Modern Family Kicked Off Season 3 with a Trip, But It's Still Going Nowhere

It's been a while since I've written about Modern Family, the ABC comedy giant that broke onto the scene in a huge way back in 2009 with one of the best TV pilots I've ever seen. The introduction to the Dunphys, Pritchetts, and Delgados was honed to perfection and full of potential (remember when Phil shot Luke? Hilarious! "WTF—Why the face?" Laugh-slappy!). Flash forward to Wednesday's Season 3 premiere, and things are pretty much the same, for better and worse.

For the first thirty minutes, the proceedings took place in a different locale. "Dude Ranch" took the families to Wyoming for a little R&R;, and as far as typical sitcom family vacations go (hint: usually not "well"), it was okay. As far as an episode of Modern Family is concerned, "Dude Ranch" wasn't worth the airfare and the baggage fees. I'm not sure I see the point of shooting in Wyoming for a storyline that could just as easily have taken place closer to home, but if I had a chance to go on an all-expenses-paid trip I'd probably keep my mouth shut too. The second half of the "one-hour premiere," "When Good Kids Go Bad," was much better than "Dude Ranch," but suffered because seeing two Modern Family episodes back-to-back exposes just how static the show has become.

And that's the problem Modern Family has faced ever since its fantastic start. It's still a funny show, but it's the exact same funny show. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, sure—but Julie Bowen's waistline has shown more growth over the last three years than Modern Family has. It's become a Mad Lib, albeit a funny Mad Lib, of sorts; I can imagine the writers inserting new one-liners into the blanks of a skeletal script and barely wiping up the old eraser marks. Cam and Mitchell bicker about parenting differences, Phil and Claire bicker about parenting differences, Manny says something kids shouldn't say, Phil says something adults shouldn't say, insert joke here about how hot Gloria is, insert joke here about how dim Luke is, Alex calls Hayley dumb, Hayley calls Alex a nerd. It's a formula that worked for the show in the beginning and still works for the show now, but it's the same sandwich on different bread, if I may try out a bizarre new metaphor.

The Emmy sweeper is still a lot better than most comedies on TV right now, but so far, Modern Family's third season is off to a decidedly un-modern start. If it doesn't want to be called Three -Year Old Family, it needs to take some—*gasp*—risks. The series boasts one of TV's best ensemble casts, but the actors' roles are diminished due to the emphasis on giving everyone equal camera time in each episode. Why not break up the A-B-C storyline and wrap-it-up-with-voice-over mold with a few special episodes? How about an entire episode with the kids at school, or Phil at work, or Jay on an adventure. Just because the cast shares the same inseparability from awards shows doesn't mean they have to share the same screentime every week.

Notes:
–Thanks to the natural process of aging, or as I call it, Nature's way of pushing you closer to death, there is one big change to the show this season: Drooling baby Lily is now talking toddler Lily. The new tot is adorable and follows instructions well so far (let's not call it "acting" just yet), but man oh man is she a b-i-t-c-h in training! She might want a new agent; it's never a good idea to have your coming-out episode be one focused on how you want to kill new babies. Thumbs mostly up for new Lily so far, but a final grade will be awarded when we get an idea of how she's used. What do you think?

–Luke (Nolan Gould) is still the funniest part of the show. Everything he says is funny. He's hands down the most consistently entertaining character in the cast.

–Cam and Mitchell are especially in need of a makeover. How many more times can we listen to Mitchell whine about not being a good enough dad? How much more stereotypically fabulous can Cam be? What was once TV's most adorable couple is quickly becoming TV's ridiculously gay for the sake of being gay duo.

–Was I the only one who found Alex's first kiss plot painfully uninteresting? That was a storyline that was treated as a throwaway when it could have been used as a main idea for a future episode.

–Gloria riding a horse is the best thing to happen to horses (plastic or real) since Jennifer Connelly in Opportunity Knocks.

–The big winner from last night's premiere? The Wyoming Tourism Board. It looks gorgeous out there!


