MODERN FAMILY: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
If I were a grumpy television critic who doesn’t like it when a charming television series changes in its second or third season, I’d completely pan “Modern Family: The Complete Third Season.” Fortunately, I’m not one of those critics. While I often appreciate the charm and originality we see in a show’s first season, I understand that characters grow and change, finding their place.
Many shows started strong but then fell into caricature to make the series all the more enjoyable. “Married, with Children” went from being a show that had a little bit of heart now and then to a fiercely sarcastic show with no redeeming value to the characters. “Seinfeld” tried at one time to have real human connections among the characters but soon realized that people wanted to see a show about nothing with bad things happening to bad people. And “Community” tried to be just another twentysomething/thirtysomething relationship dramedy before it broke out to become irreverent and brilliant.
The “Modern Family” you see in the third season is very different than you saw in the first season, but that’s fine. The spark that made the show initially work wasn’t how grounded the characters were but rather how insane they could be in normal situation. It was about escalation in the first season. In this third season, it’s about staying on top of that energy.
In this sense, the three branches of the family tree have become more caricatures of their earlier selves. Cam and Mitchell have become the often overstereotyped gay couple, with Cam becoming more flamboyant as ever. This allows Mitchell (who is actually portrayed by a gay man in real life) be more grounded and take the straight man role, no pun intended.
The branch with Jay and Gloria sees the least amount of change, except for Gloria becoming a larger and larger Colombian stereotype. Manny has become more of the refined man-child, but that plays off well in the comedy of the series. Gloria is probably the least developed of the entire cast, and her accent gets more pronounced with each episode. But then again, boobs.
Finally, the branch with Phil and Claire Dunphy was originally supposed to be the most normal and grounded family unit of the show. However, Ty Burrell’s brilliant aloofness and Julie Bowen’s strong Kate Gosslin craziness were too hard to resist. They also become extreme caricatures, but like the others, they fit well into the storylines they’re given. Their kids are a hoot, too, with the youngest son Luke often stealing the show where he was just set dressing a few seasons back.
Who would have thought that Ed O’Neill would be the most grounded character on a family sit com?
Season three sees the “Modern Family” families interacting with a bigger world. The success of the series allows them to shoot on location in Wyoming and visit Disneyland (as a not-so-subtle co-branding effort with broadcast station ABC).
But in the end, we get the same charm with stories about things we all go through. There are issues with young love, parental discipline, teen sex, annoying in-laws and local politics.
I’m fully aware that “Modern Family” is different from when it started. But honestly, what in this world remains the same and continues to be great?
The three-disc Blu-ray set includes deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel and several featurettes: “Destination: Wyoming,” “A Day on the Set with Ty,” “Adventures of the Modern Family Kids,” “A Modern Family Christmas,” “Driving Lessons,” “Ed O’Neill Gets a Star” and “Modern Family goes to Disneyland Resort.”