It’s true! Even though I was warned more than a couple times, I’ve only just recently caught up on Modern Family, ABC’s charming mockumentary-style series. Created by Christopher Lloyd (not that Christopher Lloyd; this six-time Emmy winner has worked on the likes of Frasier and The Golden Girls) and Steven Levitan (The Wonder Years, Just Shoot Me!, also Frasier), Modern Family is, with all due respect to Community, better than any other new comedy this season. Here are but five reasons why:
1. Gay Characters Created Lovingly, Without Resorting to Embarrassing Cliché
Mitchell and Cameron are arguably Modern Family’s most entertaining and well-rounded characters. Not to mention that the more times gay couples are portrayed as funny, likable and “normal” on network television, the more we as a race of people can start opening our minds just a little bit.
2. Ed O’Neill
On an only semi-related note, I recently finished a great book by John Ortved called The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History. Sitting in an airport waiting for the plane that would take me back to the Midwest to see my family for Thanksgiving, I was reading a part of the book that referenced O’Neill’s breakout show, Married with Children, and I started imagining what it would be like to see good old Al Bundy walk by in the airport. “What in the world is that guy up to these days?” I thought. Turns out, he’s been working for the best new comedy on television. Fancy that.
3. Effective Running Gags
One (of many) comedic elements that made Arrested Development such damn fine television was the impeccable employment of running gags. A subtle but important part of most any kind of smart humor, running gags are something that big, superficial shows almost always lack. Their presence indicates a certain care coming from the writer’s room. From the way Phil trips on the same step and mutters something about fixing it in multiple episodes to the way characters on the show use similar turns of phrase, it’s clear that Modern Family is still finding its voice in this area. But even the fact that it exists so early is a great sign. Given time, it will blossom.
4. Phil Dunphy is the New Michael Scott
Or maybe it’s an unholy marriage of Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute. Regardless, in these sad times where it’s becoming ever more obvious that The Office has lost its luster, it’s nice to see a show that’s so clearly influenced by it putting that influence to good use. To quote Paste editor-in-chief Josh Jackson, Phil brandishes “no self-awareness and a self-sabotaging quest to seem hip.” Sound familiar?
5. Manny: The Little Adult That Could
The latest in a long line of Children As Grown Ups (see: Neal Schweiber from Freaks and Geeks, Stewie from Family Guy, etc.), Manny is an inappropriately-mature joy to watch, and more adult than some of the actual adults on the show to boot.