[18 October 2011]
I enjoyed Modern Family during its first season, but the faux reality show angle often felt forced, like someone said “Hey, this is a nice cast of characters, but what if we go The Office route with handheld cameras and interviews?” As a result, the interviews often felt forced, like they were shoehorned in after the fact.
That changed during the second season, though. The interviews felt more integrated, and as a result, the show felt like a cohesive whole. Faux reality shows may be a new wave on TV, thanks to the original British version of The Office, but Modern Family has the opportunity to break new ground and establish an identity that will make people forget that it began its life as part of a trend.
In a sense, the show is an answer to The Kardashians and similar insipid fare. Rather than follow the tedious “problems” of the rich and famous, Modern Family digs deep into middle class existence in the early 21st century. True to its title, the series presents different takes on the idea of family: Phil and Claire and their nuclear household that subverts the Father Knows Best paradigm; Cameron and Mitchell and their adopted daughter; and Jay and his second wife, Gloria, and his young stepson, Manny.
Unsurprisingly, the point of many of the episodes is that family is not something that can only exist in a certain way—it takes many forms, and here are but three of them. Gay parents deal with the same issues as heterosexuals parents, and a stepchild with an absentee father can find a substitute in gruff Jay, who thought he was done raising kids but now faces similar problems with his ‘new’ child as his children face with theirs.
The characters were drawn with broad brush strokes, at least initially, but as the show hit its stride during the second season, they became more nuanced and textured. They began to show sides we hadn’t seen before, as all human beings do once you get to know them well enough. No one is an archetype, and neither are the characters on Modern Family. Let’s just hope they can keep the momentum of the excellent second season going.
This three-disc set offers a generous helping of bonus features. You won’t find commentaries on any of the 24 episodes, but you will find deleted and extended scenes and family interviews on each disc. As I mentioned in my review of season seven of The Office, this kind of show lends itself to many character moments that unfortunately won’t fit in the final product, and Modern Family is no different.
You’ll also find: a gag reel, the music video for the song “Imagine Me Naked”, as sung by Haley’s boyfriend Dylan; and a smatter of behind-the-scenes features. The behind-the-scenes stuff covers: the filming of the flash mob Mitchell participates in; the second season’s holiday episodes (those will be tough to top in season three); a look at the cast’s participation on an episode of Oprah’s show; a conversation with series co-creator Steve Levitan; and a tour of the show’s sets and how they match (or, in one case differed from) the homes filmed in for the pilot episode.
If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy this set. It primes the pump for season three.