Less Familiar Comedy Deserves Your Time

If you aren’t already hooked on Modern Family, you have, unfortunately, been missing out on some fantastic TV. With the fourth season of the massively acclaimed American comedy just under way, there’s no better time to sit down and get properly invested.

The mockumwwwentary revolves around the eclectic daily lives of the extended Pritchett family. The father, Jay (Ed O’ Neill) is newly married to Gloria, a Columbian stunner 25 years his junior (Sofia Vergara). The uptight daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) is (usually) happily married to Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrel) with three kids, and the son, Mitch (Jesse Ferguson) is gay, living with a long-term partner Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and with a Vietnamese baby in tow. With such a range of characters, it’s always going to be important that they can interact well, that they don’t drown each other out, that they actually work together. And honestly? They do.

Burrel stands out as the clueless, adorable, disarmingly goofy dad. He is, as he points out, the ‘cool dad’. Except he’s not. His complete ineptitude at being cool is phenomenal; it’s there both in the obvious gags on the show and even more so in the more subtle ones – the little looks over to the off centre camera like he’s just thought of the world’s funniest joke. And as I said, the interaction with the other characters is so important. Phil wouldn’t be Phil without Claire beside him, the withering glances and deadpan looks of disapproval as her husband fails to live up to her strict parenting style are perfectly weighted. His reaction to his son Luke shooting his daughter Alex with a BB gun? ‘Not cool buddy. Not cool.’

Mitch and Cam prosper in their own little microcosm. Mitch is uptight and worried. Cam, on the other hand, is deliriously camp and over the top. He manages to keep up a three season long running gag on his anecdotes about his childhood living on the farm in Missouri while Mitch, sitting beside him on the ‘interview’ shots looks on in derision. Jay rounds things off as the patriarch, living with his fiery new wife. He almost slips under the radar, but invariably manages to sneak in each episode’s sharpest one liner. Acerbically un-PC, and with a weary bitterness towards almost everyone else in his family, he is the perfect foil to the flamboyance that the rest of the characters portray.

But the thing that makes this show so good and, most importantly, separates it from the crowd is that it has real heart. Every so often, the show takes a step back and presents a genuinely moving scene. The end of Season 1 had Phil organising a wedding for his wife because he feels responsible that she never got the one that she deserved when he married her in their teens. The scene plays out in mute apart from a Hawaiian acoustic cover of Eye Of The Tiger. It’s poignant without being overly mushy, and in the one scene, with Claire surrounded by everyone she loves, you realise that even with their differences, all of these characters truly are a family.

So, if you haven’t seen any, just get watching. Season 4 will welcome you with open arms.

Prithu Banerjee