'Modern Family': Why Aren’t You Watching It!?
12/10/2009 12:00pm EST | By: Kate Kostal
The buzz about "Modern Family" has been quiet and confusing. The chatter started among family members who usually give misguided advice about what hot new shows I must see (CBS comes up constantly). Then coworkers let down their guard and a bit of their normalcy showed through, "Haven't you heard of Modern Family?" Apparently I had to watch this show about a giant dysfunctional family that includes gays, giant age gaps in marriages, and a shooting style akin to "The Office." One caveat; it was on ABC. Nothing edgy or incredible hilarious happens on regular TV channels anymore!
And then I needed an article to write for the month. Suddenly I was sold.
After I tuned in for the first time I felt like I was again watching ingenious comedy in its' infancy. The wit reminded me of the first time I saw "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," or going way back to the first "South Park" episode. For a person that finds dark humor and offensive jokes to be the basis of all personal communication, these are moments akin to a normal person discovering The Secret. The jokes were clever and the actors committed to their roles. Hard. You knew it was going to be good for a while and make fun of some of society's most close minded folk. Forget about jumping the shark, you still can't find a large enough body of water near this fledgling 30 minute show. It needs to grab more of an audience to survive but I've no fear of that.
The plot is anything but simple. I attempted to listen closely as it was explained by my inept relatives, then by my coworkers that overly-simplified as best as they could and ultimately explained absolutely nothing and left me more confused. I'll try to make them proud anyway. Here goes nothing.
There are three main families: an adopted Asian baby girl (Lily) has two dads (Cameron and Mitchell), one of whom (Mitchell, who's also a redhead. DISCLAIMER: don't kick them) is the brother of the matriarch of another family (Her name's Claire). That other family has three children of tween to teen age (Luke, Alex, and Haley) along with a slightly Mr. Mom-ish father figure (Phil). All of these people are calling the same man Dad or Grandpa (Jay). Jay has remarried - a young Colombian woman (Gloria) with an 11 year old son (Manny). So we've covered the dysfunction of a typical family with the embarrassment of a too-involved uncool father and three adolescents, gays, adoption, multiculturalism, remarrying, and stepchildren. There will be no diagram as my scanner is a piece of junk. All questions can be sent to www.abc.com.
The episodes are of "The Office" style of filming. Story begins quickly, testimonials with the camera are sprinkled liberally, and the awkward over-the-top personalities drive each narrative. In one episode Lily the Vietnamese infant was dressed up as divas of modern music before the 10 second intro even ran. Why so funny? Well, now that "real" America has no choice but to accept the rest of real America, issues that were hilarious among your family are now fodder for sitcoms. The gay uncles you have are better parents that your mom and dad, your mom's on her fourth marriage - whatever your issues are, there's no chance you can't find a bit of funny in them. "Modern Family" is throwing everything at you at once, knowing if it doesn't stick that's probably because it actually happened to you and is an old joke. Anybody else have a parent that screamed that they didn't want to die while you tried to drive on the highway as a 15 year old? Or a better question, anybody not have that happen to them? It picks up the moments that would have scarred the Cleaver family but were commonplace for the rest of us. "Modern Family" takes cues from the brains of people behind "Fraiser" and "Just Shoot Me" and runs with whatever issues they can find.
Image © American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
The Gloria character, the young hot Colombian second wife of the elder patriarch of the entire series, is a bit cliché. A Latina with an accent that smolders, a less than secure grasp of English, and a strong passion for her heritage is funny but predictable. As the story of this mixed family continues hopefully she'll have as much bite as other characters that are acting as people, not just stereotypes.
If you're still not sold in the last episode, Santa punched a caroler in the face.
Check it out Wednesdays on ABC.
Story by Kate Kostal
Starpulse contributing writer