Modern Family a fresh take on the network sitcom
This might sound like a backhanded compliment, but ABC’s new series Modern Family is way better than you would expect for a family comedy on network TV. Typically network comedy means we see the same generic character types and jokes about as fresh as ripe Gorgonzola delivered by actors on well-lit Hollywood sets in front of a live studio audience. Modern Family, which premieres Wednesday September 23rd at 9/8c on ABC, drops the canned laughter and utilizes the pseudo-documentary style popularized by great comedies like The Office to showcase the lives of a set of interconnected families in your typical suburb.
The families themselves are also refreshing in that they’re not the cookie-cutter sitcom families of network comedies past. There’s Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), a dad who’s more concerned with being cool than running his family, and his wife Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), a former wild child who’s now an overprotective suburban mom. Also in the neighborhood are Cameron and Mitchell Pritchett (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a gay couple who’ve just adopted a baby from Vietnam. Though they’re a little stereotypical, they have some of the best lines in the pilot episode. Ed O’Neil stars as Jay Pritchett, Claire and Mitchell’s father, who recently married Gloria (Sofia Vergara), a much younger Columbian woman with a cute-but-socially-awkward little boy.
Making connections between the families opens up more possible directions for the show. People tend to have their guard down around their families and that can allow for more conflict and comedy in their interactions. In the first episode, we already see that Mitchell is a bit uneasy about his relationship with his father and that Claire’s party girl past has lead her to be way too cautious about her own teenage daughter.
If the first episode is any indication then Modern Family could mark another step forward in network TV comedy, a step away from the tired formula of the past and towards a focus on witty dialogue and more subtle performance. It would be easy to just brush it off as another one of those generic sitcoms, but its deviations from the mold make this one definitely worth checking out.