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Modern Family: The Complete First Season(TV) (2009-2010)
A satirical look at three different families and the trials they face in each of their own uniquely comedic ways.
For more about Modern Family: The Complete First Season and the Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see the Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
Starring: Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson
» See full cast & crew
Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
A sitcom for the 2010s.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 28, 2010
For a barometer of America's cultural climate, look no further than the network TV sitcom, which, for decades, has served as a telltale indicator of the country's attitudes on family life, relationships, accepted morality, and social norms. Leave it to Beaver was like an advertisement for quaint 1950s domesticity. By the late 1960s, The Brady Bunch tackled the then-novel concept of the blended family. In the '70s, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, and All in the Family—along with its many spin-offs—addressed social issues and rapidly changing values. The Cosby Show gave us a positive example of an African-American family in the 1980s, while Roseanne, Married with Children, and The Simpsons plumbed the darkly comic depths of dysfunction. Seinfeld and Friends showed the lovelorn, sex-obsessed lives of singles at the end of the 20th century, and at the beginning of the millennium, the nation's collective self-awareness was reflected in Arrested Development and The Office. But what of the newborn 2010s? A prime contender for America's next looking glass is Modern Family, a half-hour comedy that shows the country for what it is—complicated, diverse, but still, in many ways, surprisingly traditional.
The changes to our conception of what a family can and should be have always been evolutionary—rather than revolutionary—and these permutations provide the basis for Modern Family's topical comedy. The show follows three families—actually, one large extended family— who each challenge the "nuclear" norm in one way or another. The Dunphys seem the most traditional—they're white, suburban, upper-middle- class, one mom, one dad, three kids—but parenting in the 21st century, even for a typical family unit, is no easy feat. In the first episode, stay-at- home mom Claire (Julie Bowen) scrambles to find time on the crammed family calendar for her husband Phil (Ty Burrell) to shoot their young son Luke with a BB gun. Why? Because Phil made a deal with Luke—he'd buy him the gun, but if Luke shot one of his sisters, he'd get shot in return. Phil can't go through with it, but he ends up shooting just about everyone, accidentally, including himself. He's one of the show's best characters, a father who tries desperately to seem "with it," but who only succeeds in embarrassing his wife and kids. "I'm a cool dad. That's my thang," he says in one of the show's characteristic to-the-camera confessionals. (Like The Office, Modern Family is a mockumentary.) "I'm hip. I surf the web. I text. LOL: laugh out loud. OMG: oh my god. WTF: why the face." Later, he expresses his fatherly philosophy: "Act like a parent, talk like a peer. I call it peerenting." In other words, he's a total dork. Most of the real parenting falls to Claire, who loves Phil but basically has to treat him like one of her children.
From here, the show's web of relationships gets more complicated. Claire's father Jay Pritchett, played by TV veteran Ed O'Neill, has taken a new wife nearly half his age, a sultry Columbian beauty named Gloria (Sofia Vergara), who has a chubby pre-teen son from her previous marriage to a wild Latin lover. The kid, Manny, is a tender old soul who's completely out of touch with how most kids his age act. He's a hopeless, hapless romantic who writes love poems for older girls, drinks coffee, takes up fencing—his father, according to Gloria, was good at "thrusting"—and wears a poncho on the first day of school to honor his Columbian heritage.
Jay tries to be an active parent to Manny, mostly to make up for his lack of a relationship with his gay, mildly neurotic son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson)—Claire's brother—who has just adopted a Vietnamese baby with Cam (Eric Stonestreet), his boisterous partner of five years. I can remember the public outrage from conservatives when Murphy Brown had a child "out of wedlock" in the early 1990s, so it really says something about our cultural state that Mitchell and Cam's atypical family has yet to be decried en masse by opponents of gay rights. If anything, the opposite has happened. People have complained that Modern Family is too modest in its portrayal of Mitchell and Cam's homosexuality— the pair never once share a kiss, or even anything more than a friendly hug, in the entirety of season one. Still, Ferguson and Stonestreet play hilariously off of one another, almost like a latter day—and thoroughly flamboyant—Laurel and Hardy. Their "gayness" doesn't necessarily define their characters, but just as the show plays up the dorky dad stereotype with Phil, or Gloria's fiery Latin passion, Modern Family has a lot of fun exploring the occasional awkwardness of gay parenthood, like when their daughter Lily says her first word—"Mama." ("Every gay father's worst nightmare.")
