Published on SoCal.com
Your family is not that funny. Seriously. Even Uncle Bob, who pulls quarters from behind your ear and spouts limericks that feature the word “Nantucket.” If someone followed you and your family around for a year with a video camera, you would know this for a fact.
But if someone were to take your family’s quirks, flaws and best stories, added a brilliant comedic cast and some world-class writers? Then you’d have ABC’s Emmy-award winning hit comedy “Modern Family.”
The story of three families, the mockumentary-style sitcom follows patriarch Jay (played with finesse by Ed O’Neill), his beautiful Columbian second wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and her young son Manny (the very funny Rico Rodriguez); Jay’s daughter, the uber-controlled Claire (Julie Bowen), her lovably clueless husband Phil (Ty Burrell) and their three children, Haley, Alex and Luke (Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter and Nolan Gould), are the second group; the third is comprised of Jay’s gay son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his dramatically-inclined partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet, who also picked up an Emmy for his performance) and their newly-adopted Vietnamese baby, Lily (played by twins Ella and Jaden Hiller).
“Modern Family” turned everyday life into something divine, finding the funny in overscheduled families (Claire and Phil trying to find time for dad to shoot son Luke with a BB gun), sibling rivalry (Mitchell and Claire’s unresolved figure-skating drama) and blended families (Jay’s attempts to incorporate Columbian holiday traditions into their American Christmas).
Though viewers never really know whose camera this family’s life is being documented by, the “film crew” device makes this comedy something a little more special than the typical live-audience sitcom. Kind of a sitcom-reality show hybrid, “Modern Family” works because it is both over the top and completely relatable. Every character is so perfectly cast, even high-octane guest stars (such as Minnie Driver, Elizabeth Banks, Edward Norton, Fred Willard and especially Shelley Long as Jay’s Sedona-dwelling first wife) seem to step up their game.
Now available as a four-disc DVD set (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, MSRP: $49.98) or a three-disc Blu-ray set (MSRP: $59.99), “Modern Family: The Complete First Season” features all 24 episodes, plus some enticing extras. Like many DVD/Blu-ray releases, there are deleted, extended and alternate scenes. Divided among the discs, there are some hidden gems in these extras, such as Cameron’s scenes with Barkley the dog butler and Manny getting Claire and Mitchell to come over early Christmas morning for a family portrait. There are also some deleted family interviews that are pretty funny, especially Phil’s list of (to him) great band names.
The real payoff is on the last disc, though, with six featurettes that truly enhance the series. “Real Modern Family Moments” goes behind the curtain to show which episodes featured stories from the lives of the series’ writers, producers and creators. Far from filler material, some of the most unlikely scenarios are the ones inspired by real-life events (such as Mitchell’s pigeon-in-the-house freak out and Phil and Luke’s adventure in the crawlspace under their house). Viewers actually get to take a journey under series’ creator Steven Levitan’s house to see firsthand the inspiration for the episode “Fears.”
Many people are familiar with the roles stars Ed O’Neill and Julie Bowen have played, but in “Before ‘Modern Family,’” viewers learn where we may have seen the other cast members, whether on TV, at an amusement park or in the mall. There are also snippets of cast screen tests, where the chemistry is pitch-perfect.
One of the most unexpected surprises is “Fizbo the Clown,” which shows how Eric Stonestreet’s teenage clown was lifted from reality and written into the show. As a teen, Stonestreet already had much of the charisma and stage presence that earned him the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Don’t be afraid of this clown feature!
Two episodes (“Family Portrait” and “Hawaii”) get their own behind-the-scenes treatment. Each episode is exposed from table reads to final scenes. Viewers see the inspiration for their storylines, hear the actors’ opinions of certain scenes or their characters and witness the chemistry of the cast and the director. In the words of Mitchell, “Sweet Lady Gaga, that’s good!”
Finally, a gag reel rounds out the collection. It’s fine, as gag reels go, but nothing as funny as watching an episode of this series. If you like watching actors flub lines or make faces, then this is for you. Otherwise, skip this and go to one of the other more memorable bonus features instead.
If you weren’t lucky enough to catch this series as it aired, this 24-episode set is the perfect way to immerse yourself in comedy gold. Even if you did see every episode, “Modern Family” is the kind of show that only gets better with repeat viewings. Watch it once for the hilarious storylines; watch it again for the in-jokes and subtle background comedy. Then watch it a third time because, unlike your family, these guys are really funny.
“Modern Family: The Complete First Season” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Don't miss season two of “Modern Family,” airing Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.