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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The episode in the dude was definitely the worst episode of the series so far, but that doesnt mean its going bad. The kids are growing up, which should make for interesting episodes, though Manny still kind of gets on my nerves sometimes. I dont know any real kids that act like he does. I do agree that they could shake up the format a bit.
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I'll echo what others say, which is to say that sitcoms don't really need to 'go anywhere'. It did have a pretty long sophomore slump until the last two months of its second season, but it's righted the ship and it's still an excellent show
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Wow...really? You're a TV Writier? Dude...it's a freakin' sitcom. Sitcoms and most TV shows are formulaic and don't really evolve...especially Sitcoms. All I care about is...is it funny? Modern Family is usually a very funny show. You sound like a hater for hates sake...either that or you just want readers. Good luck with that.
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He is a TV writer and TV writer express THEIR opinions, thats what they do. I think thats the point, to engage other people in discussion and allow for opposing opinions. I always laugh when people get so defensive in expressing outrage at these bloggers columns, that means the writer is doing his job!
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Hey this is what family life is all about. "Same s*** diferent day." We all can relate to it in some way or another. If you start playing with the format too much it will take away the reasons we relate to it. Would you ask the Cosby show to get rid of the kids? How about turning the bar in Cheers into an art gallery? Change can be a bad thing!
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Why should it evolve, its not fecking Boardwalk empire, its a sitcom. Its very funny it still is, as the guy said about cheers, same for 11 years, one of the best to this day. Great show great cast, long live modern family, dont change
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I actually kind of agree that Modern Family has been kind of stagnant. I didn't think it was strong enough to win the Emmy for its second season, but it is still funny. Not sure what Tim is looking for. Still better than most comedies on TV.
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this show needs to be canceled ,,, i dont get how can anyone watch a show like this !! it is so bad it should have been canceled after its first episode ,,, it is offensive to families it is offensive to everyone .
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You can't generalize like that. Just because it's offensive to you for some reason doesn't mean it's the same to everyone and their families everywhere. Counterexample: me. and it's a good show.
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I cringed during the scene where Alex was pushing Lilly in the swing. That was just awkward physical acting and direction. Second episode was awesome though.
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The first episode was meh... But the second episode reminded me why I love this show so much. It had some great laugh-out-loud moments. Gloria and Manny's storyline was hilarious. That scene in Jay's car made me laugh so hard... I definitely agree with you when it comes to Cam and Mitchell, I love the new actress playing Lily but these three need some new story line ideas in order to stay funny. Overall Modern Family is still one of my 2 favorite sitcoms on TV (along with Parks and Recreation) and I highly double this is changing any time soon...
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This time i have to disagree with you... Modern Family is greater than ever, i love it. I hope it never changes because it would ruin the show.

This year we had a lot of crappy comedies such as Happy Endings, Friends with Benefits, Up all night... so i salute that we can still enjoy one like Modern Family with great actors and great acting, fantastic jokes and characters like Cam!
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Cheers was essentially the same tv show for 11 seasons (275 episodes) and its the greatest sitcom ever. Seriously, take an episode from season 11 and compare it to season 1. Aside from 2 cast member changes, its exactly the same, and its amazing. Why does Modern Family need to evolve? It's a sitcom. A very funny sitcom.
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thumbs down Tim, but hey it's yours to comment, I like the opening and Like both seasons, they are all original and very entertaining.



