We all remember Ed O’Neill as Al Bundy from Married With Children. It’s an iconic role that he’ll never be able to shake no matter what he does for the rest of his life. After that series ended its 11-year run, he even attempted to get out of comedy and take more dramatic roles. I’m sure there was a deliberate intent to try to distance himself from Al. It’s not that he likely didn’t love playing the role. He just wanted to avoid getting forever typecast in the mold. Those efforts weren’t all that successful. But now he’s back where he belongs again in a pretty solid sit-com. He’s not playing Al Bundy anymore, although you won’t have to look very hard to find some of Bundy in Jay from Modern Family.
I have become somewhat frustrated over the television comedy genre for a lot of years. It seems that they all take the same path no matter what the show’s actual concept might be. It’s usually the same jokes, just in a different environment. I don’t have children, but I expect that it must be near impossible to sit down and watch a comedy with your family any more. If I were a stranger visiting this planet for the first time, I would quickly come to the conclusion that sex is about the only thing that’s funny here. Thank God that once in a while something fresh comes along and swims against the current tide of innuendo and toilet humor. Modern Family is the kind of show you can enjoy with the entire family. And guess what? It’s pretty darn funny on top of it all.
Jay (O’Neill) is the patriarch of his extended family. He’s a pretty wealthy businessman who lives in relative comfort. He’s recently divorced, but has now married a Columbian woman who is much younger than he is. Gloria (Vergara) also brings her 10-year-old son Manny (Rodriquez) to the Pritchard home. Jay has two children. Mitchell (Ferguson) is gay and living with is partner Cameron (Stonestreet). The two have adopted a Vietnamese infant daughter named Lillie. Michell is an attorney who supports his family while Cameron is the jolly stay-at-home dad. Jay’s daughter Claire (Bowen) has a more traditional family. Husband Phil (Burrell) sees himself as a cooler, hip kind of father and dad which usually leads to some embarrassing situations for him and his family. They have three kids. Luke (Gould) is the only boy and more clueless than his father. He’s obviously not playing with a full deck. It’s ironic, because actor Nolan Gould is a Mensa member and somewhat of a child genius. Now that’s acting. Daughter Alex (Winter) is the smart one in the family and finds herself the most embarrassed by everyone else. Daughter Haley (Hyland) is the teen who is discovering boys but is not so bright either.
The show contains numerous interludes where various cast members are talking to an invisible counselor. They offer some commentary from their character’s point of view on the events of the story. I thought I would find it distracting, but I ended up loving it.
The show has a great variety of characters and acting styles. It provides a wealth of places and situations that the series can move around in. There isn’t near as much of the repetition that too many comedies find themselves trapped within. The situations are almost all new and fresh each week. The chemistry is excellent. There isn’t a weak link in the cast. Julie Bowen in particular has such incredible expressions, it’s funny just to watch her react. The show never goes for the obvious joke or works too hard to set the humor up. The writers are smart enough here to just set up the situations and let the laughs come to them. The result is that the characters never feel like they’re reaching too hard for a laugh. It all comes so naturally. This is the best new situation comedy I’ve seen in years. Check it out and see what it’s like to laugh without checking yourself and your company for appropriateness. Who says you can’t be funny for all ages? The cast and crew of Modern Family don’t believe any of that crap. Just one episode and you won’t either.
The season has some solid guest stars that include Shelly Hack as Jay’s ex-wife, Fred Willard as Phil’s father, and Edward Norton as a washed-up British rock musician who Claire mistakenly thinks is from Phil’s favorite band. She gets him to give a private concert in their living room with just a bass guitar. Of course, when Norton discovers the mistake, he’s offended to be performing for a guy who doesn’t even know who he is. It’s one of the best moments of the season.
Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The show certainly looks good. The show is rather bright as comedies tend to be. It all pops in a way that FX has really demonstrated time and again in their shows.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 isn’t going to be very much of a stretch here. It’s a dialog show. There aren’t any fancy things going on here. There shouldn’t be.
Deleted Scenes: Each disc has a collection of deleted and extended scenes.
The rest of the extras are on the third disc:
Gag Reel: (5:41)
Real Modern Family Moments: (10:25) Members of the production crew tell stories from their own families that ended up becoming part of the show.
Before Modern Family: (12:53) The cast talk about getting the job and what they did before being cast here. There is audition footage included here.
Fizbo The Clown: (4:13) Apparently, actor Eric Stonestreet had created Fizbo when he was a kid.
The Making Of Modern Family: (9:15) This is a director’s journal of the making of the Family Portrait episode.
Modern Family In Hawaii: (5:19) join the cast and crew on location for the Hawaii episode.
This is another one of those shows that flew under my radar. I really don’t pay much attention to sit-coms any more until they find their way to my porch step for review. Every now and then something comes along that makes me sorry I missed it. Modern Family has a wonderful cast, solid writers, high production values, and an originality that is all too rare these days. “How many reasons do I need?”