Thursday, 13 June 2013

Verdict: Modern Family Season 1

Originally premièring on American TV station ABC in 2009, Modern Family is a situation comedy that centres around a family living in Los Angeles. I recently sat down with the complete first season to deliver a verdict on one of television most hyped and popular shows.

For those not in the know, Modern Family has a sprawling ensemble cast that all make up one family. The head of proceedings is Jay Prichett (Ed O'Neill) who is the father of Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson). Claire is married to estate agent Phil (Ty Burrell) and together they have 3 children, Haley (Sarah Hyland), Alex (Ariel Winter) and Luke (Nolan Gould).

Jay is married to second-wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and the step-father of Manny (Rico Rodriguez) whilst Mitchell is in a relationship with Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and together they have adoptive Vietnamese daughter Lily.

Right, got all that? If it seems complicated then take a deep breath and relax. It really isn't as hard as it all sounds. The inter-linking nature of the cast is established pretty steadily; it really just mirrors the way in which families work in real-life.

The brilliance of Modern Family rests in its simplicity. Whoever you are, you will be able to relate to one or more of the characters on some level. Whether it is honest and hard-working mum Claire or the social and popular teen Haley, the characters here are all instantly recognizable. For me, the stars of the show is 'cool dad' Phil and lawyer Mitchell - they regularly steal any scene their in  and have me sniggering.

Phil, with his 'cool dad' routine that almost always backfires and Mitchell with his condescending and slightly bitchy persona regularly won me over, as did Gloria and her thick Colombian accent. Each episode has more or less every character in some form or another so don't worry about some taking precedence over others.

Highlights of this first season flow thick and fast from the off; Episode 2, 'The Bicycle Thief' is a standard sitcom premise where everything that could go wrong does and Episode 9, 'Fizbo' is another stand-out entry that sees Cameron adopt his clown persona for a birthday party.

As the season progresses, the writer's really find the sweet spot with each character more fleshed out and rounded than in the Pilot. As the shows first season, this is a pretty strong effort that sets it all up nicely.

Probably my favourite is Episode 15, 'My Funky Valentine', where Phil and Claire attempt to add some fizz to Valentine's Day by pretending they don't know one another in a hotel bar. Of course, not everything runs as smoothly as they like and what ensues is a premise that feels like it was ripped straight out of a Ricky Gervais' show like The Office or Extras, the excruciatingly awkward situations rapidly escalating (heh heh, you'd get it if you've seen the episode) into something brilliant.

Other episodes that stick in the memory are those that are somewhat heart-warming and carry a nice message. 'Fears' in which Haley takes her driving test and 'Hawaii' where Phil and Claire renew their wedding vows are sure to bring a smile to your face.

The show is half-sitcom, half-mockumentary as the character regularly glance at the camera or talk directly to it whilst sat on the couch; again, a la the Office. There is also no laughter track over the top. This premise is a fairly unique one that may not impress some viewers but I find that it really works. It's certainly more interesting than watching another sitcom with canned laughter and catchphrases.

Along with Community, Modern Family is my current DVD fix that is really addictive and easy to enjoy and follow. It's clever and well-written as well as warm and relatable; the jokes are funny but not awash in pop culture references (like Big Bang Theory and Community). Rather, they are simple and straight-forward, making the show easy for people of all ages to relate to and enjoy. If you haven't already, be sure to check it out.


  1. It was a double shot of Modern Family season 1-4 dvd this week, as two new back-to-back episodes touched on some big-time family matters and common fears that all parents face.
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