Modern Family: Revisited

I just watched a scene in Modern Family that was sort of a revelation for me, and part of the reason I decided to write this post.

Phil, the goofy father, has been wearing a sweatshirt all day that has been described to him as “something a teenage girl would wear to the beach.” He’s taken flack for it the whole episode, but swears by it anyway.

In the final scene, Phil is on the phone and casually walks by a girl wearing the same thing. I thought to myself “huh, what a subtle joke. That was something Arrested Development might have done.”

But then Phil stops walking, puts the phone in his mouth, takes off the sweatshirt, and throws it in the garbage can, hammering home the joke that the show must have thought people would miss.

You know what though? It’s still funny, and I’ve finally realized what my problem was initially with Modern Family. Not every show has to be Arrested Development. I keep viewing comedies through that prism, judging them on such an absurdly high standard that I’ll always be disappointed. It’s like walking by an incredibly pretty girl on the street and saying “Pffft, well she’s no Adriana Lima!”

Or Sarah Hyland. Yow!

So with the Arrested Development stick out of my ass, I’m happy to say that I’ve picked up Modern Family again, and appreciate it on its own merit. I desperately need shows to watch these days, as there’s barely anything on, and my comedy line-up is restricted to NBC Thursdays and FX.

Modern Family is just a relief from the types of things I usually watch. I’m used to plowing through ten seasons of Smalllville, six of Lost, eight of 24. These are massive commitments, and though good, require a lot of brainpower to keep track of and appreciate.

While working my way through months worth of The Wire might be like consuming a five course meal, watching Modern Family is like eating a few chocolate chip cookies. Not everything has to be an epic comedic tale with interweaving jokes and meta-messages. The fact is the show is pretty smart, and though it can be a bit obvious at times, it’s completely non-offensive to my comedic sensibilities once I just take it for what it is.

It sort of reminds me of the types of shows I used to watch back in the day when Full House, Family Matters and Home Improvement were my staples. None of those were particularly brilliant for their time (as opposed to say, Seinfeld), but they were enjoyable enough for casual viewing.

One of TV’s best couples if you ask me.

Modern Family rarely makes me laugh outright (the exception being Cam, who may be the funniest character on TV right now), but it’s simple, enjoyable and good TV in a sea of awfulness that is most network comedies.

Ways it could improve? More Sarah Hyland, mm mmm! Oh don’t get mad, she’s 20 in real life. Phil really grew on me, going from annoying idiot to lovable buffoon. Claire is a bit severe, but I suppose that’s her role. Gloria is great eye candy, but she can be a bit grating if given too much screen time. Cam and Mitchell? Never change.

I will bring up one more point of pressing concern before I go however. I’ve watched about 35 episodes of this show now, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen baby Lily smile once, or frankly do anything other than sit there with a confused look on her face. I’m starting to get legitimately worried about the young actress, who I’m informed is actually following in the footsteps of the Olsens, and is played by twins.

Behold, the sorrow of childhood.

Yes, she’s cute, but think of how integral to the show and lively Michelle Tanner was even at a young age. I’m worried this kid (these kids) might have autism or some other personality issue, because I’ve never seen one ounce of emotion out of that girl in two seasons. If nothing changes as she gets older, I would recommend finding another Asian tot for season three who’s a bit more energetic and capable of doing, well, anything on camera.

Alright, I’m off to finish season two. Watch this show if you’re not already.


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  1. Wow, sorry about that double post. I agree with Cree. I think the other two characters are so over the top, whether it be Cam with the flamboyant stuff or Mitchell with his OCD/fears, she’s like the straight (as in the person who looks at the jokester like they are idiots) person in the group. Seeing them do something weird and her just staring blankly at the camera makes me laugh all the time.

  2. I’ve seen videos of the twins that play Lily and they’re completely engaging, laughing and playing with each other and the other cast members. I completely agree with Joe that having her as the calm one in the family is the funniest thing about her. Though I do think she needs to be speaking more by now.

  3. I tried to get into this show before knowing of AD, and I still thought it was just bottom barrel shite. 30 Rock and Parks are also non-offensive, but at least that doesn’t get in the way of actually being funny.

    Even if I’ve only seen 4 episodes, this show almost seems like a PR slot for being PC in suburbia, with no real plot, just situations.

  4. Yeah I think baby Lily being calm is the whole joke. That one scene where they lock her in the car and they totally panic as Cam chargers the car with a garbage can to break the window is 100 times funnier when you just see Lily in the car totally calm and uneffected by it.

