When I first heard about Modern Family, it felt like a mishmash of elements from The Office, Married With Children, and Arrested Development. But it surprised me with how much potential it has, and as long as it avoids a couple big pitfalls, it will be a great addition to ABC's anemic comedy lineup.
Modern Family isn't just a rehashed mishmash of concepts from other sitcoms - it's the natural evolution of them. It isn't groundbreaking or mind-blowing, but it's well executed and often outright hilarious.
I'd like to make it very clear that I hate the wobblycam and shakycam fad of the past ten years. One-camera minimalism is fine, but putting the camera in the hands of a crack-addicted rhesus monkey is not my idea of good cinematography.
That aside, there is a lot to like about Modern Family, which showed a lot of promise in its opener with a varied cast that provides fertile ground for great comedy. The show has three separate casts who occasionally intersect, and so it's worth evaluating each family on both current comedy value and potential comedy value.
After 11 fine seasons as over-the-top misogynist Al Bundy in Married With Children, Ed O'Neill is great to see as the understated and sullen patriarch Jay Pritchett. In the pilot, he drew more laughs from me with a couple of petulant "No" responses and a meaningful look at a store window than he did with one of Al Bundy's testosterone-fueled rants.
Sofia Vergara as the fiery and emotional Gloria plays very well against the crotchety nature of Jay, and the romantically precocious Manny adds a lot of chemistry to this comic trio. This team-up has great potential, and I really look forward to seeing them interact in the future.
Cameron and Mitchell
Cameron and Mitchell are also really fun to watch, as Mitchell's rampant insecurities play off of Cameron's shameless and flamboyant nature well. A few of the jokes fell short with them (the cream puff gag at the beginning of the show comes to mind as one of the lowlights of an otherwise entertaining episode), but once the writers get a good handle on how Mitchell and Cameron interact, I'm willing to bet that they will become the highlight of the show, a high-energy counterpart to the low-key Delgado-Pritchett segments.
Apropos of nothing, I would like to mention that the baby Lilly is absolutely adorable. This may be some Vietnamese bias showing, though.
The Dunphy Family
The show falls a little flat with the Dunphy family, which seems more like a hastily thrown-together collection of TV cliches than an actual family. Ty Burrell's portrayal of Phil Dunphy, the lame dad who likes to think he's cool, seems like a Steve Carrell impression. Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy, the shrewish and overprotective mother, induces more sighs and winces than real laughs.
Their children don't really make a strong impression in the first episode, either, though the more physical humor, from the BB gun bit to Phil's thrown back, did elicit a good share of laughs. I'm not giving up on the Dunphy segments of the show yet, but if there's any reason to stop watching the show, it'll definitely be these five characters, who don't bring nearly as many potential laughs to the table as the other half of the cast. We'll see if the Dunphy family can rise out of their hackneyed characterizations and really make an impression, but I'm not holding out too much hope.
All in all, Modern Family gave me five very good reasons to keep watching, so I'll be tuning in next week and waiting for the show to fulfill more of its great promise. We'll see how it plays out from here, but after a solid and often hilarious pilot, I'm willing to call myself a fan.