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Let’s get something straight right off the bat though: Jay and Gloria’s storyline, once again, is terrible.

All the critiques of the first half of the season that I mentioned above apply to this subplot, which sees Gloria invite another couple over so that Joe can have a playdate, only to have Jay get angry that the father who’s much older than him keeps trying to show that they’re similar.

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It’s a genuinely nice moment, but falls flat because of everything that came before it.

The other two storylines in the episode work because their concepts are built upon awkwardness and chaos, which the show has always had success with.

The first sees Mitchell arrive at the Dunphy house to claim his Uncle Mitchell Birthday Funday coupon from the kids.

There’s really no way around it: Modern Family stumbled into the winter break, churning out rote, stale episodes week after week.

The show has been flailing for quite some time, every week bringing up the question of whether or not it would ever be able to capture, however briefly, that old spark again.

The issue was that Modern Family, which once felt fresh and boasted some seriously stellar comedic timing, had built this season on stale sitcom premises.

There’s been no ingenuity or spark all season long, despite the fact that last season’s finale managed to shake up the character dynamics.

The relative slog that this season has been means that an episode like “Playdates” stands out for a very simple reason: it’s funny.

It’s the best episode of the season in terms of punchlines, timing, and pacing, and it’s not even close.

Modern Family is certainly more successful when it anchors its jokes in meaningful and heartfelt drama, but there’s not enough heart in the show after this many years to really carry an episode devoid of laughs.

“Playdates” lands more jokes in its cold open than just about any entire episode this season.

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