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For Laughter's Sake, Stop Giving Modern Family Outstanding Comedy Series Emmys

Boy, the year 2009 sure was a different time, wasn’t it? Instagram wasn’t here to show off everyone’s dogs and dinners, Matthew McConaughey was starring in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and nobody had an inkling that Outstanding Comedy Series would soon become the most tiresome award given at the Primetime Emmy Awards. This was the year that ABC first debuted the ensemble comedy Modern Family, a series that put a twist on the hackneyed family sitcom by adding a gay couple with a baby, an old man dating a younger not-quite-English-speaking hottie, and…well, Ty Burrell as a dad. Here we are, five years later, and Modern Family somehow has yet to lose the Emmy gold in the top comedy category, and it’s high time the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences takes its Sophia Vergara-shaped blinders off and recognizes superior shows.

Created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan, Modern Family is arguably one of the best written shows on TV, at least as far as the jokes are concerned. Nearly every second of this series is soaked in wit and light-hearted cynicism, so it was properly justified in taking home the Outstanding Comedy Series in 2010, despite still being a relative newbie in the big fish world of The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s one big family segregated into three completely different factions, and the best kind of comedy will often come from the most uncomfortable places. Like, say, your wife’s ex-husband bonding more with your step-son than you are, or having to figure out the proper amount of gay to be in order to adopt a child.

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, Modern Family continued on this same character-driven path in Season 2, still poking fun at how dumb Phil, Luke (Nolan Gould) and Haley (Sarah Hyland) are, and still getting mileage out of the wacky way Vergara’s Gloria pronounces four syllable words. Surely Jay (Ed O’Neill) would at some point become accustomed to his son being in a loving relationship with another man, right? And Manny (Rico Rodriguez) would have to someday lose the precocious wallflower routine, right? Not a chance! The series basically regurgitated the same formula back out to audiences, and won another Emmy for its efforts.

While you or I might stop a record from skipping by walking over and placing the needle on a different part of the vinyl, Modern Family has done nothing of the sort in the last three years, and the only changes made to the family dynamic are of the non-reality-based kind. Yet it has still managed to win Outstanding Comedy Series every single time it’s been nominated, making it the Frasier for a new millennium, though we can assume Phil wouldn’t understand a single joke on that show. Now, Modern Family will never be as terrible as one of CBS’ multi-camera sitcoms, but it’s still a step or two behind the times when it comes to “modern” television comedy.

You want to give Gail Mancuso Oustanding Directing for the Vegas episode? Fine. You want to give Outstanding Supporting Actor to Ty Burrell again? Fine. But don’t you look me in the eyes and tell me that Modern Family is in any way a funnier, enjoyable or more original show than top notch series like Veep or Silicon Valley. Hell, I would have also been perfectly fine had Louie or Orange is the New Black gained a surprise win over the others; but in no way, shape or form did Modern Family’s samey sameness do anything better for comedy than any of those four series in the past year.

It’s time to give it up, Emmys. End this godforsaken streak of monotonous jokes taking home the gold. Cease rewarding writers who can’t keep Mitchell and Cam (or Phil and Claire, or Jay and Gloria) happy for longer than three minutes at a time without throwing awkward sitcom tropes at them. Stop ignoring comedy’s evolution! I mean, keep nominating the show if you have to, but not if it means leaving out Brooklyn Nine-Nine again. Do you really want to look worse than the Golden Globes again next year? Do you?

Now pardon me, I’m going to go watch something that’s funny, but doesn’t feel like it’s “funny for the twelfth time.”

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.