter isn’t served well in episodes where it stems from one conflict between Mitch and Cam. Sure, maybe one overriding theme, like Cam’s insecurity last week, but the whole “We’re wearing the same outfit, better do something about that” feels so uninspired that I felt myself rejecting the possibility of finding their interactions all that laughable.

The rest of the episode isn’t quite as much of a wash. I always enjoy a good physical gag from Luke, and his “Walking Dead” inspired paintball assault on his mother when she made a surprise trip home to check on him was good enough to garner a few chuckles.

Also, is it just me, or is any episode of a sitcom helped by a rendition of Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia”? That almost saved the episode for me, and I fondly remember the episode of “30 Rock” where Gladys Knight herself performs the ditty.



Comedy. Twitter. Television. Comedy Twitter. Comedy television. These are all sentence fragments that I don’t find objectionable in the slightest. “Comedy twitter television,” however, turns out to be a horrific abomination of all three forms of entertainment. I really hate that I had to write that, because I love all of the comedians involved with the episode of “@midnight” I reviewed.

When it comes to the panelists, Kurt Braunohler is a personal idol of mine, Andy Daly stars in my absolute favorite sketch from “MadTV” that borders on the sublime, and I’ve been a fan of Brendon Walsh’s Twitter for awhile.

As far as the host, Chris Hardwick, while he might not be my favorite comedian, I think he might be just one of the greatest guys in the business, as he always comes off as pleasantly effervescent, optimistic and kind. So it’s with a heavy heart that I admit I didn’t enjoy “@midnight,” save for a few fleeting moments.

What’s killing the show is definitely its Twitter-dependent format. It’s ostensibly a competition, where the three panelists compete to deliver the best jokes about different current events portrayed through various Tweets. Sometimes it’s not even that though, and the show takes away the comedians’ agency as Hardwick just asks them which tweet was actually tweeted.

In fact, many of the questions boil down to which ridiculous tweet on the screen was actually tweeted. Too many if you ask me. All of this stunts the comedic flow of the episode, and it’s not a ridiculous enough premise to tap into the universal absurdity that all great comedy draws upon.

It’s hard here not to make a comparison to Braunohler’s own comedy game show that aired a couple summers ago – “Bunk.” An improvised game show, “Bunk” was wacky in the best sense of the word. It was like a prank that they were all playing on themselves. “Bunk” is by far my favorite unscripted show of all time, and it’s a damn shame that it only lasted ten episodes. I wish that Hardwick had incorporated more of the perverted, yet childish wonder and innovation from “Bunk” into “@midnight.” I think that with such a spirit, even a Twitter based show could be more cohesive, and ultimately more interesting. As it stands though, “@midnight” is just not worth watching. I hope that changes in the weeks to come.

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