Improv as a Career

 

Manny’s girlfriend Sherry is staying with the Pritchett’s for a while and she and Manny have taken up improv in the hopes of becoming an improv actor one day. Jay isn’t amused and feels like Manny should focus on trying to get a different job.

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Trying New Things

 

Jay is shocked that Manny won’t eat pickles, so he won’t let him leave the table until he tried one. Gloria thinks Jay is being a hypocrite and forces him to try blood sausage. Then Jay decides Gloria need to try something new too: scratching the dog, Stella’s, belly. While they all seem to hate what they try at the time, we see Gloria petting Stella’s belly voluntarily and Manny surreptitiously eating a pickle at the end of the episode. This highlights the need for full information in order to know your true preferences.

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The iPad

 

It is Phil’s birthday and also the day the iPad is being released. Phil is willing to spend his birthday waiting in line to be sure he gets the new iPad, but Claire offers to do it for his birthday but instead of getting there early she falls asleep on the couch. When she finally gets to the store, they are all out, and Phil ends up wishing he had handled it himself.

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Mother Daughter Tattoos

 

It’s Haley’s 21st birthday. She and Claire have decided to get coordinating tattoos. Claire got hers first and now Haley is having a change of heart. In this scene, we see time inconsistency and imperfect information. Haley is concerned that her preferences will change over time so she decides against getting the tattoo. Meanwhile, Claire already regrets her tattoo because Haley won’t be getting one – but it’s too late for Claire. Tattoos do not have a return policy! If Claire had known that Haley would change her mind, she would not have gotten a tattoo (imperfect information). This clip can also be used to compare and contrast two types of games in game theory – sequential games and simultaneous games. If you decide to get a tattoo with a friend but only because you’re doing it with a friend, make sure you get them simultaneously!

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The Sauce Maven

 

Gloria and Jay are looking to sell her family’s sauce to a larger company. They each use a different tactic to make the product more appealing. In doing this, they’re trying to increase the demand for the sauce. Unfortunately, they don’t coordinate their strategies in advance and Jay blows the deal. In fact, there’s a lot of information that Gloria has hidden from Jay. She has long had a surplus of sauce that she has been keeping in storage lockers across town. Gloria has likely paid a lot of money for all of the storage. What do sellers usually do when they have a surplus? Are Gloria’s past actions consistent with traditional economic principles of rationality? Consider sunk cost and marginal costs.

(Note: this scene is an example of adverse selection. Gloria knows that her product is no good but they are trying to signal not only that it’s good but also that it’s special, almost magic.)

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Beauty and the Beast

 

It’s Halloween. Jay and Gloria usually coordinate their costumes. Use this scenario to setup a payoff matrix for picking costumes. Gloria and Jay are the players. What choices would you like to give Gloria? What choices would you like to give Jay? What are the payoffs for each possible outcome? What’s the most likely outcome given your matrix? There isn’t a single correct answer. Just have fun with it and discuss.

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Ms. Crank

 

Lily has the tough teacher but Cam and Mitch just learned of an opening in the nice teacher’s class. In this scene, they approach Ms. Plank about transferring Lily into Ms. Sparrow’s classroom. Education is one of the markets where consumers have little choice. Some argue that this creates inefficiencies in the market. Others argue that education consumers may not have enough information to make optimal decisions so giving consumers more choice would not necessarily lead to an improvement in efficiency. This sort of problem is discussed at many levels in education – from school choice to book choice.

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Tankless Job

 

Phil is trying to sell the house next door to a couple. In order to make the house as desirable as possible, he wants to put his family’s best foot forward. He wants the buyers to want to live beside his family. So, he has the kids outside gardening. This demonstrates adverse selection, signaling and the importance of spillover effects/positive externalities. Good, helpful neighbors are desirable and can increase a property’s value, especially if they take good care of their yard. Thus, there are positive externalities associated with landscaping. To discuss signaling and adverse selection, consider that someone is less likely to move if the neighbors are good than if they are bad. So, it’s entirely reasonable to consider the housing market as being characterized by adverse selection. Phil is doing all he can to signal that he and his family are good neighbors in order to get the couple to by the house and to pay a high price for it. But are they good neighbors? (At the end of this clip, you’ll see the other possible new neighbors. Which new family would each of the Dunphys prefer to live beside? Why?)

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Preferences and Tradeoffs for Cal Tech

 

Alex is graduating from high school soon so Phil, Claire and the kids are visiting Cal Tech. Claire thinks Cal Tech is the perfect place for Alex but she’ll find out soon that she and Alex have different preferences. College is one of the ways that we build human capital. As we learn more things, we become more productive and our labor is more valuable. Alex is already really bright and loves academics so college is a good fit to set her up for doing impressive things in the future.

Claire wants a great school that’s close. Alex wants a great school that’s far away. We also learn that Cal Tech has 5 Nobel Laureates on staff, suggesting that Cal Tech itself has a lot of human capital, making it a highly productive college.