  5. I was late getting into this show too….love it now! I appreciate it in that all the jokes aren’t big and outfront…like in the episode where Phil has a kidney stone and he asks Luke when has he ever seen his ‘old man’ scared and Luke mentions when they were using the Ouiji board and the wind blew the door shut…”There was no wind buddy, we brought something forth”…I die laughing everytime!!

    I’m with you on not wanting Cam and Mitchell to change at all!

  6. I think this show is absolutely hilarious! I am one of the biggest AD fans you will find (I actually watched it religiously before it got cancelled and petitioned for it to stay on air) and I think its quite unfair to compare the two just because they’re about quirky families. This show has its own subtle genius. I remember seeing teasers for it before it came on air and thinking that it didn’t look so great, but after seeing the first episode I was hooked! You made no mention of the boy who plays Luke. In real life he’s actually been a member of MENSA since he was 4 years old, and the fact that his character is the complete opposite is so funny to me! Not to mention that his character has some of the greatest one-liners I’ve ever heard!

  7. This is one of the few comedies I actually enjoy watching on TV these days (I’m just getting into Community). Besides the fact that it’s great to see Ed O’Neill back on TV, I enjoy the show because it is what it is. It’s not drawn-out (cough…How I Met Your Mother) or pandering (Big Bang Theory, I’m looking in your direction), and it’s written so you don’t have to be a hard-core fan to enjoy it. It also seems like they’ve tried to mold Phil and Luke’s relationship to be sort of like Homer and Bart – a father and son who as as much friends as they are partners in crime.

    The ladies on the show don’t hurt either. I’m amazed at how well Julie Bowen has aged – she looks pretty much the same today as she did back in Happy Gilmore.

    Sure it’s no AD – but then again, what is?

  8. I LOVE that this baby is portrayed that way! It’s perfect for this show! I am amazed that they catch the twins being so docile for their shots. Too funny! She’s perfect!

  9. Hey JohnC, I like your complaint about there not being a plot. Only situations. It is a SITCOM after all. You DO know that sitcom stands for situation comedy, right?

  10. Ty Burrell stole the show in Dawn of the Dead, and he’s funny here as well, but in a different way. I actually think Luke is one of the funniest kids on the show. It’s even more funny when you read the the actor who plays him is a Mensa Member and is a genius. Manny is really a one trick pony, and winds up being the most annoying on the show.

  11. i finally jumped on that bandwagon a couple weeks ago after being told by many friends that it was awesome (one went so far to say it was better than Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny… which is not true).

    i’ve been pleasantly surprised and think it’s a smart and funny show and may succeed where AD failed (too smart for the general public)… not saying modern family is a dumbed-down version, but it’s close.

  12. Yeah, i loved the first season. The second is just a repeat of the first season. I now expect the show to go on for 4 more seasons, repeating a lot of jokes.
    And comparing shows to other shows is a bad way to start any show. “Oh, The Killing is just like Twin Peaks”. Similar idea, but different story, vibe and attitude. Plus i don’t anything will get boring and psychedelic in its second season.
    BTW, Hope > Lily. Hope is a way cuter than Lily. Lily was adorable but hasn’t really developed much.

  13. modern family started out all right in season 1, but now every episode is more predictable than a rerun. there are almost zero jokes that would catch anyone off guard, which is at least 80% of what makes any joke successful. the level of sophistication and thought that goes into the plot’s conflicts, twists, and resolutions is akin to that for a looney tunes segment (which isn’t shit, but there is nothing original about it).

    clearly there is a market for these harmless, feel-good family comedies with endearing characters, and i don’t dislike modern family, but i watch comedy for the laughs, not the awws. sorry for being a snob.

  14. I agree with you about Lily, she is the most docile baby/toddler I think I have ever seen. I often wonder if maybe she is deaf, I just can’t figure out how that kid never moves and is totally expressionless all the time. Honestly I think they wait to shoot scenes with her until just before she is ready to go to sleep. I think there is only one scene where she was up crying and that was when Mitch was deciding to Ferberize her and to be honest I am not even sure if Lily is on camera crying or not. I think that is the joke of Lily though on the show. Mitch is stressy and Cam flamboyant it is quite funny that they would have such a docile kid. I think that is how she is funny. I did read somewhere though that they might recast Lily to have a bit older child next season so it will be interesting to see what kind of personality she is once she is talking.

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