Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Modern Family [DVD][Television]

Amount Viewed - 40 episodes

Story - Modern Family centers around three branches of a larger family. Each branch consists of parents and a number of children. One set of parents is the stereotypical wife and husband of the same age, another is of an older husband with a much younger wife, and the third is a gay couple with an adopted toddler. Every character on the show is reasonably unique though not completely inaccessible. The writers are able to have characters in opposition in one story and have them working together in another. The main source of stories and conflict definitely center around the parents in each of the families. While the children do often play a major role, the interactions of the parents almost always take center stage.

Each of the families could arguably carry their own show. Luckily for the viewers and writers this is not the case. Instead of three mediocre shows we have something a bit more special. The stories are often layered between families and take advantage of the entertaining aspects of each character. The pacing is quick and filled with comedy. The structure of each episode begins with basic hints as to what conflict each family will work through. While some of the plots are boring or just a bit weird the others within the same episode seem to balance things out. I have yet to see an episode without a plot I could easily relate to.

Modern Family does not shy away from presenting some drama. Characters are shown in the lightest of bad situations, such as the eldest daughter becoming drunk in Hawaii. The result was presented as bad and showed her mother as caring and understanding. Unfortunately the consequences were limited as to avoid affecting the show in significant ways. There are a very small number of elements of the show that indicate an actual time-line with people growing and changing. I believe this is both a blessing and a curse.

Presentation - Modern Family is presented as a semi-documentary with free moving cameras and cuts to characters speaking directly to the camera about a subject. While entertaining, I have to acknowledge that presenting comedy in the form where you can hear the mental voice of a character is a lot easier than without.

Arrested Development (had to be pointed out) - Modern Family is a very grounded Arrested Development. The wackiness of the characters and stories are toned down and limited to the boxes created for the characters. Arrested Development was much more free and had a flowing story episode to episode. Modern Family is more rigid but definitely does more to explore their characters' extreme sides. The resulting drama generally works but honestly can feel a bit weird in a comedy.

Gut - Great! Every episode delivers at least a couple of good laughs. Any flaws are covered with entertaining writing, acting, and reasonably realistic situations.

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