‘Modern Family’ brings back traditional family values

Sarah Choudhary

The holiday season is a time for gathering with family members and enjoying each other’s company, but millions of Americans are setting aside their busy schedules every Wednesday night to spend some time getting to know the clan that is quickly becoming TV’s wittiest and most lovable family, the Pritchetts of ABC’s hit comedy, “Modern Family.”

The show is shot in a mockumentary style, similar to “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” but the witty one-liners and well-developed gags are reminiscent of another critically beloved show which also featured a dysfunctional family, “Arrested Development.” 

“Modern Family” revolves around the daily lives of the extended Pritchett family, which is composed of three very different couples.

Not since Lucy and Ricky Ricardo of “I Love Lucy” has a Caucasian-Latino couple been so delightful. Though patriarch Jay is considerably older than Gloria, played by the exquisitely hilarious Sophia Vergara, audiences often forget the age difference, since the two match each other so well. “Modern Family” creators and head writers Chris Lloyd and Steven Levitan custom tailored the character of Gloria Delgado to fit Vergara’s personality and mannerisms. 

This attention to character development is what separates “Modern Family” from another smash hit, “Glee.” While the second season of “Glee” has increasingly forced its characters into rigid stereotypes with little room for growth, “Modern Family” has taken the time to enhance and fully realize every character on the show. 

“Modern Family” has been praised for featuring an openly gay couple, (lawyer and breadwinner Mitchell and self-described “stay at home dad/trophy wife” Cameron) without making the couple a cloying gimmick or taking a self-righteous stance on their relationship.

 Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell) and Eric Stonestreet, who won an Emmy this year for his portrayal of the endearing Cameron, depict their characters realistically, and with self-deprecating humor, they often comment on their situation as two fathers raising an adopted baby girl, Lily. 

The couple is deftly rendered and so well acted that their relationship seems as ordinary as the other traditional marriages in the show.

Several younger actors make up the show’s stellar cast. The three Dunphy children, teenager Haley, precocious pre-teen Alex and their bumbling little brother Luke, can often steal the scene from their older castmates. Gloria’s son Manny is a highlight of the show, played by 12-year-old Rico Rodriguez who displays comedic timing beyond his years. 

The younger members of the cast are not merely background actors; they are strong, well-developed characters who often drive the show’s plot and provide for some tender moments amid all the clever humor. 

 “Modern Family” is a rare gem in a TV landscape filled with run-of-the-mill crime procedurals and lifeless sitcoms. The show is able to tackle a wide array of topics without ever becoming mawkish or overly sentimental. 

However, “Modern Family” is most magical when it takes an everyday problem and manages to imbue it with laugh out loud humor and sweetness without becoming sanctimonious. 

Critics have recognized the extraordinary quality of the show and rewarded it with high praise and numerous awards. 

All adult actors except Ed O’Neill (Jay) were nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress Emmys this September. Overall, the show was nominated for 14 Emmys and won six, including Outstanding Comedy series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. 

A truly lovable family has been missing from TV in recent years. The 1980s and mid ’90s had the “Cosby Show’s” Huxtables, while the Barones of “Everybody Loves Raymond” entertained audiences for nine seasons (1996-2005). But for several years there has been a shortage of comedies centering on a universally admired family.

 Thus far, “Modern Family” has distanced itself from dull TV families, with its freshness, wittiness and brilliant cast. It may only be in its second season, but it has already made an impressive debut.