Ever since the critically-acclaimed comedy series Arrested Development was prematurely yanked from television airwaves in 2006 by a network that just didn’t get it, we — the people that did get it — have been looking for something to fill that void. Indeed, such a series came to pass in over three years later, with the ABC series Modern Family. The mockumentary-style show follows the trials and tribulations of the individuals factions of the Pritchett/Dunphy clan: kinfolk who tend to be just as dysfunctional (and prone to accidents) as the Bluths, but who are inherently kinder in nature to each other and those around them.
In fact, if I had to choose a family to live with, I would choose a Modern one.
For this, Modern Family‘s third season, a slight change has taken place. 99% of the cast has remained the same, with the exception of the character of Lily, the adopted Vietnamese daughter of the show’s gay couple — Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson). Previously portrayed by unspoken infant twins, Lily is now portrayed by a l’il tot named Aubrey Anderson-Emmons. Now, normally, I detest child actors, especially those of the infant kind who seem to be there just for the sake of being “cute” (lest we forget Full House).
Here, however, the casting gurus of Modern Family have uncovered a kid who truly clicks with the rest of the cast — especially her onscreen fathers (one only need see the episode “Little Bo Bleep,” wherein Lily beings to drop a very naughty word into conversation to validity my theory).
Anyway, odd praise to a child aside, Modern Family: The Complete Third Season begins with our television tribe journeying to a vacation ranch in Wyoming: a trip that proves to be as big of a life-lesson for the kids — cousins Luke Dunphy and Manny Delgado (Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez, respectively) and sisters Haley and Alex Dunphy (Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter, respectively), as well as many of the adults (Ed O’Neill’s Jay Pritchett butts heads with leering dude Tim Blake Nelson over Pritchett’s wife, Gloria — as played by Sofía Vergara, etc.). The vacation theme returns in the latter-half of this 24-episode season, with the company traveling to Disneyland (remember kids: the show is produced by ABC).
Additional highlights for this season include an epic attempt by the show’s geeky “cool dad” Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) walk a tightrope, build a tree house, as well as invent something he calls “Express Christmas” ä, a memorable run for city council by Jay’s daughter (Phil’s wife), Claire (Julie Bowen) against an irritating incumbent (David Cross), and the complications and weird looks that ensue on Cam’s fortieth birthday, which he considers his tenth as he was born on February 29th.
Oddly enough, despite the fact that Modern Family is produced by Disney and aired on ABC, the folks at Fox Home Entertainment have brought us the show to DVD and Blu-ray in the past — and this release is no exception. Here, once more, we get a wonderful 1080p/AVC transfer of the HD series, with strong colors, detail, and contrast all-around. Likewise, the three-disc set boasts a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that is quite good for a show that consists mostly of dialogue and sound effects that primarily emerge from the front speakers. Special features consist of deleted/alternate scenes as well as behind-the-scenes/making-of featurettes (on each disc), and a gag reel on Disc Three.
While Modern Family‘s jokes are nowhere near as outrageous as that which was present on Arrested Development, I do have to say the writing is just as good. In fact, one of Modern Family‘s co-executive producers, the remarkably named Abraham Higginbotham, was both a writer and executive story editor on the other series. Bonus points in my book. Other storytellers lending their expertise to this season include Ben Karlin (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), Cindy Chupack (Sex and the City), and former Frasier writers Dan O’Shannon, Steven Levitan, and Jeffrey Richman.
Guest stars for this season include Benjamin Bratt (yes, he’s still around, ladies), who returns as Manny’s biological father (and gives us a killer Ricardo Montalban accent in the process), Chazz Palminteri and Jennifer Tilly as Jay and Gloria’s salsa-dancing buddies, and Kevin Hart as Phil and Claire’s new neighbor, Barry Corbin as Cam’s farmer father, Ellen Barkin as an unscrupulous real estate agent (read: real estate agent), and Bobby Cannavale as Cam’s bitter ex-clown partner. Yes, we get clown action in this season — something that is always good for a terrifying laugh.