My family experienced a tragedy last December, a sudden death sucked the life out of us. In the months that followed, watching any TV comedy, no matter how funny or beautifully produced, didn’t feel right. The idea of laughing made me feel guilty when everyone in my immediate family was devastated. I start with this bit of personal history because I’m such a fan of television, especially in this era of smart, half hour single camera comedies. The current leader of the pack has to be Modern Family, which has garnered enough awards, critical praise and Neilson ratings to make it one of this decade’s most prominent shows. It’s one of my favorites, not just for the laughs (which are plentiful), but also for how it lives up to its namesake. The characters, as wonderfully portrayed by the award-winning cast, are a sound reflection of a contemporary family in all its quirks, closeness and love.
During our time of grief, I happened to tune in to a February episode entitled “Leap Day.” In it, Jay (Ed O’Neil) is concerned that his wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) is questioning his manliness, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) frets over planning the 40th birthday party for his husband, Cam (Eric Stonestreet), and Phil (Ty Burrell) must deal with the emotional rollercoaster of his household as all three of the women in his life- wife Claire (Julie Bowen) and teenage daughters Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Alex (Ariel Winter)- all have their periods on the same day. This one half hour had me laughing again. It didn’t make the pain subside, but it did, in a small way, help my healing begin. I kept “Leap Day” on our DVR up until two weeks ago, when I finally purged the machine of shows never watched from last TV season. I felt it was time to start a clean slate.
When the Modern Family season 3 Blu-ray arrived in my mailbox, I was quick to catch up on the entire season, primarily the winter and spring episodes that I’d missed. I finally found out the fate of Claire’s run for city council (against a character played by David Cross). I also got to see one of the most heartbreaking moments (at least for me) on the show: when Phil learns that Haley is no longer a virgin. Man, Burrell is exceptional in that episode (“Virgin Territory”). The season ended n a bittersweet note, as Cam and Mitchell pursue adopting another baby and Gloria gets news that she’s pregnant. As the final episode of the 3rd season, that made for quite a cliffhanger.
The 3-disc set includes several behind the scene featurettes that show a cast an crew who act as much like a family as you’d hope a TV production can, deleted and extended scenes, plus a gag reel. I watched all of these bonus features and they add to the Modern Family experience. I also made an extra effort to rewatch “Leap Day.” It was like listening to a favorite album side, with the various movements and the expertly harmonized performers. Like everything about Modern Family’s 3rd season, the episode is near perfect. Each cast member plays off their fellow actors with precision, embodying what it truly means to be an ensemble cast.
Modern Family begins its fourth season this week, after having just won the Best Comedy award at this year’s Emmys. As this series has continued to maintain its excellence over three years, whatever lies ahead I have no doubt it will be smart, heartwarming and will continue to keep me laughing.