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Modern Family: Season 1 - Review

Modern Family: Season 1

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MODERN Family was arguably the funniest new comedy to appear on American TV last season (in our minds, Glee qualifies as more of a comedy-drama!).

A mockumentary-style sitcom, the show chronicles the unusual kinship of the extended Pritchett clan, a brood that includes patriarch Jay (Ed O’Neill), his younger Latina wife, Gloria (Sofia Vergara), and her pre-teen son Manny (Rico Rodriguez II), Jay’s daughter, Claire (Julie Bowen), her husband Phil (Ty Burrell), and Jay’s son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who lives with his partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet).

Like past mockumentaries such as The Office, the humour stems from awkward situation comedy, as the various family members find themselves in often excruciatingly embarrassing scenarios before attempting to talk their way out of it for the benefit of the cameras and people interviewing them.

Unlike The Office, it has more heart throughout, as the bond of love that exists between all three households is always clear from the outset and almost always underlined come the end.

But thanks to the quality of the performances and the painful reality of some of the situations that we can all relate to, each episode has something to savour. Indeed, it’s no small compliment to suggest that, at just under 30 minutes per episode, the shows don’t last long enough, particularly with so many characters to split time between.

Of the performances, Ty Burrell’s goofy but loving man-child dad Phil is consistently a blast, his expressions frequently reducing viewers to fits of laughter, but Ed O’Neill is alos great as the put-upon patriarch, who struggles to understand his mature beyond his years step-son Manny, while striving to please his flamboyant wife (brilliantly played with just the right amount of cleavage, sass and vulnerability by Vergara).

But every performance scores highly, with the outrageously camp Cameron (Stonestreet) serving as a great foil to Mitchell (Ferguson)’s more uptight partner, and Julie Bowen adding sex appeal and tolerance to the role of Claire, who must put up with bickering kids and the accident-prone Phil without too much complaining.

Of the episode highlights, The Bicycle Thief offered a great story for Burrell’s dad to sink his teeth into and was often genuinely hilarious, while En Garde puts Manny centre-stage in typically comical fashion.

Edward Norton and Elizabeth Banks contribute memorable guest appearances to Great Expectations, there’s laughter aplenty in Fizbo, where hilarity ensues with a clown, and Up All Night offers three great storylines and another top guest spot from Benjamin Bratt.

The situational comedy upon which Modern Family thrives is also gleefully apparent in the episode Moon Landing, which features another great cameo from Minnie Driver, and inspired turns from Burrell and O’Neill (with misunderstandings aplenty), while My Funky Valentine, Starry Night, Benched, Travels With Scout and season finale Family Portrait offer further episodes to savour.

In short, this is a blast that delights from first episode to last. Roll on Season 2 (which commences on Sky1 on Thursday, October 7)!

Certificate: 12
Episodes/No of discs: 24/4
UK DVD Release: October 4, 2010