For most of his career, Matthew Broderick has been surrounded by rumors that he is a closeted homosexual in a sham marriage. Not even stories planted in the tabloids about Broderick having an affair with a younger woman could dissuade the rumors. In an odd bit of reverse psychology (or something), Broderick guest-starred as a gay man in this week's improved episode of Modern Family, punnily entitled "Mistery Date." The titular "date" is the result of a classic sitcom misunderstanding: while at the gym, Phil starts talking to a guy named Dave and invites him over to watch a football game and drink margaritas. With Claire gone away, Phil assures him that they have the house to themselves for a much-needed "boys' night" and claims that his wife actually suggested it, adding, "As long as I clean up afterwards, she's fine." Of course, in whacky sitcom fashion, Dave misreads the signals and assumes Phil is gay, but Phil is his usual oblivious self. In an amusingly awkward couch scene while watching the game, Dave moves closer and then backs away every time Phil hollers at the television for a timeout or "out of bounds" call. Finally, a margarita is spilled and the two men pull off their shirts just as their team scores a touchdown, which they celebrate with a bare-chested hug.
Offering his new friend a dry shirt, Phil innocently suggests that they "head up to the bedroom for some halftime festivities," but Dave reluctantly declines and explains that he is too fragile, having just been in a long-term relationship. Before departing, Dave plants a juicy-sounding kiss on Phil's lips, which the camera films from behind Broderick so sensitive viewers won't be subjected to the traumatic image of two men's lips touching. Appearing befuddled, Phil could only muster a nonplussed "Huh," before continuing up the stairs. While this sort of routine has been a common formula on sitcoms for years, it was handled more maturely here without any over-the-top campiness. Far from the stereotypical and flamboyant gay characters found on other shows, Dave was depicted as unsure of the situation and didn't just pounce on Phil when the opportunity presented itself. The comedy and humor had a human element to it, provided by the performances of the actors behind the characters. This is the episode that should net Ty Burrell another Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, and possibly a Guest Star nod for Broderick.
The rest of the show wasn't quite as good, although the B-plot with Mitchell refusing to ask Jay what was bothering him wasn't bad. Since it always backfires on him, Mitchell compared the situation to Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and swore that he wasn't going to kick it this time. When he finally did try to comfort Jay, he discovered that he was merely upset because they were turning his home office into a nursery for the new baby. First world problems, indeed. Manny and Luke sneaking into bar mitzvahs in search of a girl who smiled at Manny was a cute storyline with a realistic resolution, and the Claire/Alex stuff was mostly character-building material and wasn't funny.
However, the worst was Cam keeping Gloria out of the house while he had someone paint a mural on the nursery wall. Even though the mural was garish and hideous, Gloria ended up loving it and it helped Jay give up his former office. This storyline fell flat for me and was almost as irritating as the characters of Cam and Gloria themselves. For the most part, a little of those two characters goes a long way, and here it was just overkill. As usual, the show was a bit uneven, although that statement depends on which characters you like most. Overall though, "Mistery Date" was a solidly entertaining episode with hilarious performances from Ty Burrell and Matthew Broderick.
FINAL GRADE: B