Case Number 26399: Small Claims Court


Fox // 2012 // 516 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 14th, 2013

The Charge

"Sometimes I don't know if I love how much I fear Claire or fear how much I love her." -- Phil Dunphy

The Case

In the fourth season the Modern Family characters find new challenges and adventures in everyday life. Aside of raising children and fitting romance into busy schedules, there's Cam (Eric Stonestreet, Identity Thief) and Claire (Julie Bowen, Happy Gilmore) buying and flipping a house, much to Mitchell's (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Untraceable) frustration; Jay (Ed O'Neil, Married with Children) and Gloria's (Sophia Vergara, Escape from Planet Earth) unexpected bundle of joy; and Phil (Ty Burrell, Dawn of the Dead) and Claire dealing with daughter Haley's (Sarah Hyland, Scary Movie 5) newfound college freedom...and the consequences that it brings. Add to this mix a wise-beyond-his-years Manny (Rico Rodriguez, The Muppets) wooing an attractive nanny, brainy Alex (Ariel Winter, The Dark Knight Returns) playing in a rock band, and thick headed Luke (Nolan Gould, Space Buddies) being...well, Luke. Welcome to a truly Modern Family.

As cable stations start to change the way we watch television, I'm beginning to wonder if dominant networks like CBS, AMC, and NBC have outlived their usefulness. While many of the programs shown on these networks are popular hits, the fact is that cable allows creative artists the ability to run a bit wilder and take bigger chances with their shows. Swearing, sex, and violence are all far more prevalent on AMC and Showtime than on the 'free' stations. The networks are going to have to ramp up their game a little bit if they want to keep their heads above water as the years go by. Each year the big stations roll out shows that are mediocre at best, most of which seem to get the ax or are relegated to paltry time slots that without much chance to grow artistically. One of the hottest shows on television right now is Modern Family, and with good reason: it's just a very well done, smartly written sitcom. It takes a very age old idea -- family -- and gives it a little twist with clever storylines, endearing characters, and dialogue that snaps with wit and crackling one-liners. If the rest of the shows on television were this amusing, maybe people wouldn't be flocking to cable to get their dose of quality TV.

Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season follows the Pritchett/Dunphy clan as they deal with a whole load of new crises and adventures. Gloria and Jay are shocked in the season opener to discover that Gloria is pregnant yet again! Jay must deal with the idea of being a father at 65 while Manny worries about how things will change in the household. Phil and Claire send oldest daughter Haley off to college but things go from bad to worse when, after only six weeks, she's arrested for underage drinking. Cam and Mitchell are mourning a failed adoption process while their daughter, Lily, begins to exhibit stubborn and difficult behavior. It's all in a day's work for the crew of Modern Family. Each plot is woven into another family's story, making Modern Family a seamless story about three (or is it four?) generations of family arguing, bickering, and loving one another.

The cast is, as usual, excellent in their roles. Really, there isn't a weak link in the entire Modern Family chain. The adults are all pitch perfect, including Ty Burrell's clueless Phil (and his 'Phil-osophy'), Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as one of the most endearing gay couples in TV history (and who rarely fall into the clichés afforded many homosexual characters), and Ed O'Neil as the gruff but lovable Jay. One of the many joys of the show is seeing O'Neil in a role that fits him so well; I was never a fan of his lackluster and one-dimensional Married with Children, so it's a real treat to see O'Neil sinking his teeth into a fully formed character like Jay (dealing with a newborn baby, to boot). The kids -- cloying as they sometimes can be -- also deserve accolades. I was most happy that the writers of the show are actually trying to give Sarah Hyland's Haley realistic traits; Haley was close to becoming a cartoon version of a brain dead cheerleader, and with this fourth season she's finally starting to become more interesting.

Modern Family has become one of the network's must see shows and it rewards viewers with equal parts laughter and pathos; each episode usually ends with an emotional moment that avoids being overly sentimental or syrupy (special mention goes to an episode that deals humorously with the difficult situation of a parent passing away). That's what I find so refreshing about Modern Family, somehow it's been able to find a way to be both new and old at the same time.

Each episode is presented in 1.78:1/1080p HD widescreen. Anyone who purchased the previous three seasons will know what to expect with this fourth season: warm colors, solid black levels, and a very detailed and clear picture. Fox has made sure that each of these episodes appear newly minted, and fans of the series won't be disappointed at how good the transfers on each episode look. The soundtrack for each episode is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English and is very good. While each audio mix won't bust the roof off your house (situational comedies are hardly hot bed of directional effects and surround sounds), there are some very nice moments featured here, especially during the upbeat opening music cues. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly heard and dispersed. Also included on this set are English, Spanish, and French subtitles.

Extra features on this three disc set include some deleted and alternate scenes, commentary tracks for selected episodes ("Party Crasher," "Fulgencio," "Career Day," "Goodnight Gracie"), a few featurettes on the making of the show ("An Addition to the Family," "A Day With Eric," "A Modern Guide to Parenting," "Modern Family Writers"), a gag reel, and a director's cut of one of the episodes ("Goodnight, Gracie").

Modern Family -- now rolling into its fifth (!) season -- has become one of TV's most endearing shows and won almost twenty combined Emmy awards. There's a reason the series is so beloved: it's a flat out excellent comedy.

The Verdict

Guilty of inducing laughs.

Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 95

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: 516 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

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

* IMDb

* Official Site

* Facebook Page