Modern Family: The Complete Third Season [Blu-Ray]
Author: Nick Venable
published: 2012-09-25 02:11:51
For the third year straight, Modern Family took the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, which joins its plethora of other accolades. The writers are some of the best on TV, able to turn any phrase into a character-specific self-deprecating quip. Earlier this year, the cast went through a Friends-like salary dispute, eventually getting what was deserved. The show has all the makings of a classic television series. But is all classic television really this repetitive? Probably.
A resident scholar of the “if it ain’t broke…” school of thought, Modern Family hits almost all of the right notes for a sitcom in its stride. This includes an ensemble cast, free from loose ends, who wax wittily through plotlines that generally encapsulate character conflicts until everyone converges, feeling apologetic for whichever pithy disputes were had. But forget the nut shell; this is the entire nut farm.
I understand how privileged a person I am to whine about the lapdog consistency of a show that never fails to make me laugh. I’m not badmouthing the series based on its own quirky merits. I’m viewing it, using my own logarithm, in collation with past classic sitcoms, which is largely complimentary. I consider how Cheers, so often confined in location, created a world for its characters that viewers didn’t need to see to feel like we belonged (most of it experienced through mere bar conversation). Conversely, Modern Family’s setting is never static, and themed episodes are frequent, pitting it with “the one where they…” descriptive tactics (again, like Friends).
Precisely, this third season starts with a trip to a dude ranch, headed by a downright hilarious Tim Blake Nelson as cowboy Hank. If you just now imagined everything that could happen to the Pritchett-Dunphy clan on a dude ranch, that’s half the episode right there. The same goes for a trip to Disneyland, which will never cease to exist as storyline fodder, done so many times the curtain covering this theme park’s televised magic is in tatters (Six Flags, anyone? And does Fizbo the Clown really need multiple appearances in a single season?).
Watching these twenty-four episodes in such short order, as opposed to weekly (which I did originally), highlights my pointed nitpicking. Many comedies are all the better for marathon viewings, especially if there are through-lines to be followed. Modern Family falls short here, with multi-episode arcs limited to Mitchell and Cam’s flip-flopping attempts for a second adoption, Claire’s doomed run for city council, and Haley and Dylan’s thick-as-bricks relationship. Lily’s increasing proclivity to say precocious and alarming things probably fits in there.
It becomes a critical microcosm, considering a show’s immediate triumph is the reason why its continuation feels stale. With so little time allowed by networks for shows to grow anymore, it’s a very hit-or-miss situation as soon as the pilot airs. Because there is absolutely nothing wrong with Modern Family’s formula, besides placing itself in the “unjustified talking-heads” sub-genre, its success was imminent. And nothing has changed since. Any episode from this season, barring an appearance by Lily or another time-sensitive character, could have been the second of the series.
For every shining light of variety--such as the aforementioned city council run that sort of pits Claire against the schmarmy Duane Bailey (David Cross)--we get hackneyed mishandled birthday parties or Gloria getting angry because Jay cares more about his dog than her. (Spoiler: she eventually does something nice for the dog.) The sensitive story of Cam and Mitchell trying to appease a potential surrogate mother resolved itself in a way so kitschy it was almost offensive to comedy. On the flip side, one might presume Phil learning of Haley’s lost virginity would have led to over-the-top embarrassment humor, but the story was almost sweet. These writers get so many details right that I wonder why they shortsight the broader areas.
I admit I’m only pointing out dirt on the diamond, not the glitter in the dirt. I could watch Ed O’Neill be a self-sufficient, marginally-disappointed dad any day of the week. The smart/dumb banter between Haley and Alex is on par with the best children’s dialogue on TV. And Ty Burrell has the comedic timing of a George Carlin stopwatch.
Perhaps it’s my enjoyment of the actors themselves that leaves me unenthused with these Blu-ray extras, which don’t feature them enough. They’re all fine and dandy, but predictable, with one exception. The “Ed O’Neill Gets a Star” features footage from Ed’s star induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Steven Levitan, Sophia Vergara, Katey Segal, and Ed himself talk about Married…With Children, food, and young television wives. It’s a very nice tribute to an oft under-utilized actor.
“Adventures of the Modern Family Kids” shows the child actors on location doing things like para-sailing and rock climbing. “A Day on the Set with Ty” is a few minutes of a camera following Burrell around for the “Election Day” shoot, which Bryan Cranston directed. “Driving Lessons” features Rico Rodriguez and Nolan Gould on set for the episode where they casually drove a car back and forth in front of a girl’s house. Great show moment.
The “Deleted and Extended Scenes” and “Gag Reel” are both as amusing as you’d imagine. The cut scenes are almost as good as anything aired, and Vergara’s mismatched English in the gag reel held endless humor. Also, manshakes!
The dude ranch, Disneyland, and Christmas episodes each get a behind-the-scenes feature that is scarcely more than episode recaps from cast and crew. There’s on-set footage, but you gain more insight from just watching the episode proper.
Obviously this many laughs in one package can never be a bad thing. It can just be a not-as-good-as-the-best-thing thing. Congratulations, Modern Family, for proving that even in an election year, America is perfectly unprepared for change. Chazz Palminteri’s closeted golfing salsa dancer Shorty for President!
Distributor:20th Century Fox
Starring: Ed O'Neill, Ty Burrell, Sophia Vargara, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen
Directed by:Chris Koch, Jason Winer, Michael Spiller, Fred Savage, Bryan Cranston
Written by:Steven Levitan, Danny Zuker, Ben Karlin, Cindy Chupack
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