Modern Family [ABC, Wednesdays, 9/8C] is a remarkably smart new series about three families that intertwine in unexpected ways. First, there’s Phil [Ty Burrell] and Claire [Julie Bowen] who have been married for long enough to have a teen daughter, Alex [Ariel Winter], a tween daughter, Haley [Sarah Hyland] and a son, Luke [Nolan Gould], who likes to stick his head in the banister. Then there are Jay [Ed O’Neill] and Gloria [Sofia Vergara] – an older man with a mid-life crisis and a trophy wife, who has an eleven-year old son, Manny [Rico Rodriguez]. Finally, there’s a gay couple – Mitchell [Jesse Tyler Ferguson] and Cameron [Eric Stonestreet] – who have been together for five years and just adopted a Vietnamese child.
The series is shot in the increasingly popular faux documentary style, so there are times when the characters face the camera and talk directly to the documentary crew. The documentary conceit allows to get to get to know the characters in something approaching a realistic manner and the ensemble is extremely good at both being natural when they’re not actually being interviewed and slightly uncomfortable when they are.
The neat thing about Modern Family is that these three unique families have something in common, despite being so unalike. In the final moments of the premiere, their connection is revealed and, suddenly, some things that might not have made sense earlier fall into place.
Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd have written a pilot that really gets at the underlying connections that exist between these different types of families. The humor is not only funny, but true. Director Jason Winer somehow manages to tie all three threads together without the episode feeling cramped, or stilted. Modern Family may be the best sitcom of the new season. Now all ABC has to do is get people to watch it.
Final Grade: A