The Fall television season is upon us. A flurry of new shows are on the horizon just waiting to be critically acclaimed or panned and canceled. It's the most wonderful time of year.
Since Chet the intern managed to score us an advanced screening of ABC's new sitcom Modern Family we figured that it's only fair that we share our thoughts on the show. After all, you should know if it's something that you want to invest in or skip. But first, how about some premise?
Modern Family is centered on three couples, who are participitaing in a Dutch documentary about American family life. Phil and Claire, who have been married for sixteen years and have three kids, Jay and Gloria, a May/December relationship that's been married for six months and Mitchell & Cameron a gay, unmarried couple.
The show features segments where the couples are being interviewed followed by scene of the couple in day-to-day life. It's a single camera show in mockumentary fashion that strives to be funny without being insulting.
Modern Family opens with a thud. The beginning focuses on Phil and Claire.
Claire is the type of mother who's anxious to keep her daughters from making the same mistakes that she made. On the other hand Phil is played as being aloof in a stereotypically television dad fashion.
From there we meet Jay and Gloria who not only have an age difference, but she's Latina, so there's cultural and sadly language barriers as well.
Her accent is thick, she doesn't know how to convey "murderers" in English and he's old. It's almost like the writers raided "stock television jokes" to create these this couple.
But then when Mitchell and Cameron are introduced things actually become funny. Sure, they're equally stock homosexuals; affluent, well spoken and just shy of flamboyant, but they're also pretty funny characters and their relationship actually feels genuine.
Once the comedic ice is broken the floodgates open up. All three couples are dealing with issues of being parents. Phil and Claire have to discipline their son and keep a watchful eye on their daughter who's having a boy come and visit for the first time. As Claire, Julie Bowen's (who will always be Carol Vessey to me) face seems perpetually locked in "surprise" and the character isn't given that much to do, other than overreact.
But Phil's aloofness actually becomes funny. His obliviousness to the fact that his attempt at being "the cool dad" is actually more mortifying to his kids is pretty funny to watch. Seriously Ty Burrell takes a character that could be lame, and makes the most of him.
Jay and Gloria have to deal with Gloria's lothario of a son, Manny, a kid wise beyond his years. He's got a crush on an older girl and only wants to follow his heart, much to the chagrin of stepdad Jay. Manny is truly the start of the story as his character steals any scene he's in. As Jay, Ed O'neill pretty much phones in a variation of Al Bundy.
Mitchell and Cameron are coping with being new parents, of an adopted infant. Again, they've got the best chemistry of any of the couples and their story is actually at the heart of the episode.
There's a third act reveal that ties everything together and it won't be spoiled here. Needless to say, this show has probably jumped up on our radar for the upcoming Fall season.
As with everything else, a sitcom about family should be measured against the greatest in the genre, in this case Arrested Development. Obviously no show is ever going to measure up against the Bluths, but Modern Family has promise. It's got good writing, a cast that ranges from adequate to talented and a nice tone of irreverence that every good sitcom needs.
On a scale of "Arrested Development" to "Full House" we give it a solid "Family Ties". Check it out, September 23rd on ABC.