MODERN FAMILY: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Ed O’Neill as JAY PRITCHETT
Sofia Vergara as GLORIA DELGADO-PRITCHETT
Julie Bowen as CLAIRE DUMPHY
Ty Burrell as PHIL DUNPHY
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as MITCHELL PRITCHETT
Eric Stonestreet as CAMERON TUCKER
Rico Rodriguez as MANNY DELGADO
Nolan Gould as LUKE DUNPHY
Sarah Hyland as HALEY DUNPHY
Ariel Winter as ALEX DUNPHY
Created by: Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd
BY KEVIN CARR
I remember just four years ago when “Modern Family” was groundbreaking. That was the point, of course, to show that the modern version of a “family” isn’t just the standard nuclear make-up. Sure, there was Claire and Phil Dunphy (Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell) and their three kids, but there was also the gay couple (Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet) with an adopted daughter, as well as the older granddad (Ed O’Neill) and his young trophy wife (Sofia Vergara).
Back then, “Modern Family” was really fresh. It wasn’t just because they were building a sit-com around non-traditional families, but also because they were just starting to have fun with the characters. However, over the past four years, “Modern Family” has become the institution – if not as universally accepted families by everyone in the country, but at least as the new gold standard for a situation comedy in America.
However, that institutionalization of “Modern Family” has caused the show to suffer a bit. There’s a growth cycle that many television shows go through as they move from their inaugural season into a prime time institution. Characters that start off as quirky of silly become caricatures in later seasons.
The best example of something like this happening is with Ed O’Neill’s other famous show, “Married… with Children.” That series started out with slightly acerbic characters that really did love each other. However, over the years, it became a farce, with the characters being so hateful and awful that it played up the comedy. This served “Married… with Children” well, though.
The jury is still out for me as to whether this will work out well in the long run for “Modern Family.” And this fourth season shows some signs of wear and tear in this respect.
That’s not to say that the show isn’t funny. It still is, featuring some fun situations with the cast, including Hayley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland) remarkably going to college and Claire going into business with Cam (Stonestreet). However, it also features the painfully cliché sit com trope of Gloria (Vergara) having a baby. Sure, this plays well for the comedy angle, but is this show really dipping into that tired plot bag so early in its run. (After all, isn’t the having-a-baby story reserved for at least the fifth or sixth season on better shows?)
Where “Modern Family” is showing decay is with their more extreme characters. Gloria went from being endearing to being a shrill monster. I enjoyed her in the past, but she is going into caricature too much, and no amount of enormous boobs is going to help that. Similarly, Claire is turning into a nightmare herself. She’s just unpleasant to deal with, and the only saving grace about her is that the rest of her household remains funny.
The bad egg in the last batch is Stonestreet in the role of Cameron. He started out as whimsical and funny in the series, but now he’s such a high-maintenance diva of a character that he’s difficult to enjoy. Like the other ABC series “The Middle,” “Modern Family” suffering from having a little too much fun with the quirks of the characters, creating Frankenstein caricatures of what they used to be, and it doesn’t serve the greater enjoyability of the show.
Still, things aren’t terrible. Each family unit has their buffer system, and Ty Burrell continues to be the best thing on the show. His storylines are almost always brilliant, and his optimistically naïve attitude carries most of the arcs higher than others.
“Modern Family” continues to be watchable, and it definitely made me laugh this year, but it’s just a little sad to see it as a former shadow of what it was in its first and second seasons (before it became self-aware with Emmy wins and fantastic reviews).
The season four Blu-ray comes with all 24 episodes on three discs. Standard features include multiple commentaries with the writers, a gag reel, deleted and alternative scenes, and an extended director’s cut of the season finale. Additional featurettes include “A Day with Eric” (profiling Eric Stonestreet), “A Modern Family Guide to Parenting,” “An Addition to the Family” (about Gloria’s pregnancy) and “Modern Family Writers.”