Modern Family

Modern Family Information

Modern Family is an American comedy series which debuted on ABC on September 23, 2009. Presented in mockumentary style, the fictional characters frequently talk directly into the camera. It tells of Jay Pritchett, his second wife, baby son and stepson, and his two children and their families. Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan conceived the series while sharing stories of their own "modern families".

The series premiered to critical acclaim and was watched by 12.6 million viewers. Early on, it was named as a key holder for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards. Soon after, on October 8, 2009, the series was picked up for a full season. The series has received positive reviews from critics and received several award nominations. The series has won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in each of the past three years and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series three times so far as well, twice for Eric Stonestreet and once for Ty Burrell, as well as the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series twice for Julie Bowen. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series " Musical or Comedy.

The syndication rights to the show have also been sold to USA Network and local stations for a fall 2013 premiere. The success of the show has also led it to being the tenth-highest revenue-generating show for 2012, earning $2.13 million an episode. Brian Lowry, of Variety, sums up the show in regards to the airing of the pilot episode: "Flitting among three storylines, it's smart, nimble and best of all, funny, while actually making a point about the evolving nature of what constitutes 'family'".

On May 10, 2013, Modern Family was renewed for a fifth season, which is scheduled to premiere on September 25, 2013.



As creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan retold stories about their families, it occurred to them that the stories could be the basis for a show. They started working on the idea of a family being observed in a mockumentary style show. They later decided that it could be a show about three families and their experiences; it was originally called My American Family. The creators pitched it to three of the four major television networks (they did not pitch it to Fox because of issues Lloyd had with the network over Back to You). CBS, not ready to use the single-camera style of filming nor ready to make another large commitment, rejected the series. The network had recently aired Welcome to The Captain and Worst Week, two single-camera sitcoms that lasted only one season. NBC, already broadcasting The Office and Parks and Recreation, decided against taking on a third mockumentary style show. ABC accepted the series and picked it up for a full season.

Modern Family has some similarities to the French TV show Fais pas ci, fais pas ça, the adaptation rights to which ABC bought in 2008. However, the proposed adaptation was a separate project, titled Don't Do This, Don't Do That, which does not appear to have gone past the pilot script stage.


The series quickly became a priority for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The pilot episode tested high with focus groups, resulting in the network ordering 16 episodes and adding it to the 2009"2010 fall lineup days ahead of ABC's official schedule announcement. The series was given a full season pickup on October 8, 2009. On January 12, 2010, ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson announced that Modern Family had been renewed for a second season. A third season was ordered by ABC on January 10, 2011. The series was also picked up for syndication by USA during the first season for $1.5 million and it was picked up by ten Fox affiliates during the second season. The series airs in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Sky1.


Principal photography takes place in Los Angeles. Lloyd and Levitan, whose credits both include Frasier, Wings, and Just Shoot Me, are executive producers of the series, serving as showrunner and head writer under their Lloyd-Levitan Productions label in affiliation with Twentieth Century Fox Television. The other producers on the writing team are Paul Corrigan, Sameer Gardezi, Joe Lawson, Dan O'Shannon, Brad Walsh, Caroline Williams, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker, and Jeff Morton. The first team of directors included Jason Winer, Michael Spiller, Randall Einhorn, and Chris Koch. Winer has directed nineteen episodes of the series, making him the most prolific director of the series.


In the first season, the adult cast was paid a range of approximately $30,000 to $90,000 per episode. As a result of the show's success, the cast attempted to renegotiate their contracts in the summer of 2012 to obtain higher per-episode fees. However, talks broke down to the point where the first table read for the fourth season had to be postponed. Five of the cast members (Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofía Vergara) retained the Quinn Emanuel law firm and sued 20th Century Fox Television in Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 24, 2012. While not part of the lawsuit, Ed O'Neill joined his fellow castmates in seeking raises for each to about $200,000 per episode; O'Neill had been earning more money per episode than the other five. The lawsuit invoked the "seven-year rule" in California Labor Code Section 2855 (the De Havilland Law), and it requested a declaration that their contracts were void because they were in violation of that rule. As of July 28, 2012 the conflict has been resolved. The five adult casts salary was increased from $55/65,000 per episode to $150,000"175,000; with increases every season plus a cut of back end profits. O'Neill had already been earning $200,000 an episode, so his salary was lowered to parity with his co-stars but a larger cut of the back-end profits. Later in the summer the five child stars negotiated increases from $15/$25,000 to $75,000 per episode with an additional $10,000 per episode raises should the show continue to season 8.

