The QT

Saturday 15 June 2024

Boxing Clever – Modern Family

Every week, Michael Telfer – aka Mike TV – recommends a box set to crack open. This week’s choice is a firm family favourite in his household.
Modern Family
Hit sitcom Modern Family ran for 11 seasons between 2009 and 2020

Over the course of our children’s lives a number of ‘go to’ options have developed in our family; staple items that are guaranteed to deliver without the need for a referee or a committee. Need to knock up a quick tea? Defrost a pot of my wife’s homemade pasta sauce. Looking for an activity everyone will be up for? Off to the bowling alley.

Stuck for something to watch on the telly? Whack a Modern Family on.

The trailer for Seasons 1-8

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve worked our way through the eleven seasons of this brilliant sitcom. We’re certainly well past the stage when there is a requirement to watch them in any sort of order, we can drop in and out at random and hit the ground running like a telly addict version of the SAS.

The festive episodes are as much a part of our Christmas routine as Nick Helm’s Christmas EP, the 14 day Radio Times and forgetting to serve the red cabbage on Christmas Day.

Modern Family takes the form of a mockumentary following the lives of the extended Pritchett family, whose families represent three examples of contemporary family life. Middle aged Jay (Ed O’Neil) lives with his young Columbian wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and her son Manny (Rico Rodriguez).

The shiny new cast in the first season

His daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) and her husband Phil (Ty Burrell) have three kids, while his son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) lives with his partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and their adopted Vietnamese daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

The opening credits and first few minutes of the opening episode might fool you into thinking Modern Family is just another by numbers sitcom that somebody has forgotten to slap a laughter track on. The characters are all ridiculously clean cut, and their homes look like furniture showrooms.

And then the families get together and something magic happens. They bicker and snipe and tease and rib each other. It turns out the Pritchett family all love each other dearly, but are all also black belts in sarcasm. By the time Cameron flamboyantly recreates a scene from The Lion King and Jay’s eyes nearly roll out of his head you’ll be all in.

And how they looked by the final season. Still pretty polished.

It’s how I imagine a remake of Keeping Up Appearances might look if it was scripted by The Thick Of It’s writing team.

Modern Family ran from 2009 to 2020 and made huge stars of its lead cast, as well as being a critical and commercial success in America where it won 22 Emmy awards. It’s very easy to see why – I can’t think of another show that manages to combine such broad appeal with razor sharp wit and writing.

All 11 seasons are available to stream on Disney Plus amounting to 250 episodes in total. Is that enough time for Phil Dunphy to get his father in law to love him? There’s only one way to find out…

After 11 years the cast disappeared into the sunset, gone but not forgotten in our house

What next?

If you enjoyed Modern Family you should try out the following box sets:

Friends (Netflix)

If you haven’t seen or heard of Friends, then you clearly weren’t alive in the 1990s, or culturally aware any time since. The huge sitcom made megastars out of its cast (and their haircuts) and by the end they were all making about a cajillion dollars per episode.

It still holds up today and continues to gain new fans, which probably says more about the chemistry between the cast and the writing than it does about the premise, which is broadly that six good looking people of roughly the same age drink coffee and chat.

Frasier (Channel Four)

There aren’t many shows that managed to maintain high standards for as long as Modern Family, but Frasier is one of them. It also originally ran for 11 seasons, finishing in 2004, before being revived for a spin off series in 2023.

Kelsey Grammer plays psychiatrist Frasier Crane, who returns to his hometown of Seattle as a phone in radio show host. Crane had originally been a recurring character in Cheers, the famous sitcom based in the tavern of the same name.

Back in Seattle Frasier reconnects with his gruff ex-cop father Martin (John Mahoney) and his younger brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce), a fellow psychiatrist.

The Office (Netflix)

The British version of The Office was the first mockumentary series, but the American version is one I’d always recommend. It took everything great about the original and ran and ran with it, giving the ensemble characters a chance to breathe and shine.

Steve Carrell is fantastically awful as the manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflen paper company.

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