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How 'Modern Family' Is Saving The Family Sitcom

January 16th, 2010 10:15am EST
Modern FamilyThis article hopefully will serve as an adequate mea culpa. In a fall article we mentioned that 'Modern Family' was weak, formulaic, and full of hyperbolic stereotypes. In short, not worth staying on the ABC schedule. It did not take the recent Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Series- Musical or Comedy to change our view.

Thanks to a day off and time to kill on Hulu, we watched the second episode of the show. Needless to say, lunch was skipped, all remaining episodes were viewed, and we realized how unrepresentative a pilot can be. Now we are such unwavering fans of the show that we are willing to make the statement that 'Modern Family' is actually saving its genre.

The 1980s was the peak era for the family sitcom, but the shows were typically idealistic depictions. From 'The Cosby Show' to 'Who's The Boss', 'Growing Pains', and at the very end of the decade, 'Roseanne' and 'Married With Children' we witnessed slow progress towards an accurate depiction of the reality of dysfunctional families. After all, not everything can be solved cleanly in 18 minutes with a hogie as the problem solver ('The Cosby Show'). The 1990s sitcoms focused more on the adult working crowd with landmark shows like 'Friends', Fraiser', and 'Will And Grace'. With only a few notable family sitcoms clinging on for dear life, the early 'Full House', 'Fresh Prince of Belair', 'Family Matters', and 'Everybody Loves Raymond'.

By the 2000s the saccharine sitcom was on its deathbed, bringing to rise family comedies that broke format (away from the traditional 3-camera format) and content, including 'Malcolm In The Middle' and 'Arrested Development'. And now, we have 'Modern Family'-a show that finally reflects the modern variety of family structures, personalities, and more realistic events through the use of pseudo-documentary style, like 'The Office', and a sprinkling of dark comedy. In order for a concept like this to work, there has to be a intensely talented writing staff(which they have) and a perfect ensemble cast-if one character was miscast, the show would not work.

The cast is so perfect that it is close to impossible to pick your favorite family, never mind a single character. Ed O'Neill and Julie Bowen, who play father and daughter Jay and Claire, have worked with talented comedy teams before ('Married with Children' and 'Boston Legal' respectively) so it is expected that they would flow seamlessly into their roles. What keeps us coming back to 'Modern Family' (and even re-watching episodes to get through the six-day wait for a new one) are the kids. Having suffered through the unrealistic depiction of kids on TV for decades (we shudder to think of 'The Brady Bunch') it is refreshing to see capable young actors who are able to pull off the advanced comedic scripts. From the young coffee drinking Casanova, Manny Delgado (Rico Rodriquez) to the Dunphys: the dumb but loveable Luke Dunphy (Nolan Gould), the oldest and most superficial Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland), and the sarcastic girl genius middle child, Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) it is easy to forget that you are watching a family sitcom.

Modern Family

Image © PR Photos


Sarah Lafferty
Story by Sarah Lafferty
Starpulse contributing writer

Follow Sarah on twitter at starbuckscout.



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