Does David Cross fit in with this 'Family'? (Richard Foreman/ABC)
(Television Without Pity) — This week's "Door to Door" episode of "Modern Family" was problematic in a lot of ways, not least of which was the introduction of David Cross's recurring character, Duane, the city councilman. There are a few reasons we're worried about Duane's role on the show, as seen by last night's issues. (Though, it needs to be said, we absolutely agreed with him: Ice cream cake is not the same thing as regular cake.) Here's why we're apprehensive:
We're Not Fans of Claire vs. the Community
Claire's battle with the school parking officer last week went on a little longer than we would've liked, and the only thing we laughed about in her Season 2's "Slow Down Your Neighbors" storyline was Phil's involvement in it. It may be because "Parks and Recreation" has already perfected wacky town hearings, but in any case, Claire arguing with the board didn't work for us. Given that Cross's character is a councilman, it's clear that the war is far from over. We curse everyone who signed that stop-sign petition.
He Threw Off the Balance
We've been content with the ratio of comic relief to precious family moments on this show; it's something "Modern Family" has always done well, thanks to the talent of its cast (and Phil's intense power-walking). The town hall moment where Phil and the kids swooped in to get Claire her signatures was a perfectly opportune moment to revel in the family bonding, but it was completely lost in Duane's birthday disaster. Had this been a one-note joke and if Cross was only making a cameo appearance, it would have been different, but we had to stop the action to establish his character.
See David Cross in action on last night's episode of "Modern Family":
He Isn't Part of the Family
On the same note, there's no available Dunphy or Pritchett for Duane to date at the moment, leaving Cross as one of the first non-relative guest stars to get serious upcoming screen time. We're worried that his relationship with Claire will have no redeeming emotional connection (the kind that allows us to still sometimes enjoy Cameron and Mitchell's bickering). Also, we all know that too many underdeveloped storylines get crammed into each episode, and there's no way the inclusion of Duane will help flesh that problem out.
He's a Scene Stealer
Like his "Arrested Development" co-star Will Arnett, Cross is a strong personality who knows how to make us laugh. When he's in a scene, we can't help but wait for him to start cracking us up. There's too much happening on "Modern Family" for yet another person to steal all the attention, and that's exactly what he'll do. Unless the writers can brilliantly fold Cross in like the "Breaking Bad" writers did for his "Mr. Show" co-star Bob Odenkirk on their series, we're thinking Duane would be better suited for his own sitcom than thrust into one that's already crowded.
"Modern Family" airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on ABC.
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