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Yeah I agree Tim. I got half way through season 2 before giving up. Funny, but not funny enough, and nothing really happens.
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I didn't think of that. It will be great if there's a "kids at school" scene. This will be an experiment the viewers can like or hate.
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Oh come on, Tim. These were two of the best episodes of Modern Family to date. I thoroughly enjoyed both episodes and every storyline, including Alex's first, second, third, and maybe fourth kisses, LOL! These episodes cleary showed why MF won the emmy for best comedy, along with all those other awards. You ever heard the term "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." There's nothing wrong with this show, so there's nothing to fix. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments that I actually had to rewind quite a bit because I might have missed other one-liners. Also, I know I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I love the new Lily. Kids grow up, so it was a good and necessary change. Her complaining about a new addition to the family had me cracking up!
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Those of us that grew up in a multi-child household know you do sometimes have the possessive older sibling who doesn't want a new baby, so the new Lily plays that angle and quite frankly I very much enjoyed it.
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up your tim, always asking for renewal, most show that actually does "renew" themselves usually spell the doom of the show
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Wow really? I think this is the Tim Surette article that I disagree with most, Julie Bowen is beautiful and I am quite a bit younger than her, especially in pigtails she is one of the best MILF's around. Show me another 40 year old women as stunning as she is. Luke is one of my least favourite characters, Cam entertains me the most. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 new episodes and was really happy that I got 2 back to back.
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If you have a funny show, WHY change anything? The great thing about Modern Fam is the fact that I can watch any episode no matter what season and not be lost with the storylines. I think that's a winning formula for a half-hour comedyit's why Friends and Seinfeld worked so well. Because of this, it's not necessary to delve deep into character development. The characters remain the way they are and that's what makes them likeable.the audience feels like they know them. And you can relate to them because parents do bicker and siblings do tease each other. And I think the reason why every character has a story in every episode, is because they arewella family. I don't know about yours but mine spreads gossip like fire, helps out and gets together all the time. And they did break up the ABC storyline. Instead of an entire episode of the kids at school or Phil at work, they did a whole episode of them on a ranchwhats the difference?
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do you guys have contests to deliberately write inflammatory / idiotic posts and see who can get the most comments?
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Alright. You got us. Who told you about the inflammatory / idiotic post pool. Was it suzieqster? It was suzieqster, wasn't it?
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i was talking about the staff's articles, not the commenters. the comments are the best part of the articles.
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Like you said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"! Get over yourself, Timmy. The show is still as funny as it ever was, and Claire is still as skinny, if not skinnier, as ever, and the whole cast is outrageously funny. Well, there is one blip that I can't stand, and that's the new "Lily". She is so not funny, and like you said, a be-aaach in training. The original Lily was adorable and sweet. The new one is, unfortunately, more like Mitchell, and not at all in a good way. (Can you spell 'selfish' , boys and girls??!) 'Nuf said.
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s-e-l-f-i-s-h. Owned it!
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Aaah TV.com back to being bitchy about everything again. PLEASE FIND SOME WRITERS WHO ACTUALLY ENJOY WATCHING TV INSTEAD OF THESE ANGRY MEAN PEOPLE WHO DOESN'T HAVE ANYTHING GOOD TO SAY!
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**RME** seriously, the nitpicking's just sad. Tim, don't be hatin'
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I totally agree and this is why I haven't watched since half-way season 2.



I'm happy for its Emmy success because I enjoyed it once upon a time but yeah, I don't know, I prefer comedies that are less middle-everything. Variety is the spice of life, and though the modern family here is varied (not all white, not all straight), the characters need a switch-up, too, once in a while.
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you really don't know what you have missed.. the second season was way better than the first one..
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I'm not quite sure what changes you're expecting. In terms of the story arc, I don't think it's supposed to change so much.... that's what the whole show is about --- looking at the everyday life of a modern day family. And I mean, cmon, real life families don't really change that much in a year, right? but nonetheless, in that year, you get memories you look back to laugh about. and i think that's the whole point of the show.



I'm not sure I would agree that things need to change. As it is, it is very entertaining, you get characters you can genuinely care about. I'm afraid putting more "drama" and twist into it will just ruin it.
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Jennifer Connelly in "Opportunity Knocks"?



Don't you mean Jennifer Connelly in "Career Opportunities"?
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I really don't know where it's supposed to 'go.' Sure, let's just turn an Emmy-winning show and rewrite everyone in it. That way, we can achieve...? Maybe as a show about families, they should all buy new houses and move away from each other, or bring in sorely-needed cousins and stepchildren. We all love it when that happens.



IF you liked it before, it's still funny. The kids will get older...when we allow actual time to let that happen. Maybe the Evil Toddlers Lily (up from Sweet Babies Lily) haven't evolved enough yet, but hopefully, they'll be recast as teenagers next season. We love when that happens, too.



