Making the Case for ‘Modern Family’

Modern Family
Note: Over the next few weeks, the Awards Daily TV crew will be making the case to win for each nominee in the Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series categories in random order. We’ll be dropping one each day leading into and through the Emmy voting period. Share/retweet your favorites to build the buzz!

ABC’s Modern Family

Metacritic Score: 86
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Number of Nominations: 6
Major Categories:  Comedy Series, Supporting Actress (Julie Bowen), Supporting Actor (Ty Burrell), Casting of a Comedy Series

I know, I know. The last thing anyone wants to read is a case for ABC’s Modern Family to win another Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. If you’ve been living under the largest awards rock in the history of the world, you wouldn’t know that Modern has won the top comedic prize for the last 5 consecutive years. Despite claims of declining quality over the last two seasons, it’s smartly written, directed well, and features some of the best acting on network television. It’s a juggernaut, and it could be the first time in Emmy history where a comedy wins for the sixth time.

While Modern shockingly missed out in both the writing and directing categories this year, it’s obvious that the acting is still respected. Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell (the two most honored performers from the brood) both garnered nominations, and guest Elizabeth Banks picked up one for her recurring role as Cameron and Mitchell’s vapid party girl friend, Sal. The other actors have been up for the gold in other years.

The first episode is particularly a showcase for the actors as an ensemble. The wedding between Cameron and Mitchell concluded the fifth season, and it doesn’t seem that the celebration is over. Cameron is showering Mitchell with presents and affection, but Mitchell wants to get back to his normal routine. Over at the Dunphy household, Claire and Phil are surprised by how well their summer is going, particularly between their eldest and youngest children, Haley and Luke. The Dunphy honeymoon is “wrecked” when middle child, Alex, returns home from a stressful job that would have looked great on her student resume. Phil’s magic tricks fail and Luke and Haley begin throwing barbs immediately. I recently re-watched this episode and thought, “Why are people complaining about this show so much? It’s great!” It’s an episode in the classic Modern Family vein: swift comebacks between family members and clever writing.

Another development that shook up the family aspect was when the trashy family moved in next door to the Dunphys. Steve Zahn and Andrea Anders play a couple who play their music too loud and insist on keeping their eyesore of a boat in the driveway. Luke, in true horny teenager fashion, begins drooling over their hot daughter and it seems, for a few episodes, that it would be modern family versus modern family. The dynamic gives Bowen and Burrell something to consistently team up against throughout the season, and it showcases Claire’s high-strung hunt of perfection (that she probably doesn’t really want) and Phil’s impish/dependable guy side.

As an ensemble, the cast shines brightest in the episode submitted for Outstanding Comedy Series, “Connection Lost.” The episode follows the entire family as they are drawn into the drama of a fight that occurred between Haley and Claire. What separates this from normal episodes is that the entire 22 minutes is told through social media on Claire’s laptop while she tries to track Haley down. Everything in this episode illuminates what we love about these characters: Jay’s lovably out-of-touch with technology (“The minute they got rid of rotary phones, the world went to hell!”), Manny is arrogant at the tender age of 14, and Alex is obsessed with writing the perfect paper to submit for college essays. It also features a birthday present for Mitchell that looks stunningly like it’s out of a Barbra Streisand musical classic.

The Modern kids are continually allowed to have bigger plotlines—the Dunphy trio, in particular. Haley is growing out of her wild child phase as she begins to fall for Jay and Gloria’s manny (the male nanny played by Adam Devine, not their son—gross). Alex’s desperate hunt for approval begins to calm down, and Lilly tries her hand at clowning with Cameron. I’m sorry, but watching that pint sized girl hit Eric Stonestreet in the groin with a broom while dressed in full clown garb still makes me laugh out loud.

Let’s face facts. Modern Family is a fun, relatable show. It’s that super nice guy that sat next to you in math class that was homecoming king…and the captain of the football team…and got good grades—it has everything. You don’t want to like it still, but I can almost guarantee that this family still makes you laugh. You can make an argument against almost every other show in this category (Veep’s politics are somewhat alienating, Transparent isn’t as “universal” as we all think it is, Silicon what?, etc.), but Modern Family just wants to make you laugh and warm your heart just a little bit.

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