Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Modern Family is Contemporary Genius


By Nick DeLuca

I anxiously await Wednesday nights. Wednesday nights are a time when I can put any work on hold for a half an hour, take a load off with a bowl of buttery popcorn, and truly lose myself in hilarity. Wednesday nights at 9:00 p.m., Modern Family is on ABC.

(Left to right)
Top Row: Phil, Gloria, Manny, Jay, Cam, Lilly
Middle Row: Haley, Claire, Mitchell
Bottom Row: Like, Alex


I was introduced to the show two years ago after a hellish week of final exams. A friend invited me into his room, told me to relax and get ready to laugh like I never had before. I recall having seen the advertisements and trailers for it before and was always slightly interested, but I just never was invested enough to sit down to watch. After mere minutes, my stomach hurt from laughing so hard and my face was damp from tears running down my face.

Modern Family revolves around a diverse extended family shot in a mockumentary style similar to The Office—another acclaimed television comedy. The patriarch is Jay Pritchett, the father to Mitchell Pritchett and Claire Dunphy. Jay is remarried to younger Colombian spitfire Gloria, who has a young fifth grade son named Manny from her first marriage. Mitchell and his partner Cam adopted their daughter Lilly from Vietnam while Claire is the typical stay at home mother to rebellious high school senior Haley, middle school prodigy Alex, and aimless fifth-grader Luke. Her husband is a quirky and juvenile real estate agent, Phil Dunphy.

The family tree

Every week, the family encounters what most would think of as simple everyday-type events. However, this modern family’s unconventional behavior catapults it into the realm of the extraordinary.

Writers Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd have generated a television show with a precise mixture of uproarious dialogue and slapstick comedy. Each season consists of a different running joke that carries on through the season’s entirety. In the first season, different characters tripping down the stairs in the Dunphy household because of a lose step that Phil forgets to fix.

“Gotta fix that step,” recites the character as they recover from the heap of limbs they have been tossed into.

Levitan and Lloyed conceived the show after bouncing around stories of their own respective families. They pitched the idea to four major television networks, three of which declined due to style formatting problems and doubt in its acceptance by the audience. It was eventually picked up by ABC and premiered to 12.61 million viewers.

The success of the show has also garnered the interest of established Hollywood celebrities. Superstar cameos include Shelley Long, Jay Pritchett’s spacey yet unstable ex-wife and mother to Mitchell and Claire; Matt Dillon, Claire’s high school boyfriend living a life with as little responsibility as possible; Edward Norton, the bass player from the one-hit-wonder band Spandau Ballet who recites a truly terrible rendition of their song “True”; and Nathan Lane as Pepper Saltzman, Mitchell and Cam’s eccentric and competitive gay friend.

Since 2009, the show has collected numerous awards and accolades. It has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, won 8 out of 21 Emmy Awards, and has won 1 out of 5 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

However, the success doesn’t come without controversy. Modern Family drew criticism from the LGBT community for its hesitant and unaffectionate relationship between Mitchell and Cam. This criticism led to the creation of a Facebook group demanding that the two couples kiss on screen. It was noted in an early episode that Mitchell is uncomfortable with public displays of affection, though Levitan and Lloyd were hoping to incorporate a kiss as “part of the development of the show.”

Some of the funniest moments in the show stem from simple yet awkward moments. In season 2, Mitchell dresses up as Spider-Man for Halloween and realizes that the employees at his firm never dress up. He tries to change back into a suit but his pants fall into the bathroom toilet. He then tries to climb out the window as the real Spider-Man would to retrieve the dry cleaning from his car. Another is Claire and Phil’s anniversary. They try to channel their inner, deviant selves by role-playing as sexy characters that meet by chance in a hotel bar. While riding the escalator up to the lobby, Claire’s jacket gets stuck and it is disclosed that she is naked underneath. Chance encounters by her neighbors, children’s teachers, and Jay and Gloria make this uncomfortable comical scene outrageously hilarious.
Mitchell as Spider-Man

Witty dialogue is also a staple in the show. In an episode where Gloria’s dog, Stella, runs away on a sweltering day, she enlists the help of Cam who, wearing a v-neck t-shirt, realizes the parallelism of him calling for Stella in a similar scene from On the Waterfront and acts like Marlon Brando, screaming “Stella! Stella.”

Another is when Phil is trying to justify his friend-like style of parenting by telling the camera he is just like one of the kids.

"I text. LOL: laugh out loud, OMG: Oh, my god, WTF: Why the face?"

Modern Family is my favorite show on television. Hands down. It has skyrocketed into the upper echelon of not only television comedy, but television programming as a whole. Last season, Modern Family was the highest rated scripted show in the 18-49 demographic and the third highest rated overall. It airs every Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m., so if you’re looking to put reality on hold for a half an hour and lose yourself in a fit of laughter, I highly suggest you watch it.

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