Cast and characters

Main article: List of Modern Family characters
Modern Family employs an ensemble cast. The show revolves around three families living in Los Angeles who are interrelated through Jay Prichett and his children, Claire and Mitchell. Jay (Ed O'Neill), the patriarch, is re-married to a much younger woman, Gloria (Sofía Vergara), a passionate Colombian woman, with whom he has a baby son, Fulgencio (Joe) Pritchett; and a 14-year-old son from Gloria's previous relationship, Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Jay's daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) is a homemaker married to Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), a real estate agent and self-professed "cool dad". They have three children: Haley (Sarah Hyland) the stereotypical ditzy teenage girl, Alex (Ariel Winter), the nerdy, smart middle child and Luke (Nolan Gould), the offbeat only son. Jay's son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a lawyer, and his partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), have an adopted Vietnamese child, Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

The series has also had several recurring characters. Reid Ewing appeared in several episodes as Haley's boyfriend, Dylan. Fred Willard has guest starred as Phil's father, Frank Dunphy, and was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, but lost to Neil Patrick Harris's performance on Glee. Shelley Long appeared in the first two seasons and occasionally thereafter as Jay's ex-wife and Claire's and Mitchell's mother, DeDe Pritchett. Nathan Lane appeared twice during the second season as Cameron and Mitchell's flamboyant friend, Pepper Saltzman.

Stella, Jay's and Gloria's dog, has appeared in a few episodes. Stella was played by Brigitte, but is now being played by Beatrice.

Family tree

The characters in green have regular roles on the show. Dotted lines indicate a parental relationship through adoption or marriage, and dashed lines indicate a divorce between characters.


Main article: List of Modern Family episodes
The series premiered Wednesday, September 23, 2009 in the 9:00 pm ET timeslot. The series was picked up for a full season of 24 episodes on October 8, 2009. On January 12, 2010, Modern Family was renewed for a second season by ABC. The second season premiered September 22, 2010, airing in the same timeslot as the previous season. Midway through the second season, the network renewed the series for a third season on January 10, 2011. The third season premiered on September 21, 2011 with two back-to-back episodes, beginning with a one-hour special. On May 10, 2012, Modern Family was renewed for a fourth and a year later, on May 10, 2013 for a fifth one.


Critical reception

Reception in its more recent seasons has been slightly less favorable than before. Despite this, Modern Family continues to receive praise from television critics, mainly for its acting, humor, and writing. The first season was met with critical acclaim. It received a Metacritic score of 86 out of 100. Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, calling it "immediately recognizable as the best new sitcom of the fall". In Times review, the show was named "the funniest new family comedy of the year". It has also been compared to the 1970s series Soap, in regards to the multiple family aspect. Some have made comparisons to The Office and Parks and Recreation, due to their mockumentary formats. BuddyTV named the show the second best show in 2009, saying, "Every actor is fantastic, every family is interesting, and unlike many shows, there isn't a weak link". Robert Canning of IGN gave the season a 8.9 saying it was "Great" and called it "Simply put, Modern Family was one of the best new comedies of the season." He also praised the ensemble cast and the characters calling them lovable. According to Metacritic, the first season was the best reviewed new broadcast television series.

