After a long trek to my local Wal Mart ended up in a busted AC adapter and some assorted odds and ends that were a touch expensive, you’d think the first Wednesday of the New Year would find yours truly in a poor mood. Alas, poor reader, you don’t know me well enough because my shows are back and even for a couple of hours, I get to escape. Once I finally kicked my shoes off, threw on some sweatpants, and completed my two hour trek through the ‘˜burbs and a rehab facility, it dawned on me.
I have to break up with Modern Family.
It’s not that I hate the show or the actors on it. On the contrary, I think the actors involved do their absolute best with the material they’re provided. Trouble is the material they’re provided has taken a serious nosedive in season two. While season one had a clunker here or there, the next week would be a fantastic episode that equally mixed emotion and humor to wash out the bad taste that the previous episode left. Season two has pushed these characters to their most extreme points (and upped the syrupy emotion to nauseating levels) and as a result, it’s hard to really like anyone anymore.
Take, for example, Julie Bowen’s Claire Dunphy. I liked her in season one, I was rooting for Bowen to win the Emmy, and now I can’t stand the sight of her. Claire went from a slightly highstrung suburban mom who you sympathized with to a hateful shrew who exists only to nag and make faces at her loved ones. She zaps any sense of fun from the show whenever she walks on screen and there’s just no reason to root for her or be invested in her. Even when she shows her vulnerability in certain scenes, you know the next scene will contain a typical stick-in-the-mud Claire throwing her weight around and making everyone miserable.
That problem exists for other characters, as well. Sofia Vergara’s Gloria has actually had some dimension thrown in during season two, such as her feelings of alienation due to the other moms at school or her fear of failure that hindered her in riding a bike, but 95% of the time, she’s the typical ‘fiery Latina with a thick accent’who exists only to jiggle and overprotect grating manchild Manny. Going along the same lines in terms of easy/lazy humor are Cameron and Mitchell, the prior having multiple episodes of racial humor that are making me increasingly uncomfortable. While their mere presence on primetime network television is a revelation in and of itself, the way they’ve been handled as a couple has been mightily disappointing. The only way they got to show affection was by loud fan complaints and even then, they spend most of their time arguing with one another. Just once, I’d like to see a stable gay couple on television (I know stable doesn’t equate good comedy but still), considering every major gay character on TV either cannot find someone or screws up a relationship in some way. I mean, where’s the homosexual Eric and Tami Taylor?
In addition, there has been much less interaction between the three families, which makes the show feel disjointed. Often times, the Dunphys and the Pritchetts will interact and Cameron and Mitchell will be wandering around doing something completely unrelated. I know that with about a dozen characters, it’s almost impossible to regularly bring everyone together and that no family spends that much time together, but it sometimes feels like I’m watching three different shows instead of one show about three families. The best episode of the show for my money is the second part of their vacation to Hawaii, an episode that brought out the best in every character and allowed them to interact in interesting and different combinations. Unless you establish a reason why there’s distance between two particular family members, everyone should interact with everyone, even if it’s for a short scene or a few lines.
Do I think Modern Family is irredeemable? No, certainly not. I think at its heart, it’s a very good show, but it just kind of got lost along the way. If the jokes can be less telegraphed (the show has went from feeling more fly-on-the-wall to being a walking, talking, breathing Sitcom with a capital S) and the family be more likeable (aside from the perpetually delightful Phil Dunphy and a severely underused Alex Dunphy, I really don’t like these people), I would consider watching again, but for now, I have a gap in my schedule on Wednesdays at 9:00. Any takers?
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