Fizbo's cold opening is a little different from all the other Modern Family episodes, jumping straight into the aftermath of a horrible incident by presenting the family waiting at the hospital. The structure of the episode also caters to this mystery by slowly revealing bit by bit the reaction of everyone as they wait for the doctor's news. Most sitcoms have a few of these episodes where they might vary the structure via a narrative device like flashbacks to present the plot in a unique way, but it's not always done right, or necessary. Fizbo however sets up the reveal by making the audience look left and right.
From the get go there are many clues that hint at the misfortune at the very end. A crossbow, a 25 feet rock climbing tower, a poisonous scorpion, even a zipline which Phil manages to continuously get in the way of. It's genius to bypass all these but also include them in the final sequence of events which leads Luke breaking his arm by falling on some beads. The climax manages to not rely just on pure accidents like most shows would, but incorporates several character's mannerisms into the hilarious mishap, like Phil's fear of clowns, Cam's moment of ironic fear and the wooing of Manny's female friend.
The air-tight script allows such characters and events to come together in such a perfect way. All the story lines come together but are all allowed their own time to develop and fit seamlessly into the overarching birthday party plot. The goofiness of Dylan allows for Haley to release the scorpion and set up the chain of events. Fizbo arrives and begins to delight and entertain, giving Bianca the toy balloon doggie that later is important in Manny winning her affections, which only happens because of Jay's crossbow being misfired because Phil is running from Fizbo. And in the end, Luke gets a cool comb to scratch inside his cast. It's so rare that a show like Modern Family, with so many characters in the main cast, manages to incorporate every single one in a meaningful and funny way but writers Brad Walsh & Paul Corrigan succeed beyond doubt.
To do all this but still maintain hilarious moment after moment is very impressive. Ty Burrell's reactions to each Fizbo appearance is exactly the sort of phobia we'd expect Phil to overreact to, while the innocence of Manny's flirting shines through: "I've tried everything; opening doors, having a milk sent over in the cafeteria.." Cam's Fizbo persona is probably the scene stealer. The clown manages to switch from humour to seriousness and back so easily; pulling out a novelty clock after standing up to the gas station jerk is comedy gold. And we still recognise the Cam underneath it all; he tries unsuccessfully to humour his father-in-law, and cause mayhem at the sight of the scorpion, just before Mitchell's recount of his bravery earlier in the day. Modern Family's comedic timing, like usual, is spot on.
Fizbo knows how to reign it in at the end, even if the trademark voice-over over soft guitar still occurs. It manages to tie it up without being over-sentimental and still offering a few laughs. One of the Modern Family classics.
- Even minor character's like the Reptile Lady get great lines. "I used to have a cat."
- "I've finally decided what we're making." "Kids bored?"
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