With a new fall season upon us, it’s important to take stock of what might be the single greatest new show from last year’s freshman lineup: Modern Family. The cast has everything going for it with a mix of seasoned pros and memorable newcomers, the writing goes in directions that many similar mockumentary-style shows have strayed from, and each episode delivers a steady stream of belly laughs; Modern Family is television’s most well-written and best acted new sitcom.
Who you credit with leading the cast depends entirely on the couple you think exemplifies comedy – and each of the three is a contender. First you have the patriarch of the family, Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), and his incredibly gorgeous and younger wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and her son from a past marriage, Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Then you have Jay’s daughter, Claire (Julie Bowen), her goofy husband Phil (Ty Burrell), and their three children Haley (Sarah Hyland), Alex (Ariel Winter), and Luke (Nolan Gould) – the latter of which has what I consider to be one of the funniest moments from the last season out of any show. The third couple, and just as funny as either of the other two, sees Jay’s son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and his husband/partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet). You can argue that Claire and Phil are the lead couple as they seem to get most of the direct-to-camera moments (especially Phil), but Mitchell and Cam have some of the funniest plotlines and there’s no arguing with the repartee between Jay and Gloria. The kids are very one-note by comparison with their parents but, as noted earlier, they get moments to shine and Luke’s attempts at charging an iPod by sticking it in his mouth (one of the many lies his sister tells him) become incredible belly laughs that the show just zooms past. There’s so much going on with all the characters and the writing makes every moment prime territory for comedy.
Performances deserve recognition across the board with the adult cast. Ed O’Neill returns to greater form than his Married with Children days might lead you to think possible. No longer is he the sluggish lump on a couch rallying one-liners and taking them with little to no effort. Now he gets to play a self-assured retiree who made his fortune and now just wants to enjoy the bounty of his life, including a nice house and a beautiful wife. Speaking of whom, Vergara poses a great counterpoint to O’Neill’s delivery with a saucy flair. For my money though, the two true stars are Bowen and Burrell who play off one another with such incredible chemistry. Bowen is the put-together career woman who left it behind to raise the kids and Burrell is the goofy, somewhat bumbling match who helps to rein in her neuroticism in exchange for her anchoring his more hair-brained parenting efforts in reality.
Seldom does a show come along that hits every note right in its first season from the pilot onwards. It doesn’t build to greatness, it starts there and just keeps the pace going without flinching. The writers and directors of Modern Family deserve a medal, or some sort of golden statue (which they won), and hopefully this will become the norm for sitcoms as opposed to Two and a Half Men.
DVD Bonus Features
A featurette gives the show’s crew a chance to explain where the show’s stories come from, and like the show itself, it’s quite fun to watch. A gag reel and some deleted scenes/interviews are included as well. The rest of the featurettes include a piece on Fizbo the Clown, the on-location shoot in Hawaii, and a making of piece for the episode “Family Portrait”. The extras are pretty solid and go a long way toward further endearing the show to its fans.
If you rue the current state of the sitcom courtesy of Chuck Lorre’s machinations, then Modern Family’s first season might be just the thing to restore your faith in the family sitcom genre.
"Modern Family: The Complete First Season" is on sale September 21, 2010 and is not rated. Comedy. Directed by Chris Koch, Michael Spiller, Scott Ellis, Jason Winer, Reginald Hudlin, Randall Einhorn. Written by Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Corrigan, Brad Walsh. Starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed ONeill, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet, Rico Rodriguez, Sarah Hyland, Nolan Gould, Ariel Winter.