Coal Digger

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"Coal Digger"
Modern Family episode
Coal Digger (Modern Family).jpg
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by Jason Winer
Written by Christopher Lloyd
Production code 1ARG03
Original air date October 21, 2009
Guest actors
  • Andrew Borba (Mr. Balaban)
Season 1 episodes
Episode chronology
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"The Incident"
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"Run for Your Wife"
List of Modern Family episodes

"Coal Digger" is the fifth episode of the American family sitcom, Modern Family. It premiered on American Broadcasting Company in the United States on October 21, 2009.

The episode was written by co-creator and executive producer of Modern Family, Christopher Lloyd and directed by series main director, Jason Winer.[1] The episode "Coal Digger" received positive reviews from critics and was named in the top 100 best television episodes of 2009 by BuddyTV and received a 3.4/9 in the 18-49 demographic according to Nielsen Media Research.


The whole family is invited for some barbecue and football at Gloria (Sofía Vergara) and Jay's (Ed O'Neill) house. At school, however, there is an incident between Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Luke (Nolan Gould) after Manny called Luke his nephew, making things very awkward for Claire (Julie Bowen) and Gloria.

Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) is a former college football player and is comfortable with Jay's attitude towards the game. Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) does not care for football; in order to be more comfortable, he decides to learn more about the game and the two teams so he can try to enjoy the evening. His attempt to do so fails miserably when he regularly misuses football terms.

After the family gathers at Jay's house, Phil (Ty Burrell) and Jay talk to the boys in order to have them settle their differences. Phil begins to explain the situation, but Jay takes over and simply tells the boys that they are family, and instead of fighting, they should love each other. The boys then go outside and play. While they are outside, Phil convinces Gloria and Claire to address their annoyances with each other.

Later, when the boys have had some fun, Manny brings up that Luke constantly insults Gloria, calling her a "coal digger". Phil corrects Luke's pronunciation saying he meant "gold digger". Luke states that he's heard of this term from his mom, having used it through the past year. This makes the situation worse: Gloria leaves the gathering and stays in her room, refusing to join the group. Phil then tries to reason with her, resulting in an awkward situation. Eventually Claire comes to apologize, but Gloria will not accept it unless she can get even. Gloria tells Claire that the only way she can forgive her is to jump into the pool with her clothes on. Claire does, and soon afterward, everyone except Haley (Sarah Hyland) jumps in as well.


The episode was written by Christopher Lloyd co-creator of Modern Family, making it his second writing credit for the series and first season after the pilot episode. "Coal Digger" was also directed by Jason Winer, his fifth directing credit for the series after directing all previous episodes.[1] The episode, "Coal Digger" originally aired in the United States on October 21, 2009 on American Broadcasting Company as the fifth episode of the series and first season.

Andrew Borba guest starred in the episode as the principal of Luke and Manny's school who is named Mr. Balaban. The episode is also the first episode featuring their school. Also the following episode "Run for Your Wife" (produced two episodes before "Coal Digger") is the episode with the first day of school.

Cultural references[edit]

  • Phil refers to Luke as "little Einstein".[2]
  • Cam dressed Lily as a referee due to the football game but when Mitchell sees her he asks why she looks like the Hamburglar.[2]
  • One of Cam's hobbies is Ikebana, a Japanese art of flower arrangement.[2]
  • Phil uses the phrase "Elephant in the room", an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed, to address the "problem" there is between Luke and Manny and that they have to solve it.[2]
  • Jay mentions Dick Butkus, a former American football player for the Chicago Bears, when Cam and Mitchell join him to watch the football game.[2]
  • Mitchell says that his interest in football ended as suddenly and dramatically as the climax of "West Side Story", referring to the American musical.[2]
  • Claire called Gloria "gold digger" many times in the past which Luke mishears and says it as "coal digger" to everyone. Gold digger is slang for a greedy person who only dates (and subsequently marries) wealthy partners with the sole intention of exploiting said wealth.[2]
  • Jay asks Mitchell and Cam how they find him as a man and when they feel uncomfortable to answer, Jay says that he knows he is not Erik Estrada. He also mentions the musical duo Righteous Brothers.[2]



In its original American broadcast, "Coal Digger" was viewed by an estimated 8.661 million households and got a Nielsen rating of 3.4 rating/9% share in the 18-49 demographic.[3]


The episode received mostly positive reviews from critics.

BuddyTV named "Coal Digger" the 45th best episode of 2009 saying "Gloria and Claire got into a hilarious feud after it's revealed that Claire used to call her young step-mom a gold digger, wrongly interpreted as "coal digger" by her kids."[4]

Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode a 7.7/10 saying it was "Good" and "Coal Digger" proved that even without being packed with hilarity, the young series can still deliver some entertaining television."[5]

James Poniewozik of Time said "Modern Family wasn't as disappointing as last night's Glee, and I found plenty of laughs in it, but all the same it was probably the show's weakest outing."[6]

Donna Bowman of A.V. Club gave the episode a A- saying "I say that Phil -- whom I've had my doubts about because of his broad cluelessness -- won me over this episode".[7]

Jason Hughes of TV Squad gave the episode a positive review saying "There were so many funny moments in this episode, as there are every episode."[8]

Michael Slezak from Entertainment Weekly gave the episode a positive review. "Of course, as we’ve learned over five glorious episodes, skewering the idiosyncrasies of a very diverse, very real family is what Modern Family does best."[9]


  1. ^ a b "Modern Family: Coal Digger Writers, Directors, and Crew". Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Coal Digger/Transcript". Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  3. ^ Robert Seidman (2009-10-22). "TV Ratings, Broadcast finals: Glee, Modern Family, Cougar Town, Criminal Minds tick up; Mercy, Old Christine, SVU, Eastwick tick down". Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  4. ^ "TV's 50 Best Episodes of 2009 [slideshow]". BuddyTV. December 14, 2009. 
  5. ^ Canning, Robert (October 22, 2009). "Modern Family: "Coal Digger" Review". IGN. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  6. ^ Poniewozik, James (October 22, 2009). "The Morning After: I Ain't Sayin' She a Coal Digger". Time. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ Bowman, Donna (October 21, 2009). ""Coal Digger" – Modern Family – TV Club – TV – The A.V. Club". A.V. Club. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  8. ^ Hughes, Jason (October 22, 2009). "Review: Modern Family - Coal Digger". TV Squad. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  9. ^ Slezak, Michael (October 22, 2009). "'Modern Family' recap: Snap! Tackle Pop?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 

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