Show 101: Modern Family

SHOW: Modern Family

PREMIERES: Wednesday, September 22 at 9:00pm on ABC

THE PREMISE: The show follows all the members of large, charmingly dysfunctional family that includes three distinct "family units": a straight couple with three kids, a gay couple with an adopted baby, and a older man/younger lady duo who are both remarried. The clan is anchored by patriarch Jay Pritchett (the "older man," played by Ed O'Neill), who had two kids with his first wife: Mitchell and Claire. Now he's married to the hot, Latina, much-younger Gloria and helps raise her son, wise-beyond-his-years-and-linen-suits Manny. Jay's daughter Claire married Phil Dunphy and had three kids; his son Mitchell partnered with Cameron Tucker (if the laws change, hopefully they can get gay-married) and adopted baby Lily. They all live close together in the Los Angeles suburbs, determined to be in each other's lives.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: Modern Family combines traditional family sitcoms with a single-camera, mockumentary format, which allows us further insight into the weird, lovable characters the show has worked hard to create. The situations are rarely predictable or forced—the show centers on three family units, who often duck in and out of each other's storylines effortlessly. Take "Fizbo The Clown," an excellent first-season episode: The Dunphy family wanted to throw son Luke the most unforgettable birthday of all time, and in the end, the show constructed a perfect domino-like collapse of all the party elements—clowns, deflating bouncy castles, comb sheaths. Also, you can always count on Phil or Cameron for a hilarious one-liner.

WHY YOU MIGHT HATE IT: The show can feel sappy at times, especially when the concluding sentimental moment isn't totally earned. And while some characters are excellently fleshed out, some (okay, the kids) are one-note. Yes, it's funny that Luke is such a dunderhead, but not all the time.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Not much, actually. While the show carries over from episode to episode, there wasn't an overarching theme/conflict to Season 1. Still, some simple dynamics are as follows: Phil has the secret hots for Gloria, though he'd never act on it. Manny has the secret hots for his married-into-the-family cousin/teenage drama queen Haley. Cameron really wants to get in good with Jay; this is perhaps because Mitchell and Jay are still working on their relationship—especially since Jay had a hard time with Mitchell's coming out. Everyone loves baby Lily. Claire is a bit uptight, and Phil desperately wants to be cool:



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