A conservative 60-something war veteran is married to a young and beautiful Colombian woman whose 12 year old child becomes the half brother of the man’s 40 year old daughter who herself has three children who are all older than her 12 year old half brother. Oh wait, did I mention that the old man also has a gay son who has adopted a Vietnamese baby with his partner?
Modern Family is the incredible amalgamation of familial love, goofiness, peculiarities and just plain comedy. The show aims to highlight the confusion in the lives of three families and how that intensifies when the entire group comes together. Indeed, the greatest thing about the sitcom is that in nearly every episode, there is an element of chaos and miscommunication as the combinations between characters and families are continually changed. Set in the suburbs of Los Angeles, the show veers away from the Hollywood-y nature of the city and focuses on the life of a normal (well, not quite) family where mishaps and mistakes abound. The show is light, sweet, entertaining and is everything one would want in a sitcom about a family that is rather out-there.
Called a “mockumentary”, the show is filmed from the perspective of an unseen filmmaker. It moves away from the use of the laughter track which many contemporary sitcoms employ and this decision of the creators has been hailed by most critics. Modern Family has also been praised for its casting. Each character, initially, was a shot in the dark, the creators have admitted as much, but as the show went on, the director allowed the actors to understand and create the soul of their own characters and that turned out to be the masterstroke that has really catapulted Modern Family to the top of the pile of currently running TV sitcoms as evidenced by the four Emmy Awards for the Outstanding Comedy Series that it has won in a row.
The main focus of the show is to capture the eccentric nature of the “modern” families and the casting does complete justice to this weirdness, and then some. One of the more iconic portrayals is of Gloria Pritchett played by Sofia Vergara. She is the Colombian trophy wife and the real gangster in the house as she occasionally proves with her ability with a gun. Her high-pitched, piercing voice is one of the most recognisable aspects of the show. She likes to force her culture down the throats of the family, even if some of those things aren’t strictly speaking Colombian. Her drama and her mispronunciations drive her family, and especially her husband, mad but she really is the life of the Pritchett family.
Another iconic portrayal is that of Cameron- Mitchell’s partner. Played by Eric Stonetreet, “Cam” is the “good daddy” of their daughter Lily and perhaps the most multi-talented of all the characters- an ex-clown, a Christmas caroller, a history teacher, a music teacher and a football coach, all in one. From the heartland of America (Missouri), occasionally selfish and really very dramatic, Cam’s hands and his little facial expressions speak much louder than his words. He has a very big heart and, although very easily offended and moved to tears, he cares very much about the children in the family.
In all honesty, Modern Family is not the heaviest or the most intellectually challenging kind of comedy and nor is it slapstick but it is a subtle hybrid of the two. Littered with the occasional laugh at sticky situations, it is filled with innuendos which are highlighted. The light nature of the comedy is most appealing to nearly any viewer because, and here I speak from personal experience, Modern Family has the ability to put a smile on your face. However low and unwilling to smile you may be feeling, the characters have the ability to make you laugh. From “Phil’s-o-sophy” to Mitchell’s obsessive, controlling nature to Manny’s hopeless attempts at a successful and lasting moment of teenage love, the show has got it all. The title is more than apt as the show really captures what it is to be a family in the modern age of today- all the craziness, all the fun, all the weirdness but above all, all the bonding and all the love. Family is key to happiness and to fun and there is nothing that stands truer to that notion than Modern Family.