As the gang gathered to mourn the death of Phil Dunphy's mom in the episode "Goodnight Gracie," Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) was his usual charming self as he happened upon a group of senior women discussing the merits of a Harlequin romance, "Tempted By her Innocent Kiss," at the Leisure Park community.
"What is this, a book club or a Miss America pageant?" he asked. (Didn't matter! Either way, dude was in!)
But here's the deal: The elderly women at the table looked awfully familiar. And while "Modern Family" has mastered the whole "special guest star" thing (everyone from Shelley Long to Matt Dillon has turned up on the show), the whole "I know that face" thing is what highlighted this episode.
Senior classAt the senior center, the mahjong-playing Marilyn was played by veteran Broadway star Ruth Williamson. But you may know her face best as plastic surgery fanatic Mrs. Grubman on the FX medical drama "Nip/Tuck." Watch as the actress sings "This Girl's In Love With You" (with Burt Bacharach, no less!) on her final "Nip/Tuck" appearance here.
Meanwhile, Edith, the visor-wearing lady in blue at the book club table (and resident mahjong tile stealer), has moved on up from the Roach Motel. That's right, that was Mary Jo Catlett, best known for those old Black Flag commercials, and later as the penthouse cleaning housekeeper, Pearl, on "Diff'rent Strokes."
Check out Mary Jo Catlett peddling roach bait:
Matchmaker gameAnyone who's ever watched a '70s game show has to remember Anita Gillette. The actress was a game show regular, appearing on "Match Game," "What's My Line?," and the Dick Clark classic, "Pyramid." But if you're not a retro game show watcher, maybe you'd recognize Gillette from her more recent string of motherly roles, including a cameo as Liz Lemon's mom on "30 Rock."
On the "Modern Family" episode, she was a mama again -- well, almost. Phil's mom's dying wish was for her husband to find love with that nice lady around the corner: Gillette's character, Annie Fitzsimmons. Hello, pseudo stepmom! (Let's hope she can make a mean casserole.)
Here's Anita Gillette competing against a young David Letterman on "$20,000 Pyramid:"
Coffee, tea, or me?
Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) ran into an old flame while in Florida -- the kind cougar who gently took his virginity before he went off to Vietnam -- but the overly amorous Charlotte may have had him confused with one of her other lovers from five decades ago.
"Turns out she sent more men off to war than Lyndon Johnson," Jay quipped.
The character of Charlotte was played by English actress and singer Millicent Martin, who had a recurring role on "Frasier" as Daphne's mother, Gertrude Moon. Martin also starred in the groundbreaking 1960s BBC satire "That Was The Week That Was," while ultra eagle-eyed viewers may remember her from her short-lived '70s stint as a stewardess on "From a Bird's Eye View."
Watch Millicent Martin sing for her supper on "From a Bird's Eye View":
But if her voice sounds extra familiar, perhaps it's because she was the voice of iconic radio shrink Dr. Marcia Fieldstone in the 1993 Tom Hanks movie "Sleepless in Seattle."
Listen to Caroline Aaron in her famous role:
Watch the entire "Modern Family" Season 4 finale, "Goodnight Gracie," now:
More from this contributor:'Modern Family' Finale: Can a Death in the Family Be Funny?
- Arts & Entertainment
- Modern Family
- Anita Gillette
- Phil Dunphy
- Mary Jo Catlett
- Millicent Martin