Alex learns why Cal Tech might be a better choice for her than an East Coast school. What is more important: the quality of the program or proximity to home? Choices are tough and everything has a cost. Here’s Alex’s current dilemma: stay close to home and attend the best program in the country OR go to a college on the east coast with a weaker program.

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Columbia Clothing Coincidence

 

Jay got new glasses that make him look like an old man but they work really well. So well that he realizes that Gloria’s family members in Columbia are wearing his old clothes. Notice that Gloria says that they sometimes send the clothes back. In the US, people frequently donate clothing to people in less developed countries. Many economists argue that this is counterproductive and leads to a surplus of clothing in these countries. That surplus can hurt markets and cost jobs.

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Role Reversal

 

After Mitchell quit his job, Cameron went to work to support them. Both Mitchell and Cameron think their partner is happy with this role reversal, but both are miserable and want to return to their original arrangement.

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Working Girl

 

Claire is going to meet an old friend from work, but her kids are surprised to find out that she once had a job. She describes why she chose to leave the workforce.

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Opposite’s Attract

 

Mitchell complains to Jay about Cam being too nice, and Jay complains to Mitchell about Gloria not liking his dog butler. Jay notes that they are both with people who are very different and that maybe that makes their relationships better.

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Barkley the Butler Dog

 

Jay bought a bog butler in a casino gift shop and thinks that everyone loves it, but Gloria detests it and tries to get rid of it. Every time she comes home, she’s reminded of the dog and it ends up scaring her. While Jay loves it, he’s perhaps not taking into account the cost it has on others in the family.

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Ugly Christmas Sweaters

 

The Dunphy’s call Phil’s parents in the sweaters they were given as gifts. The call goes awry when Claire sees what looks like a cigarette burn in the sofa. In her anger she calls the sweaters ugly while still on the phone with Phil’s dad.

Diapers for a Baby

 

Mitchell doesn’t understand why they buy their diapers at Costco, but Cam jokes that they’ve been doing it since they had a baby. The implication is that the baby has caused an increase in their demand for diapers. It turns out that Mitchel really likes Costco!

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Meryl is Just Okay

 

Cam is talking to a lady at Lily’s play class about movies to make small talk, and they have very different opinions on how talented Meryl Streep is. Cam loved her performance in Sophie’s Choice and has a hard time thinking about having to choose between Lily and Mitchell. While each person has their own subjective preferences when it comes to entertainers, nearly everyone faces the same struggle of having to decide between saving family members.

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Unlosable Position

 

Alex has landed a dream internship but it’s really high stakes and stressful. Meanwhile, Phil has a tough choice to make in a board game. Every time we choose to do something, we are also choosing NOT to do something else. Does Alex really want the internship? What is its opportunity cost? Also, what should Phil do?

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Stealing a Commodity

 

Claire tried to make friends with the owner of Closets, Closets, Closets, Closets (CCCC) but Jay convinced her that the friendship was just a ruse to steal information about the business. In retaliation, Claire and Jay decide to “poach” CCCC’s most valuable employee, Lazlo. While trying to recruit him to their closet business, they learn that the friendship was genuine. But now, they really can’t trust each other and both businesses will be hurt.

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Choice Paralysis

 

Mitch and Cam have a house guest who made breakfast using the expensive caviar that they had been saving for a special occasion. While enjoying their wonderful meal, they realize that there are all sorts of things that they have never used because they were waiting for the perfect time. This demonstrates choice paralysis. Cam and Mitch have seemingly endless choices for when to consume these special things but they never actually do. Choice paralysis says that we have a difficult time making a choice when there are too many options. As a result, we cannot chose and end up with a sub-par outcome.

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Gentrification & Cupcakes

 

Manny lost Luke in a “sketchy” neighborhood. He and Phil enlist Gloria’s help to track him down. When they arrive in the neighborhood, they find that it has changed quite a bit since Gloria lived there. When searching for a girl, they have the option of visiting one of the four area cupcake stores, each specializing in a different area.

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Only Bees in the Home

 

Phil is desperate to sell this house. The buyer loves it but is afraid that it is haunted. Phil brings in Gloria to cleanse the house of unfriendly spirits. What they find isn’t spirits – it’s not ghost. It’s only bees! This demonstrates adverse selection and screening. Economics suggests that a market where the buyers know less than the sellers will result in adverse selection. That is, there will be more “bads” (haunted) houses on the market than “goods” (non-haunted). One way the ways that the problem of adverse selection can be reduced is through signaling. Phil (the seller) takes an action (asks Gloria to inspect the home) in order to reveal that this home is a “good” (not haunted) home.

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Where is Joe’s Cape?

 

Gloria is sick and Cam tries to help around the house. Gloria’s family remedy for colds is a bit smelly and Cam accidentally uses Joe’s cape. Gloria points out that Joe has a strict ranking set when it comes to that cape and he even places the cape above his own father.

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One Bouquet is Enough

 

Cam and Mitch have been married 3 months, but it seems like their honeymoon will never end. Cam continues to give Mitchell flowers even though he clearly doesn’t enjoy them as much as he used to. He may have loved the first bouquet, but eventually he may start to hate them.

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