Case Number 24573


Fox // 2011 // 515 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 27th, 2012

The Charge

They're just like your family. Only funnier.

Opening Statement

In this day and age, television has gone from having three main broadcast networks to hundreds of cable and satellite stations featuring thousands of original programs for almost every topic known to man: doctors, swamp people, lawyers, vampires, high schools, singles, couples, zombies, drama clubs, talking cars...the choices are endless. So why would anyone want to stick with a seemingly creaky "sitcom" like Modern Family? Read on to find out.

Facts of the Case

Jay (Ed O'Neill, Married with Children) and Gloria (Sophia Vergara, The Three Stooges) continue to struggle with both age and culture differences, while raising Manny (Rico Rodriguez, The Muppets), a son from Gloria's previous marriage. Cam (Eric Stonestreet, Bad Teacher) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Untraceable), still learning to be new parents, struggle with the possibility of adopting yet another child. Phil (Ty Burrell, Dawn of the Dead) and Claire (Julie Bowen, Happy Gilmore) continue their adventures in raising three rambunctious children; precocious Haley (Sarah Hyland, Spanglish), brainy Alex (Ariel Winter, ParaNorman), and slightly clueless Luke (Nolan Gould, Friends with Benefits). Together these three families discover there is nothing more precious than each other...sometimes. Depending on how annoyed they get at any given moment. But hey, that's a Modern Family for ya!

The Evidence

During its initial season, Modern Family was a winner. A HUGE winner. It was one of those shows everyone knew would be a hit before the pilot episode even aired. The show became a ratings juggernaut and garnered a tremendous following. Multiple seasons and Emmys later, the series has become one of the most beloved half hours on network television. And for good reason: Modern Family features big laughs and a lot of heart, something often missing from today's sitcoms. It's a show about three segments of one large family; people who love each other even when they're driving the others nuts. No one will mistake this series for real life, but much of real life permeates the series.

Heart is at the center of Modern Family, which is one of the reasons I keep coming back. Anyone can get cheap laughs, but it takes a special breed of writer and onscreen talent to make you care deeply about the people you're laughing with...or in the case of Phil, laughing at. These are characters who are flawed, funny, fragile, and lovable. No easy feat, considering the cynicism which has permeated most network television programming. In a landscaped marred by vile cartoons and cheap sex jokes, Modern Family stands out because it's not afraid to unabashedly tug at our heartstrings when the need arises.

It's a rare show that brings together actors who fit together with ease and this ensemble cast is near perfect, without a weak link in the chain. Ed O'Neil -- miles away from his iconic Al Bundy -- finds just the right balance between making Jay coarse and soft, mean and loving. He gets a lot of help from Sofia Vergara's comedic Gloria, who is able to bring out Jay's tenderness when it's least expected. Gloria could easily have become easy fodder for one-note jokes about her ethnicity and South American heritage, and while those are sometimes present, Vergara has made her one of the show's most respectable characters.

Ty Burrell's Phil and Julie Bowen's Claire continue to be an amusing and lovable train wreck, as they work their way through communication errors, like when Phil is convinced his doctor is calling to tell him he's dying as Claire attempts to calm him down. Burrell's clueless delivery is pure gold, and he and Bowen play off each other so well they have quickly surpassed The Office's Jim and Pam as my favorite television couple. Bowen is a master at exasperation and awkward conversations, making her relatable to anyone who has a partner whose choices are often baffling at best.

Mitchell and Cam -- played to perfection by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet -- have taken what could easily be broad caricatures or gay stereotypes and created amazing people we can't help but to root for. Because the writers could easily slip into controversy or become preachy with their storylines, Mitchell and Cam are the show's biggest balancing act. But each week the show manages to find the right balance between allowing these characters to just be and never dwell long on any one aspect of their personalities. Stonestreet is masterful at giving us some of the best mood swings ever captured on TV (when Cam rips out a cabinet door while dieting...that may be the funniest thing I've seen all year). Whenever the show does allow the characters to become preachy about their sexuality, that balloon is often quickly deflated by a hilarious misunderstanding.

The children, playing second fiddle to the adults, all do a great job with their assigned roles. Special mention must be paid to Nolan Gould as Luke Dunphy, often delivering his lines with as much slick comedic professionalism as his elders. Rico Rodriguez's Manny (years ahead of his age) is one of the most lovable kids on television. The only child actor I've never fully warmed to on the show is Sarah Hyland's Haley. She comes off as privileged and materialistic, which makes the character two dimensional and hard to relate to.

Season Three's twenty-four episodes are all gems, without a clunker in the lot. Guest stars abound, including a very funny moment with Greg Kinear (As Good As It Gets), as one of Phil's potential real estate clients who gets a little too fresh with Claire. Most of the episodes revolve around mundane life stuff, which is why audiences are drawn to the show. In fact, one episode is devoted solely to the family trying to figure out how they are going to have Christmas together. Who amongst us can't relate to that dilemma?

I'm notoriously picky about the television I watch. The older I get, the more I realize time is a limited resource, so I refuse to waste my moments sitting through idiotic drivel that doesn't make me laugh or move me emotionally. Luckily, Modern Family does both of those things and does them well. I love when I visit with the Dunphys or the Pritchetts, it feels like I'm visiting my own family. That's what makes this show a winner.

Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, each episode looks excellent, filled with bright colors that have a nice "pop" to them. Detail is very good and the image doesn't feature any imperfections or defects I could spot. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is front heavy and doesn't feature a ton of dynamic range. Then again, it's a dialogue driven comedy, so there shouldn't be much in the way of surprise. Aside of some music cues and ambient noise, the side and rear speakers don't get much of a workout. Nevertheless, this is still a great audio track that works well within the confines of the show. Also included are English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Bonus features on this three disc set include deleted and alternate scenes (available on all three discs); behind-the-scenes featurettes focusing on specific episodes, actors, and locations ("Destination: Wyoming," "A Day on the Set with Ty," "Adventure of the Modern Faily Kids," "Driving Lessons," A Modern Family Christmas," "Ed O'Neill Gets a Star," "Modern Family Goes to Disneyland Resort"); and a gag reel.

Closing Statement

Modern Family is a show I highly recommend. It's sharp writing, wonderful performances, and tremendous warmth puts it miles ahead of the competition.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. "I haven't been judged by this many people since I forgot my canvas bags at Whole Foods."

Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 83
Acting: 98
Story: 98
Judgment: 97

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)

* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 515 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted/Alternate Scenes
* Featurettes
* Gag Reel

* IMDb

* Official Site