August 30th 2010. I wake up and roll out of bed like any other day, make a cup of tea and open up my laptop to browse around the internet as I slowly wake myself up. One thing catches my eye, and that is that the night before in Los Angeles, the 62nd Primetime Emmy awards had taken place. Now this would normally interest me, but – frankly – the results and nominations had become predictable, and in my head I already knew the only categories that even interested me (Outstanding Comedy/Drama Series, Outstanding Actor/Actress therein) would have been pre-destined, as they had the years before, to fall into the laps of programmes such as NBC’s outstanding 30 Rock, and AMC’s Mad Men.
Mad Men did just as expected, and effortlessly waltzed off with the award for Outstanding Drama Series. But as I scrolled down to the award for Outstanding Comedy Series I was not greeted with Tina Fey’s bespectacled smile, but instead a large cast of hugely unfamiliar faces, in the form of the ensemble cast of ABC’s Modern Family. I promptly dropped everything that day, and proceeded to educate myself by watching the first season. Before I knew it, I’d watched almost the entire first season in a day. I was hooked.
The premise of the show is simple: a single camera sitcom with a mockumentary edge, split between three very separate households, all from the same family. What makes it all come together creating the final, exceptional product, though, is that it borrows winning formulae from past sitcoms and gels them all into a slick sitcom that feels fresh and new, but at the same time safe and familiar. We have a strong ensemble cast – reminiscent of Arrested Development – and the razor-edged wit of Frasier cheek-to-cheek with heart-warming moments that could give even those in Scrubs a run for their money. With no big names to speak of in the cast, the ensemble feel of the show becomes even stronger. There’s no pre-judging of the characters from the viewer, no predicting of dynamics, and we are drawn into the homes and relationships of these eccentric yet ultimately believable families. Then, without realising how or when it happened, you begin to care about them.
The mockumentary styling of the series gives the show a unique feel, the diary-room-style interviews with the characters moves the show along at lightning-pace, while the occasional looks to camera by certain characters (Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy is the master of this) can turn what first appears as mediocre dialogue into comedic gold. Highlights of season one included a wildly inappropriate song at a family gathering, Ed Norton doing an English accent as a member of Spandau Ballet, and the fantastic Eric Stonestreet as Cameron “Cam” Mitchell having a teary rant to the camera about his love for Meryl Streep. Whilst season two may only be a couple of episodes in already, everything that made season one great has already been clearly improved on, I could go on for weeks about this show, but I will simply say this: Watch it. You will not regret it.