This year’s freshman comedy champ, Modern Family, winds up its season with a sprinkling of something for everyone in “Family Portrait.” Phil ends up in hot water with Claire, but not for the reason he thinks. (As Phil likes to say–he’s clueless.) Cameron’s outgoing nature clashes with Mitchell’s shyness. Claire obsesses. Jay rants. Gloria cracks wise and looks hot. Manny acts suave. Luke ends up wrapped in plastic. And through it all, the love shines through.

This week’s Modern Family parenting lessons:

Lesson 1: Life isn’t perfect. When things go wrong, just throw mud.

Throughout the episode, Claire obsessively plans for the ultimate family portrait. She expects everyone to wear white, smile nicely, and look happy for the camera. Instead, the couples are fighting, the kids are cranky, and the photographer is losing the light.

An exasperated Jay lectures his grown children to lighten up and calm down. (Naturally he yells his advice.) Claire yells back that she doesn’t like being this way–consumed with tiny details, seeking perfection–and taunts Jay to find a quick and easy fix. He responds by smearing mud on her pristine white blouse. The ensuing mud fight messes up everyone’s clothes–and ends up yielding the wonderful family photo Claire wanted all along.

Lesson 2: When in doubt, it pays to emulate the Corleones.

Though no one would confuse Modern Family with The Godfather, it was hard to miss the evening’s homage to the movie classic. The would-be family portrait, for example, bears a striking resemblance to a bizarro-world version of Connie’s wedding pictures. (At least before the mudslinging starts.)

Most prominent, however, was the show’s best sequence, a lengthy, nearly wordless scene that cut between Cameron singing “Ave Maria” at a wedding and Mitchell destroying their home chasing an invading pigeon. First the feathers fly–literally. Then the fur flies when Cam sees what Mitchell has done to their house. (Okay, so that’s not really good parenting advice, but it makes for great television.)

Quotes of the Week:

“Family Portrait” was as heavy on slapstick as wordplay, but a few gems stand out.

Cameron: “Mitchell, I get it. I get it. You’re terrified of small talk. And birds. You’re just lucky that the pigeon didn’t want to chat you up about the weather.”

Jay (trying to impress Luke about life at his dad’s barbershop in the 1960s): “Martin Luther King? Guess who cut his hair?”
Luke (impressed): “Whaaaat?!”
Jay (to the camera): “Do you know who cut Martin Luther King’s hair? Well, neither does Luke’s teacher.”

Phil (mistakenly thinking Claire saw him kiss Gloria at a Lakers game): “Here’s the thing–the Kiss Cam is only supposed to be for the enjoyment of people at the game. They never show that on TV. What people do in the privacy of their own sports arena should be their own business.”

That’s a Wrap!

As Claire is slowly learning, perfection is overrated. You know the family can’t “act normal for a tenth of a second.” And that’s how Modern Family achieved its own moments of near-perfection this season. Can’t wait for the fall.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV