Modern Family: Not your average sitcom. Or family

Guest post by The Lovely Nicola

As a child, Man about the House may have had me laughing fit to bust my flares, but since then the sit-com genre doesn’t seem to have come very far, apart from the odd exception with shows such as Outnumbered and Friends. Most are stereotypical mums, dads, kids and annoying elderly grandparents. Throw in a nosy neighbour and that’s your lot. But now we’ve got the latest import from America, Modern Family. We are actually up to the second series now but it is well worth trying to catch up on the first series via the wonder that is the internet.

The story centres on Jay (formerly Al Bundy in Married with Children, but we’ll forgive him for that), late 60’s, with a rather old-fashioned view on the role of men and women. He is on his second marriage to the gorgeous Gloria, a Colombian raven-haired beauty with a figure most women can only dream about and the biggest pair of boobs ever seen on a TV channel that isn’t X rated. Don’t hate her though, please. She’s loud, feisty and funny and she adores Jay ( maybe it’s the enormous house or his enormous wallet?). Gloria has a son, Manny, 12 years old going on 40. Little rotund Manny who acts like a grown man, giving out advice to his family in between Tango lessons.

Mitch is Jay’s son from his first marriage, a 30-something gay man, married to the fabulously camp and chubby Cameron. They have adopted a baby girl and are both busy playing the role of mummy and mummy. Of course Jay isn’t always comfortable around his gay son and his husband, often referring to them as “room-mates”, and Mitch seems to have spent his life desperately trying to win over his dad’s approval. In the last episode he says to the camera ( the programme is partly filmed in the style of a documentary, every now and then interviewing each couple) that he regrets not going to more “sports games” with his dad, upon which Cameron points out that “maybe the fact that you refer to them as sports games is more of a disappointment to him?”.  In the latest episode Mitch and Cameron overhear a man’s voice on the baby monitor, appearing to be shushing their baby to sleep.  Immediately Mitch panics and totally freaks out, but big bouncy Cameron (usually the one to go into hysterical drama queen-type fits)  jumps into action and, armed with a baseball bat, charges straight into the baby’s room to do damage to the freak who may be about to kidnap his daughter. It turns out to be  interference from the neighbour’s baby monitor.

Much to Cameron’s delight, he realises he can hear every conversation and argument the neighbours have, resulting in him spending the next week listening in on the baby monitor at every given opportunity and mercilessly interfering with their relationship, with the help of the postman. It all comes to a disappointing end though as Cameron tunes in one night, armed with a bowl of popcorn, to listen to the latest gossip, when he hears the neighbours come to the conclusion that “some weirdo must be stalking us, otherwise how do they know all this stuff about us?”  Meanwhile Mitch, suffering from tremendous guilt at the cowardly way he acted when faced with a possible intruder, asks his dad  to teach him to fight, the way he tried to teach him as a child in an attempt to toughen him up. Jay happily accepts the offer to butch up his son, and  gets Mitch into a headlock to demonstrate how to attack an intruder, whereupon Mitch promptly passes out in a heap on the floor. Again, Jay’s disappointment is clear.

Clare is Jay’s daughter, married to Phil, the likeable “wally”. They have three children: Haley, terminally embarrassed by her dad and his toe-curling attempts  to be hip, and constantly annoyed at her mum’s rules of dress and curfews. Alex, a 13 year old prodigy who has diagnosed her younger brother with ADHD as he is unable to concentrate on anything for longer than a minute. It becomes apparent, however, that Phil is the one with ADHD – while helping Luke focus (the Americans love that word) on his homework he gets distracted by a broken chair,  he goes to the garage for a screwdriver, gets distracted by a broken light fitting, climbs up to fix it, gets distracted again when he spots his sunglasses on a high shelf, climbs on a wobbly chair, then teeters on the edge of the shelf to reach them and comes crashing down bringing the whole contents of the garage shelves crashing down on top of him.  While his dad is destroying the garage, Luke has managed perfectly well to “focus” and has finished his homework assignment.

This is a fantastically funny take on the dysfunctional, yet functional, family, and although they seem to live in a place where the sun is always shining and there seems to be no shortage of money, you find that you become quite fond of the characters and can even, in some cases, relate to their situations. It’s light hearted, funny and if there is any violence, at least it’s kept in the family!

Posted by family-friendly Nicola

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