</ref>}} The second season also received positive reviews. Robert Bianco of USA Today gave the new season four stars out of four, saying, "Not since Frasier has a sitcom offered such an ideal blend of heart and smarts, or proven itself so effortlessly adept at so many comic variations, from subtle wordplay to big-laugh slapstick to everything in between." Robert Bianco in a later review stated "as good as it was in its first year, is even better in its second" positively comparing the characters to the characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Cosby Show and Friends. During the second season, Adweek named the show one of the 100 Most Influential TV Shows (98th chronologically). Despite this, the season received criticism from some critics for a sophomore slump. Eric Stonestreet, who received praise during the first season, was criticized during the second season for being too over the top. Alan Sepinwall called Cameron Tucker a "whiny, overly-sensitive diva". On the other hand, Ty Burrell received praise for his performance as Phil Dunphy through both seasons.

The third season was met with mixed reception. Slant Magazine reviewer Peter Swanson wrote that while the first episode was "the type of wacky-location stunt that's usually reserved for the fifth or sixth season of a dying sitcom", the following episodes "have been better [...] but they're still uneven". He also criticized the writers for relying too much on "stunt episodes and celebrity cameos, like David Cross". He ultimately gave the season 3 out of 4 stars. James Parker of The Atlantic said, at the beginning of the third season that "Modern Family is very, very funny, almost ruthlessly so ... [It's] a bit of a master class in pace and brevity ... The writing is Vorsprung durch Technik: hectically compressed but dramatically elegant, prodigal in its zingers and snorters but austere in its construction." He found it an exception to his dislike for sitcoms that do not use a laugh track.

Analysis and commentary

In The New York Times, Bruce Feiler called attention to how the show depicts the increasing way communications technology shapes the way people perceive others, even family members. "[It] is surely the first family comedy that incorporates its own hashtag of simultaneous self-analysis directly into the storyline," he writes. "Mark Zuckerberg may be a greater influence on Modern Family than Norman Lear."

The show's writers and actors agree. "We used to talk about how cellphones killed the sitcom because no one ever goes to anyone's house anymore" for routine information, Abraham Higginbotham told Feiler. "We embrace technology so it's part of the story." Ty Burrell draws on Fran Lebowitz's observation that there is no institution other than media. "I had this little flash of Phil"?and me"?that we are parsing our personality together externally from how people perceive us."

James Parker said that "The American family circa 2011 is, after all, an acutely self-conscious and self-interrogating unit: How does one 'parent'? Who does what, which 'role'? Is Dad sufficiently dad-like and Mom enough of a mom?" he writes. "Modern Family taps right into all this, the cameras that lurch through its three households producing the sensation of a wild and shaky experiment, recorded for purposes educational or scientific."

Criticism and controversy

Modern Family drew criticism from the LGBT community for its portrayal of Cameron and Mitchell as not being physically affectionate with each other. The criticism spawned a Facebook campaign to demand Mitchell and Cameron be allowed to kiss. In response to the controversy, producers released a statement that a season two episode would address Mitchell's discomfort with public displays of affection. Executive producer Levitan has said that it was unfortunate that the issue had arisen, since the show's writers had always planned on such a scene "as part of the natural development of the show." The episode "The Kiss" eventually aired with the kiss scene in the background which drew praise from multiple critics.

During the third season, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni argued that gay criticism of Cameron and Mitchell actually showed the progress gays have made toward social acceptance. "A decade ago," he writes, "[gays] would have balked"?and balked loudly"?at how frequently Cameron in particular tips into limp-wristed, high-voiced caricature." But now, "most gay people trust that the television audience knows we're a diverse tribe, not easily pigeonholed ... Modern Family endows us with a sort of comic banality. It's an odd kind of progress. But it's progress nonetheless."

Another notable criticism of Modern Family is that the show reinforces gender roles and sexist stereotypes. Michelle Haimoff of the Christian Science Monitor criticized the show for only casting the women as stay-at-home moms while the husbands on the show have very successful careers: "There is a difference between quirky, flawed characters and ones who are incapable of professional success. And when the latter is reliably female, it makes for sexist television. It also makes for unrealistic television." Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writer Ali Waller asked her Twitter followers, "If Modern Family is so ?modern' then why don't any of the women have jobs?" Other authors reinforce this criticism by pointing out that stay-at-home mothers are no longer the norm in today's society.

According to a CNET staffer commenting on an episode: "The wife and daughter are unable to learn how to use the remote and must be taught by the father, while the son is 'good with electronics,' even though he is thought of as the stupidest member of the family." In the episode "Game Changer", Gloria hides her skill at chess so that her husband will not be upset at losing: "On its own, this moment is at best a sappy quip about compromise in an often heavy-handed series, and at worst, it's a moment in a show with 9.3 million viewers, on a network owned by Disney, which explicitly validates girls and women subduing their intellect."


Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Modern Family
In 2010, Modern Family was nominated for five Television Critics Association Awards. The show gained nominations for Best New Series, Best Comedy Series and Best Program of the Year, while Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet were nominated individually. Like Friends, to reinforce the idea of an ensemble cast, the cast all submitted themselves in the Supporting Actor and Actress categories instead of Lead Actor and Actress for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards. On August 29, 2010, Modern Family won Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (for the pilot episode), and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Eric Stonestreet). The show also later received a GLSEN Respect Award for its portrayal of "positive images and storylines that reflect a diverse America, including the depiction of a family headed by a gay couple." In 2010, the cast won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy, beating the previous year's winner, Glee. On July 14, 2011, the series received 17 Emmy nominations, the third most nominations for the year after Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire. The awards the series was nominated for include Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. The series has also been put on multiple critics' lists. In 2010, the series was listed on BuddyTV's Top Ten Best Comedy Shows of 2009"2010, 2nd on Time's Top Ten Best shows of 2009, 2nd on BuddyTV's Top Ten Best Shows of 2009, Jason Hughes Best TV of 2009, 10th on BuddyTV's Top 10 Returning Shows We're Most Excited to Come Back, and on TV Guide's Our Favorite Families Modern Family was awarded a Peabody Award in 2009. In 2012, the show won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series " Musical or Comedy and was nominated for a British Academy Television Award. In 2012, the show received a total of fourteen Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series, and nominations for all six of its adult actors in the Supporting Actor and Actress Comedy categories. Every season of the show was also named one of the top 10 TV seasons of the year (from 2009-2012) by the American Film Institute.

Both First Lady Michelle Obama, in an interview with Kal Penn at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and Ann Romney (wife of former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney), in an interview with The Insider, have cited Modern Family as their favorite TV show. In June 2011, the cast appeared on Inside the Actor's Studio.

In June 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked "Modern Family" number 34 on a list of the 101 most well-written television series ever made.


Since its premiere, the series has remained popular. In its first season, the show became the sixth highest-rated scripted show in America among adults between the ages of 18 and 49, and the third-highest rated new show. Aided by winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, the show's second season became the highest rated show on Wednesday on premiere week and also rose 34% from the previous season among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The show frequently ranked as television's top scripted series in adults 18"49 as well. The success of the show has been positively compared to The Cosby Show. During the 2010"2011 season, Modern Family was the highest rated scripted show in the 18"49 demographic, and the third highest rated overall sitcom behind CBS's The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. The season also ranked first among DVR viewers. The third season premiere became ABC's top-rated season premiere in six years. The series' success in ratings has also led to the series being credited for reviving sitcoms.


The syndication rights to the show have also been sold to USA Network and local stations for a fall 2013 premiere.

Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.
Season Timeslot Original Airing Season
DVR Viewers
Total Viewers
Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season
1 Wednesday 9:00 pm September 23, 2009 May 19, 2010 2009"10 #37 3.8/10 9.39 0.9 1.8 4.7 11.19
2 September 22, 2010 May 25, 2011 2010"11 #24 4.9/13 11.89 1.7 3.48 6.2 14.68
3 September 21, 2011 May 23, 2012 2011"12 #17 5.5/15 12.93 2.4 4.76 7.4 16.71
4 September 26, 2012 May 22, 2013 2012"13 #18 4.9/13 12.31
5 September 25, 2013 May 21, 2014 2013"14

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