It's been two years, people.
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though I heard about this "it is all the same!" critics from other tv critics I feel somethings should remain in their simple-and-beautiful way.. so many things evolve, and not all of them take them to the right direction.. I belive winning several emmys raised expectations of many people but it is actually what has been aired on wednesday that made them win those emmys.. however, Tim, you suggestions of episodes based on only couple of characters for spicing things up sounds really good, I do hope they would do that.. yet, that could and should never happen in a premier or a finale of a series, so we should just give them some time:)
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i didn't read any of this because i don't see the big deal about the show. i find it unfunny, not as unfunny as The Big Bang Theory, but i don't think either show should be on air lol. also everybody needs to stop paying attention to ratings, force tv networks to find something accurate to base their renewals and cancelations on.
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"The Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family" are two of my favorite sitcoms on right now, along with "The Middle." Really? "How I Met Your Mother?" Never liked that one!
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Looking at your profile I can see that you think How i meet your mother is funnier than Modern Family or TBBT.... yeah, really? Nothing to add.
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yeah, something more accurate than ratings, such as... your tastes, likes and dislikes??
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Hey, unlike Facebook, Modern Family has kept to the old adages of "If it ain't broke don't fix it" and the KISS principle "Keep It Simple Stupid" and for that I thank them with all the "change" going on in the world its nice to know my favorite 1/2 hour show can be counted on to be consistently funny. As, for how long can they go, well South Park is 14 years old and they haven't grown much there. Most people "the non-crazy ones" really don't grow a whole lot once they get to adulthood, I'm pretty much the same person I was 2 years ago so why do you sit here saying there must be all this "growth" and as for the kids they all made strides in these to episodes, Lily talks, Luke not quite as dumb as first presented "its inferred he wanted to move into the attic before the girls "tricked" him into it", Alex had her first kiss, and Haley showed her Maturity when she was all like "It was my proposal to turn down" thing.
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"Modern Family" is the best comedy on TV right now (maybe only second to 'Curb Your Enthusiasm') and they proved that on Wednesday. While "The Middle" for instance only drew big laughs from bringing on Ray Romano, MF was all over the place. And what the f*** is all that talk about evolving? That show doesn't need to go anywhere, period.
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Wow, premiere ratings says otherwise. Complaining already after the first episode of the season? Seriously? How can you possibly give them room to evolve if you are already criticizing the first episode? I bet there were new viewers of Modern Family after their second Emmy win so I don't think its the time for the show to change.
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All shows, all expressions of art, should seek to evolve.

That said, COMMUNITY=best comedy on television.

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I agree, community IS the best comedy on television!
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I feel the same way.
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Why does Modern Family need to evolve when its fine just the way it is?d Its doing amazing and has been doing amazing. Why mess with that?
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You're absolutely right. This is a brilliant, and witty show, yet it's in danger of being stuck in place. For continuity and freshness, the characters need to have a natural progression. I'm not saying they need to fundamentally change, but an organic growth is necessary to stave off stagnation. Characters should subtly evolve over the course of any series, and though Modern Family has an exceptional mold, eventually they are going to need to break out of it.



As an aside: Tim, I respectfully disagree. Nolan Gould is comedic Gold, but Ty Burrell IS the funniest part of show. But, I'm with you on Alex's first kiss plot. It just seemed like a superfluous way to give her screen time.
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A show sticking to what made it popular is television suicide...just ask Family Guy.
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as far as I know family guy continued for like several seasons? what kind of a suicide is that?
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Do you not detect sarcasm when it is written, or was it just too subtle for you??
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The two episodes were fine, I dont see why your complaining at this point its on the 3rd season and yes I know what you mean but you do realise its just a comedy show not a drama and it takes time to evolve the characters properly you really dont want to rush it. Either way its still miles better than in the middle, two and a half men and some other half hour comedys out atm, new shows too btw.
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50 episodes should be enough time for a little progression.
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"Ridiculously gay for the sake of being gay"? ...what?!
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He's talking about the show's depiction of the couple, which, as a gay man, I find to be getting tedious as well. It's stuck in a Will & Grace-era rut of what "gay" should look like on TV.



And ps Tim is as down with the 'mos as any dude I know.
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I agree. That was a pretty ignorant statement. :( It's not like anyone CHOOSES being gay so how could anyone be 'excessively' gay?
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Your statement is the ignorant one. You have completely missed the point because you are blinded by your stance on an issue. These people are ACTORS, they did CHOOSE to be gay, and so did the writers CHOOSE how these actors should play a gay person. There characters are caricatures of what the perception of gayness is.
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Modern Family is a great show, better than Glee in every single way. And I think that this premiere live up to Modern Family's laugh curriculum.
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