Other critics out there have already established beyond a reasonable doubt that “Modern Family” is the best comedy on television. This is even more true since the early demise of the virtually unknown pinnacle of comedy genius that was “Better off Ted.” I don’t need to rehash what they’ve said.
On the surface, just reading the description of the series it looks like an overly politically correct television show. You know, it’s got characters representing many of the currently posh minorities stacked alongside the perfectly vanilla stereotypical American family.
The show is about three branches of one family in two generations. The show is a character based comedy so I’ll discuss the characters.
Jay is the patriarch character. He is played by Ed O’Neill who most of us think of as Al Bundy. They could have made Jay the old stubborn conservative, but he’s just an average grandfather aged person trying to adapt to modern culture. He is the father of one of the parents in each of the other two families. The humor of this character usually stems from some cultural differences. He is not closed minded, but doesn’t always handle adapting to the cultural changes gracefully. He is also remarried to a Columbian immigrant, Gloria, and has a stepson with her.
Gloria, played by Columbian actress Sofia Vergera, is exceptionally well endowed. This is often a source of humor in the show. Such as when she is reluctant to ride a bike because it “shouldn’t stay up”, Jay points out that neither should she, but it works. She is also much younger than Jay, being about the same age as his children. Her son from a previous marriage, Manny, is the same age as Jay’s grandchildren. The potential humor here is endless just based on the cultural differences. Rare is the scene that she is in that I don’t have to pause the TV while I recover from laughter. I’m only going to say this about the actress: She should have won the Emmy.
Manny is Gloria’s son and Jay’s stepson. He is like an eight year old version of Ricardo Montelban without such a strong accent. (His mother has the accent). Much of his humor relates to his inability to embrace his childhood.
Claire, played by Julie Bowen, is Jay’s daughter. She is a very normal soccer mom housewife type. She is married to Phil. Her humor is in her trying to be a good mother amongst her family.
Phil, played by Ty Burrel, is a competent real-estate agent who has delusions of being a master of salesmanship. He frequently tries to man-up to role of husband and father and usually falls short of his own aspirations but squeaks by and ultimately succeeds. He’s a doofus and oblivious to that fact.
Claire and Phil’s three children are:
Haley, the ditsy oldest daughter. She’s the stereo-typical popular high school girl whose only focus in life seems to be her social activities. It’s become apparent that she may not be as ditsy as she acts when, in a bet with her father to see who could live without their blackberry the longest, seems to lose when she is caught “texting” in her bedroom. When her father celebrates by using his blackberry, she reveals the one she was using was made of soap. The setup of this gag through the show was a masterpiece of writing. The Halloween costume gags were also excellent. When her mother tells her to change into another costume after seeing her “scary cat” (actually sexy cat) costume, she show back up in a later scene in a nurse costume, apparently from when she was eight. Imagine how a sixteen year old girl would fit into a costume from when she was eight. Very humorous fail attempt to be less sexy.
Alex is the second daughter and most easily described as a teenage Lisa Simpson. I hate simplifying the character that much, but it fits. That said, the humor with the older sister is obvious.
Luke is the village idiot youngest son. Not Ralph Wiggum idiot, just not as smart as the rest of the family. Some of this is due to his youth, however as he has displayed occasionally moments of cunning. The humor around him is usually in his flat out stupidity and straightforward (headlong) approach to problem solving.
Mitchell, Jays other child played by Jesse Tyler Fergsugen, is gay. He is generally a very calm collected character, although those are not the moments the show portrays. In his scenes he is usually on the edge of losing his calm, often spurred by other’s homophobia or by his husband’s extreme overt personality. This is generally the humor surrounding this character.
Cam, played by Eric Stonestreet, is Mitchell’s husband. He is a very stereotypical flaming homosexual. His humor is usually due to over dramatizing the situation. The extremes to which the show is willing to exploit his drama-queenness really are what keep the show from being politically correct. That and the show is willing to fully embrace homosexuality rather than just give it a polite nod.
Lily is Cam and Mitchell’s adopted Vietnamese daughter. She’s a doll. Really, she may as well be a doll. She’s maybe two years old and has no actual character. It’s my only nit with the show.
Overall the character interactions in the show are one endless laugh after the other with only occasionally resorting to slapstick. There really is something for everyone in this show, including folks who like slapstick.
Unlike most family comedies or dramadies, none of the families are dysfunctional. They’re all quirky but healthy families. There is an occasional mention of the childhoods of Claire and Mitchell, and that family may have been a little dysfunctional with Jay and his now ex-wife DeDe.
Best prop of the television season goes to the pellet gun that Jay bought Manny for his birthday. Like I said, Sofia should have won. Damnit, now I said it twice.
Unlike most of my favorite shows, this one is in no danger of cancellation. So I don’t need to plea with anyone to watch it. You should watch it. It is consistently laugh out loud, fall off the couch, funny.
I didn’t mention the child actors, mostly out of laziness and time constraints. For that I apologize.