Modern Family is an American family sitcom television series created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). It ran for 11 seasons, from September 23, 2009, to April 8, 2020. It follows the lives of three diverse family set-ups in suburban Los Angeles, linked by patriarch Jay Pritchett.
Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan conceived the series while sharing stories of their own "modern families." Modern Family employs an ensemble cast and is presented in a mockumentary style, with the characters frequently speaking directly to the camera in confessional interview segments.
As creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan retold stories about their families, they realized that the stories could be the basis for a show. They started working on the idea of a family being observed in a mockumentary-style show. They later decided that it could be a show about three families and their experiences. It was originally called My American Family, and the camera crew was originally supposed to have been run by a fictitious Dutch filmmaker named Geert Floortje, who had lived as a teenaged exchange student with the Pritchetts and had developed a crush on Claire (while Mitchell had developed a crush on him). The producers later felt that this component was unnecessary, and it was scrapped. Lloyd now prefers to look at the show as "a family show done documentary-style".
In The New York Times, Bruce Feiler called attention to how the show depicts the increasing way communications technology shapes the way people perceive others, even family members. "[It] is surely the first family comedy that incorporates its own hashtag of simultaneous self-analysis directly into the storyline," he writes. "Mark Zuckerberg may be a greater influence on Modern Family than Norman Lear."
The first season was met with critical acclaim. It scored 100%, based on 28 reviews, on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 8.55/10 and the critical consensus: "Thanks to sharp writing and an eccentric but exceedingly likeable cast of characters, Modern Family signals the triumphant return of the family comedy." The first season also scored 86/100, based on 27 reviews, on review aggregator website Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim".
Michelle Haimoff of the Christian Science Monitor criticized the show for only casting the women as stay-at-home moms while the husbands have highly successful careers: "There is a difference between quirky, flawed characters and ones who are incapable of professional success. And when the latter is reliably female, it makes for sexist television. It also makes for unrealistic television." Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writer Ali Waller asked her Twitter followers "If Modern Family is so 'modern' then why don't any of the women have jobs?" Other authors reinforce this criticism, claiming that stay-at-home mothers are no longer the norm in today's society.
According to a CNET staffer commenting on a first-season episode: "The wife and daughter are unable to learn how to use the remote and must be taught by the father, while the son is 'good with electronics,' even though he is thought of as the stupidest member of the family." Arianna Reiche from Gawker commented on the episode "Game Changer" in which Gloria hides her skill at chess so her husband will not be upset at losing: "This moment is at best a sappy quip about compromise in an often heavy-handed series, and at worst, it's a moment in a show with 9.3 million viewers, on a network owned by Disney, which explicitly validates girls and women subduing their intellect."
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Jay Pritchett recently married to Gloria Delgado, is trying hard to keep up with his much younger and hotter Colombian wife, along with her passionate preteen son, Manny Delgado. Claire Dunphy is having a hard time raising her own family: her husband Phil is great, except that he thinks he's "down" with their three kids, much to all their embarrassment. Meanwhile, Mitchell Pritchett and his enthusiastic partner Cameron Tucker have just made a major life change by adopting a Vietnamese baby named Lily.
Mitchell and Cam settle in on their new normal, and Phil and Claire decide that one of the kids needs to move out in order to take control of the house again. Meanwhile, as Gloria becomes more successful at work, she notices Jay, Manny and Joe don't seem to need her as much. The entire family discovers saying goodbye is much harder than it seems.
Parents need to know that Modern Family is an ensemble comedy that offers a poignant and laughably honest portrayal of contemporary family life. The three families featured include a gay couple and their adopted daughter, and a post-midlifer and his much younger second wife and stepson. There's some stereotyping, as well as some rare sexual moments played for humor (characters in underwear; some suggestive positions) and conversations about safe sex. Salty language ("damn," "bitch," "hell") is fairly frequent, and teen drinking is referenced but not favorably. Mature teens will probably find themselves laughing -- a lot.
MODERN FAMILY centers on the daily lives of three different but related families. There's Jay (Ed O'Neill) and his second, much younger wife, Gloria (Sofia Vergara), and her son, Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Jay's grown daughter, Claire (Julie Bowen), lives nearby with her husband, Phil (Ty Burrell), and is a full-time mom to their three teens. Claire's brother, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and his life partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), are raising their adopted daughter a stone's throw away from the rest of the family. The series chronicles the ups and downs of parenting, marriage, and family relationships. Later seasons have seen developments such as Claire and Phil's oldest daughter leaving for college, Mitchell and Cameron's attempts to adopt another child, and an unexpected baby on the way for Jay and Gloria.
This show is well scripted, the cast is superb, and it doesn't shy away from a down-and-dirty look at family life. It's no surprise that Modern Family has picked up several accolades since its debut in 2009. Balancing the good times and bad times isn't always an easy task in a comedy, but this series always ends on a heartwarming note that reflects the beautiful imperfection of family relationships. At the same time, it offers a contemporary picture of the modern American family in its presentation of three very different -- but equally loving -- household structures.
That said, Modern Family isn't for everyone. There are a lot of stereotypes to weed through, and the plot often deals with sex, which is discussed openly in teens' company, as well as other mature themes such as death, divorce, and, to some degree, prejudice. Much of the humor revolves around Mitchell and Cameron's life together and Jay's unconventional marriage to his young Colombian wife. Take into consideration your family's values before opting into this series, but if you do watch with your teens, know that its ultimate message is one of tolerance and the lasting connection among family members of all manner of backgrounds.
Families can talk about how Modern Family compares to other family-centered shows. Does the content seem more or less realistic than others'? Do the central relationships seem nontraditional to you? How are they different from other sitcom families?
How does your family compare to the characters in this show? What aspects of your family might be considered nontraditional? How do the characters change over the course of the series? In what ways does this show emotional growth on their part?
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