TV Club: An inventive structure helps Modern Family find some spark

A common theme of the Modern Family reviews here at the A.V. Club is that the episodes where there’s some sort of meaningful character development tend to be greeted with praise. That’s in large part due to the medium of television itself. Spending years and years with characters insists upon constantly examining their relationships, flaws, triumphs, and setbacks. TV series’ are ongoing stories, and when it comes to the sitcom, where plot threads are initiated and dropped at a moment’s notice, the most successful and memorable payoffs typically come from character progression because they’re one of the few reliable anchors week in and week out.

What’s refreshing about “The Alliance” is that it’s the exception to the rule. It’s an episode that doesn’t really bother with digging deep into character motivations, and even a potential late-episode emotional payoff is undercut by …

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