Created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, both of whom previously worked on Frasier, the Emmy Award-winning Modern Family uses the documentary style brought into vogue by The Office (UK). With two other series currently using the format (NBC’s The Office (US) and Parks and Recreations), it seems slightly overused, but Leviatan has said in an interview “it’s a family show done documentary-style rather than a true documentary” as the series had originally been intended. What also helps is the series is very funny.
The head of this Modern Family is Jay (Ed O’Neill). He has been married to his much younger Columbian wife Gloria (Sofía Vergara) for six months. She has a child from her first husband, 11-year-old Manny (Rico Rodriguez) who might well be the most emotionally mature member of the family. Jay has two children from his first marriage: Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson). Claire and Phil (Ty Burrell) have been married for 16 years and they have three kids: pretty Haley (Sarah Hyland), smart Alex (Ariel Winter), and Luke (Nolan Gould) , who tries his best. Phil tries hard to be the cool dad and is unaware he fails miserably. Mitchell and his partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) have been together for five years. As the series opens, they have adopted Lily, a Vietnamese baby girl.
Over the course of 24 episodes, spread across three discs, the very funny cast and the talented writers create a very engaging sitcom. The characters are compelling and the situations can get wonderfully ridiculous at times, but ultimately it’s a sweet show about a family that loves each other.
Not only did Modern Family win for Outstanding Comedy Series, but Emmys were also awarded to Stonestreet for Outstanding Supporting Actor in Comedy Series and to Levitan and Lloyd for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (“Travels with Scout”).
More members of the extended family are introduced during the season such as Jay’s ex-wife and Claire and Mitchell’s mother DeDe (Shelly Long), Gloria’s ex-husband and Manny’s dad Javier (Benjamin Bratt), and Phil’s father Frank (Fred Willard). Other guest stars that appear include Elizabeth Banks, Edward Norton, Chazz Palminteri, Kristen Schaal, Minnie Driver, and Kobe Bryant.
The 50GB Blu-ray discs are very slow to load. The video is presented with a 1080p/ MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Colors are bright and blacks are solid. There are good details evident throughout. The only artifact I caught some slight aliasing on clothing that has sharp lines. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Not surprisingly, the series is dialogue heavy, resulting in the track being front heavy. There is great directionality and placement of effects within the soundscape. In one early episode, a ringing doorbell can be heard off to the right. Not much happens or is required for the rears or subwoofer.
Fans of the series will be delighted with all Special Features. There are “Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes” (45 min) and also “Deleted Family Interviews (11 min). The “Gag Reel” (6 min) is mildly amusing. “Real Modern Family Moments” (10 min) covers where ideas for episodes come from and how they get incorporated into the series. The cast discusses what they were doing “Before Modern Family” (13 min). Stonestreet reveals the origins of “Fizbo the Clown” (4 min). “Modern Family: Making of “Family Portrait” (9 min) and “Modern Family ‘Hawaii’” (5 min) are episode-specific features.
For those looking for laughs, I highly suggest inviting this Modern Family into your home. They may make yours seem normal. The first season is available on Blu-ray and DVD.