‘Modern Family’ sets the bar for sitcoms

When “Modern Family” debuted in the Fall of 2009, ABC appeared to have a lasting comedy show in the making.

Show creators Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan had written and produced for previous comedy hits such as “Frasier” and “Just Shoot Me.”

The cast is made up of relatively unknown actors but is anchored by family patriarch Jay, played by Ed O’Neill of “Married With Children” and his daughter Claire, played by Julie Bowen of “Ed.”

The show revolves around an extraordinary family, consisting of Jay, his daughter Claire and son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who each have families of their own. Claire is married to Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) and has three kids while Mitchell and partner Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) adopted a little girl from Vietnam named Lily. Jay has remarried to a much younger Colombian woman Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and adopted her son Manny (Rico Rodriguez) as his own.

The first season shows how the extended family copes with difficult situations but also uses the strength of their relationships to deal with life in this not-so-traditional, modern family.

But while each episode tends to carry with it a meaningful message in the end, hilarity ensues throughout each episode.

Set in a “mockumentary” style similar to comedies like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” “Modern Family” set itself apart from other new shows in the 2009 season as the funniest, if not one of the best, the networks had to offer.

Each family has its own quirkiness that is believable yet hilarious.

Claire’s husband Phil and their only son Luke (Nolan Gould) bring the laughs with their ditzy and sometimes downright dumb thoughts and actions.

Phil tries to be the cool dad, which is instantly recognizable by the parenting style he deems as “peerenting,” which is “talking like a peer but acting like a parent.”

His ridiculousness is one of the highlights of the show.

Jay, Gloria and Manny are more atypical than Claire and Phil’s seemingly traditional family because of Jay’s age compared to his much younger wife.

Gloria, who is very proud of her Columbian roots, brings rationality and sanity to the family but also lets her feelings be known on every issue.

Jay and Manny have a strained, yet funny, relationship.

Manny, who refers to Jay by his name, is a child who acts too old for his age, yet is still very much a kid at heart.

Mitchell and Cameron also bring a funny dynamic to the show. Cameron is carefree and fun-loving, juxtaposed brilliantly by Mitchell’s insecurities about the little things in life.

Along with Phil, Cameron is perhaps the funniest character on the show, with little quips that are sassy yet hilarious. Being a stay-at-home dad, Cameron spends his free time dressing up their baby Lily in various costumes, like Diana Ross for Black History Month.

The pilot was enough to keep you watching and the  following episodes certainly did not disappoint.

“Airport 2010” and “Hawaii” are parts one and two of an episode near the end of season one with the whole family going on a trip to Hawaii.

Imagine the rush of the McCallister’s in “Home Alone” combined with the Griswold’s insanity of “European Vacation,” and you understand just a part of what those two episodes were about.

Season one was a critical and commercial success, with the show winning three Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Eric Stonestreet) and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.

After this success, I was interested to see if “Modern Family” could avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump” characterized by stale plot lines and recycled jokes from the previous season.

However, “Modern Family” continues to impress.

Only three episodes into the second season and “Modern Family” is just as funny as it was last year.

These episodes give reason to believe that this season may be better than the first, with the writers and actors finding their groove with excellent jokes woven into more serious plot lines.

The most recent episode, “The Earthquake,” unfolds after an earthquake rocks the area, affecting all three families.

The Dunphy’s were in the midst of getting a bathtub fixed and the ensuing rumble locks Claire and the plumber in the bathroom.

Phil purposely does not try to help her, instead fixing a fallen bookshelf that he was supposed to have anchored to the wall sometime earlier.

Guest star Nathan Lane plays Cameron’s friend Pepper who throws costume parties they avoid attending. The pair use the earthquake as an excuse not to go.

Meanwhile, Jay goes golfing instead of to church with Gloria, and Manny decides to join him.

“A Latino boy was going to carry my clubs anyway, why not let it be you,” he jokes.

But Manny eventually becomes upset because Jay makes some disparaging remarks about heaven and hell.

With Manny, Luke and his sisters Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Alex (Ariel Winter) all growing up, the story line possibilities seem endless.

I am looking forward to the rest of the second season and foresee this hilarious family staying on the air for a long time.

“Modern Family” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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