Teen TV characters caught drinking is nothing new. In the 1970s, Richie Cunningham did it on "Happy Days" (he famously told his dad all he had to drink was "beer in teeny-weeny glasses" -- 72 of them). In the '80s, "The Cosby Show's" young Vanessa and her pals played the alphabet game with a bottle of scotch (she got an F). And in 1994, on "My So Called Life," high schooler Rayanne Graff drank herself into a 12-step program.
So it comes as no surprise that ABC's "Modern Family" has taken on the underage drinking theme, especially with the wild child character of Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland) in its cast. And while teen drinking is no laughing matter, the sitcom found a way to address the subject and its aftermath without becoming too preachy.
In the episode "Arrested," Phil and Claire (Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen) head up to Haley's school after they get a late-night call that she's been arrested for underage drinking. They ask Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) to ride up with them, in case Haley needs a lawyer. (Turns out, as an environmental lawyer, Mitch doesn't just defend pandas for a living.)
But don't worry about Claire getting a speeding ticket as she drives up to the college. She's taking her time because she wants Haley to learn a lesson.
"My daughter's been arrested for drinking. I would like her to sit in jail and think about that," Claire says. "As a matter of fact I might stop and do a little outlet shopping. Who wants a pair of last year's sunglasses?"
A second storyline has Cam (Eric Stonestreet) watching the all the kids while the Dunphys are away; he mistakenly gives Luke a piece of soy bacon, which lands the allergic boy in the ER.
And it's a welcome back for DeDe Pritchett (Shelley Long), Jay's ex-wife and Gloria's (Sofia Vergara) nemesis. While they've had some physical altercations in the past, it seems the two ladies are now bonding over Jay's lack of participation when it comes to all things baby (except making one, of course).
But back to the underage drinking storyline. It looks like Haley resisted arrested, assaulted a police officer, and broke a ton of school rules. These revelations leave her parents in disbelief.
Phil: "Look, this has got to be some kind of mistake. Our daughter is tiny, there's no way she assaulted anyone. Insulted maybe. Was the cop wearing white socks and dark shoes? Because that really sets her off."
But it's true, and the cops have video proof of Haley landing on a police officer as she attempts to flee the scene. While Haley is quickly out of jail after posting bail, she still has to face the wrath of the school's conduct board, where she suddenly spews out a list of all the rules she's broken this semester (including missing her morning classes and dating a couple of TAs).
The final scene shows her packing her things and heading home with her parents. Yes, Haley's been expelled, which means no more scenes of her Skyping in to chat with her family each week.
Finally, an underage drinking storyline that doesn't just rely on hangover scenes and shows how one bad choice can really change everything.
"Modern Family" airs on Wednesday night at 9 PM ET on ABC.
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