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 any more, although you won’t have to look very hard to find some of Bundy in Jay from Modern Family.
Jay (O’Neill) is the patriarch of his extended family. He’s a pretty wealthy businessman who lives in relative comfort. He’s married to a Columbian woman who is much younger than he is. Gloria (Vergara) also brings her son Manny (Rodriquez) to the Pritchard home. Jay has two children. Mitchell (Ferguson) is gay and living with his partner Cameron (Stonestreet). The two have adopted a Vietnamese daughter named Lily. Mitchell 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 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) has become quite worldly.
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.
This is all about 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.
Season 8 has a couple of bigger stories. Perhaps the most entertaining is the stuff with Manny and Luke heading toward graduation. There’s the matter of college. Everyone wants Manny and no one really wants Luke. But the two compete for class President. Cam brings home a football player when his star athlete’s father moves to Florida. The guy puts a strain on the lives of Lily and Mitchell. He’s clumsy and he eats everything in sight. Phil gets to do a real estate segment on the local news where he meets his idol, weatherman Rainer Shine, played by Nathan Fillion. It’s great to see him back in television. It leads to a recurring spot when Phil accidentally hooks him up with daughter Haley even though they have a 25 year age difference. Meanwhile Alex is secretly dating her Mom’s assistant from the closet company. It’s a season of lies, betrayals, and misunderstandings along with another big Halloween episode. OK, it’s not quite as good as previous seasons there. Otherwise, it’s another strong season of laughs.
You get all 22 episodes on three discs with deleted scenes and a gag reel.
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. “We’re talking about unimaginable levels of goofy.”