Screen time is split almost equally between the three familial units, and the show often cleverly subverts certain sitcom staples—like the obligatory Christmas and Valentine's Day episodes—to show how each family responds differently to tradition and expectations. (Look out for Edward Norton in a guest star role during the V-Day episode!) The writing occasionally veers into edgy, politically incorrect territory, but Modern Family is much more mainstream than the far-funnier Arrested Development, which proved too out-there for network TV audiences. That's not to say the show isn't funny—it most certainly is—but it tries to be touching and comedic in equal measures, which sometimes dulls the laughs. Nearly every episode ends on a tender moment—frequently accompanied by a here's how we learned our lesson-style voiceover—and this can get a bit predictable as the season goes on. Nevertheless, I can see Modern Family having a long run on ABC. The characters are well rounded, the casting is perfect, and the writing is sharp and insightful, drawing on sticky family situations that'll be instantly familiar for the show's intended audience—modern families.
Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shot natively on high definition video, Modern Family makes the transition to Blu-ray easily, with 1080p/AVC-encoded transfers that look sharper, cleaner, and less prone to the banding/macroblocking compression quibbles you get with broadcast TV. Color is realistic and vibrant, with consistently balanced skin tones and rich primaries—see Fizbo the Clown's multi-hued outfit, Cam's flamboyant paisley shirts, or the lush tones of the Hawaii episode. Black levels are deep and defining, and contrast is right on the mark, giving the picture a strong sense of presence. Clarity is no slouch either; the handheld camerawork means there are occasional soft shots, but most of the time the image is crisp and resolved, letting us make out fine facial features and wardrobe details. You'd really have to nitpick to find complaints about the show's presentation—highlights are occasionally overblown, especially on brightly colored objects, and there are a few instances of mild banding. Like I said, though, mere nitpicks. Overall, the show looks fantastic.
Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
You should know by now exactly what you're getting, audio-wise, with a family sitcom—a dialogue-driven, front-heavy experience that only occasionally calls on the rear speakers for ambience and cross-channel effects. That's exactly what we get with the show's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround presentation. With expectations tempered accordingly, there's no reason at all to be disappointed here. The dialogue is unfailingly clear and balanced throughout the season, from hushed whispers to frantic yelling. The surround speakers don't get much play beyond extremely quiet environmental effects and the rare pan—like Jay's model airplane puttering through the space behind our heads—but this is no big deal. Modern Family isn't Iron Man 2. The incidental music sounds decent—full and vibrant—but I'll warn you, the track that plays over the menu on each disc gets old really fast.
Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Deleted, Extended & Alternate Scenes (1080p, 14:54, 20:45, and 9:24)
Each disc contains several scenes that were trimmed for time but are no less funny that what made it on air.
Deleted Family Interviews (1080p, 8:51 and 1:36)
Likewise, here we get more family confessionals.
Gag Reel (1080p, 5:41)
You know the drill—flubbed lines and crack ups.
Real Modern Family Moments (1080p, 10:25)
The show's creators/writers talk about the real-life incidents that inspired many of the moments on the show.
Before Modern Family (1080p, 12:53)
Each cast member gets a chance to explain what he/she was up to before being cast on Modern Family.
Fizbo the Clown (1080p, 4:13)
Eric Stonestreet tells us how the Fizbo character he created as a child got incorporated into an episode of the show.
The Making of Modern Family: Family Portrait (1080p, 9:15)
A quick production documentary of the season finale.
Modern Family: Hawaii (1080p, 5:19)
A profile of the special vacation episode that was shot on location in Hawaii.
Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Will Modern Family eventually become the sitcom that defines the 2010s? Only time will tell, of course, but the show is definitely off to a great start—it's funny, relevant, smartly written, and perfectly cast. There's also a lot to love about this Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox, which features a strong audio/video presentation and a good selection of bonus features. Modern Family earns my Ty Burrell-as-Tom Selleck thumbs up!
Modern Family: Other Seasons
Modern Family: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Blu-ray Deals of the Week: RoboCop and Modern Family - September 16, 2012
Amazon's Blu-ray Deals of the Week affect both MGM's RoboCop Trilogy package as well as Twentieth Century Fox's first two Modern Family season sets. Through this week, Amazon is offering the trilogy for 73% off its SRP of $59.99 and the two Modern Family editions ...
• Deal of the Day: Modern Family Season 1 Blu-ray $23.99 - November 2, 2010
This Tuesday, Amazon has an interesting Blu-ray related deal of the day: up to midnight PST, you can order Modern Family: The Complete First Season for only $23.99 (60% off). The price history shows that this is the cheapest it has been. Note also that if you order ...
• Modern Family Season 1 Blu-ray Announced - July 9, 2010
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced Modern Family: The Complete First Season for release on Blu-ray on September 21. This sitcom/mockumentary view of today's non-traditional households was one of the highest rated new television shows ...
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