Bringing ‘The Office’ Home With You

modern familyTaking a nod from NBC’s success with mockumentaries, ABC’s newest show brings single-camera comedy to a whole new level: the home front. “Modern Family,” whose cast boasts silver screen vets Ed O’Neill (Married With Children) and Julie Bowen (Boston Legal), is a charming take on American dysfunction that is destined to keep us laughing.

In the series pilot, we get a glimpse of three archetypal “modern” families that we’ll be following; the white bread suburban minivan gang, the newlywed couple with a noticeable age difference and, of
course, the token gay couple. But, with only thirty minutes to spare, is that enough time to weave together a strong enough story line?

Survey says, “Yes.”

The series manages the challenge of introducing and endearing to us three groups of characters in a short span of time quite well despite the simultaneous sub-plots. The sarcastic banter between
them not only entertains, but it hits home.  Art successfully imitates life.

Ed O’Neill plays Jay Pritchett, an aging, ungraceful, but hilarious oaf that is more or less Grandpa Al Bundy. His new wife Gloria, Soul Plane’s Sofia Vergara, is a saucy but sweet addition to the cast.

Minivan patriarch Phil, played by Out of Practice’s Ty Burrell, is a dreadfully unhip and unaware father who battles his obligations as a parent (like shooting his son with a BB gun to adhere to a previously
established rule) and his desire to remain youthful (because he can text). He’s married to Claire, who is a personality doppelgänger for the mom from the AT&T rollover minutes commercial (in a good way).

Self-proclaimed “floating fairies” Mitchell and Cameron (Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet) are on their way back from Vietnam with their own little Maddox, and Mitchell is stressing out over having to tell his family. He can’t even get past the criticisms of his fellow plane-mates, erupting during boarding when he overhears a passenger say, “Look at that baby with those cream puffs,” not realizing his daughter is, in fact, holding cream puffs.

Can you feel that moment of unrepentant rage and simultaneous humiliation upon realizing what an fool you are? We can. And that’s what will keep us coming back every Wednesday at 9:00.

Surprisingly, it’s the kid’s table that’s causing this show to shine.

Little Alex Dunphy, played by Ariel Winter, delivers some of the most clever and biting lines of the show. After Haley brings a boy home for the first time, Alex asks her mother if she’ll pretend to have mono for a few months and then claim Haley’s baby as her own. How terribly, terribly American. Gloria’s eleven year old son Manny (Rico Rodriguez), pursuing a pretty sixteen year old, makes an unfortunate realization about love: “I gave her my heart, she gave me a picture of me as an old time sheriff.”

Modern? Not so much. This is the same oddball family that you’ve seen in “Roseanne” and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but with updated references. Is that a bad thing? No. This has all happened before and it will all happen again. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it in the meantime.

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Samantha LoSapio

Samantha LoSapio is an adjunct lecturer of English, contributer to ReviewFix.com as well as SheepsheadBites.com, and the sole possessor of the Triforce. A proud nerd, much of her expertise takes the form of references to Battlestar Galactica, obscure 13th century literature, basic geology and other skills best reserved for Jeopardy contestants. She has made Sheepshead Bay her home since 1994.

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