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Modern Family

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TV Series Review

First comes love. Then comes cohabitation. Then comes an adopted baby in a baby carriage. And then there's homosexual marriage, thanks to a recent ruling from the California Supreme Court. But that's only part of the family dynamic on display in Modern Family. The much-lauded ABC show, done in a quasi-documentary format, focuses on three interrelated West Coast families loosely helmed by patriarch Jay Pritchett. Married to Gloria Delgado, a woman many years (generations?) his junior, Jay alternately puts up with and dotes on stepson Manny and (now) baby Fulgencio Joseph.

Jay's two grown children, Claire and Mitchell, are both raising families of their own. Claire is married to a well-meaning goofball (Phil), and together they cluelessly raise three kids in the show's most traditional representation of a nuclear family—and its most laughably chaotic.

Mitchell, on the other hand, has been crafted to demonstrate what love, support, rationality and good judgment look like as he nurtures an adopted child (Lily) with his homosexual partner (and, eventually, husband), Cameron.

It's all an expression of what ABC believes a "modern family" is all about, and the results are both bitter and sweet … funny and sobering. While we see the love and affection parents have for their kids and for each other, the show can plow through some pretty problematic fields: Sexual double entendres run through episodes like loosed dogs, and many scenes are pitted with mild profanity.

Then there's the issue of Mitchell and Cameron—a couple of guys who seem to simultaneously embody and refute gay stereotypes. In one episode, Cam gets upset because most of their friends and family see him as the "mother" of the couple. In another, when he's worried Lily might say an embarrassing word at a wedding, he suggests they beg out of the thing, saying they're not attending any weddings until homosexuals get equal rights.

"Oh, we're political now?" Mitchell says. "We leave town on Gay Pride weekend because we don't like the traffic."

'Course, things are different now, and Mitch and Cam's relationship can be legally recognized—a real-world sign of the changes this TV show has both chronicled and, perhaps, helped bring about. It's interesting to note how natural their relationship appears to be—presented as nothing other than normal and acceptable. They merely want to be great parents to their adopted girl, and they try to support each other as best they can through life's trials and tribulations. Their families have, more or less, come to terms with their homosexuality. And so have this series' fans.

In 1997, Ellen made huge waves when the titular character came out as a lesbian. Will & Grace, a sitcom based on the friendship of a heterosexual woman and a homosexual man, came out one year later. Both shows created quite a stir—gaining notoriety for their simple "gayness." Both, in their own ways, pandered and felt self-conscious.

Now, series routinely feature homosexual characters—so often, in fact, that not much is made of it. A recent study by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation suggests that people's attitudes toward homosexuality have become more favorable in the last several years. And a third of those surveyed said their attitude shift was due, in large part, because of the positive gay characters found on the tube.

"As the networks gradually add characters from all backgrounds and all walks of life to primetime programming, more and more Americans are seeing their LGBT friends and neighbors reflected on the small screen," GLAAD president Neil Giuliano told USA Today in 2008.

Mitchell and Cameron, then, are now just part of the landscape. And that says a lot about how TV has changed. About how our whole culture has changed with it and around it.

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Episode Reviews

ModernFamily: 5-14-2014
ModernFamily: 11-7-2012
ModernFamily: 11-8-2012
ModernFamily: 9-29-2010
ModernFamily: 2-10-2010
ModernFamily: 9-30-2009



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Ed O'Neill as Jay Pritchett; Sofía Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett; Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy; Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy; Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell Pritchett; Eric Stonestreet as Cameron






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