Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

The Modern Family: Premiere Review

Posted by CJ Cregg on September 23, 2009

Three different families air their allegedly comedic laundry on The Modern Family.  First off, I can’t quite get a grasp on the format of the show.  There are scenes of action, and then interview type scenes.  As if the couples were talking to a marriage counselor.  But there is no marriage counselor or interviewer.  So why these scenes?  I don’t get it.

The nuclear family struggles over their teenage daughter’s short skirts while the dad tries way too hard to be cool.  Another family consists of a spicy latina and an older, frumpy man.  (I think gold digger is the implication here.)  Two gay men make up the final family, and they’ve just adopted a baby from Vietnam.  The families didn’t all get together until the last five minutes of the show as the gay couple introduce their new baby.  (Apparently they’re all related in some way?  I missed that part.)  But I still can’t get figure out what the point of this show is.  What are they trying to do?  Is it a drama with continuing plot?  Or a comedy?  Or is this show just supposed to be snapshots in American life?

Just not funny.  At all.  That’s about all I need to say about this show.  The dad attempting to speak in text lingo and be all “hip” just made me cringe.  And not because I thought it was funny.  Because it was trying waywaywaywayway too hard to be funny.  The scenes are shot in an interesting way.  Jerky shots.  As if the show is trying to be funny and edgy, like The Office or something, but it just isn’t.  They frequently cut away very quickly from last lines that are supposed to be clever.  Like they’re trying to make it a fast-moving comedy.  But it just feels forced.  I really think they want this show to be The Office but with families.  Now I don’t watch The Office regularly, but the few episodes I’ve watched were actually funny.  I didn’t laugh once during this show.

What really gets me, though, is that we don’t actually learn anything about the relationships between the three couples.  For a show about families, all the characters are SO flat and one-dimensional.  This is why I have no interest in watching the show further.

Grade: F

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14 Responses to “The Modern Family: Premiere Review”

  1. Christopher Moltisanti said

    Whoa. Big disagreement here. I don’t think it’s the funniest thing on television, but it’s got a nice range of funny characters (I loved the hipster dad and Ed O’Neill), and I really thought the mockumentary style worked here. Plus, it offers a humorous take on some real life issues everyone can relate to, and it has heart (unlike Community, Mr. Feeny).

    An F? Really? How could you not laugh when the Colombian wife was talking about her ex-husband with Ed O’Neill sitting there in silence. “I’m hearing this for the first time.”

    I suspect I won’t be the only one watching it again next week.

  2. CJ Cregg said

    Interesting. You actually thought it was funny? Huh. We need a tie-breaker! Who else saw the show? Is it good or did it suck? (*cough* it sucked *cough* sorry, must have gotten swine flu from one of my students)

  3. Mr. Feeny said

    I will serve as the tie breaker (though more comments are definitely welcomed).

    My verdict….fricking hilarious.

    I can’t believe you didn’t laugh once! I’m not sure I stopped laughing. Even when rereading what Moltisanti quoted, I started laughing again.

    The style is exactly like he said, mockumentary. Just like The Office. The camera people never need to be identified. It allows for some playing with the fourth wall, letting characters have asides, like on stage. That’s why I like the style (also employed by Parks & Recreation).

    The shooting of the boyfriend was the best part. That’s why you have those quick cuts. If you stayed on that shot (pun intended), it would lose the urgency and suddenness, which his half the funny.

    I don’t think the dialogue was forced, either. When the dad’s listing text lingo, the way he just drops in “what the face?” matter-of-factly is hysterical. A passing joke that lingers for the viewer.

    Again, I agree with Moltisanti that Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell are the highlights. Actually, fun connection. Burrell, Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton were all in “Back to You” two years ago, the short-lived sitcom on FOX. They were the best elements of the show and are now back-to-back-to-back in their own comedies on ABC. I haven’t seen the others, but I guarantee nonetheless that “Modern Family” goes on to have the most success.

  4. Blu said

    I watched the Tuesday night episode of Sons of Anarchy. Not that I would have watched it anyway, I just find a higher quality of show on the cable networks, far far from the national networks:)

    Samcro was great as always:)

  5. CJ Cregg said

    Gah. Wow. I point you to my facebook wall where someone agrees with me! http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/jenniekeohane?ref=mf

    I’m fine with the show being like The Office. But it has to at least BE FUNNY to pull that off!

  6. Malcolm said

    First some television history. When this was originally written/developed it was called AN AMERICAN FAMILY in reference to what is generally considered to be the first ever reality show (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_American_Family).

    This context actually gives it more relevancy to its mockumentary format than either THE OFFICE (which has shifted away from the British versions use of the documentarians as characters) and PARKS AND RECREATIONS. Clearly American audiences have come to accept a nameless/faceless documentary crew as a fact of life.

    I take umbrage with this review as I think this is certainly the best comedy (and maybe best overall, although I have yet to see GOOD WIFE or FLASH FORWARD) pilot of the season.

    The relationships are that Ed O’Neill is Julie Bowen’s and Jesse Ferguson’s father (a fact established when Julie hands Jesse the bottle of wine saying “Open it, Dad is coming right behind” followed shortly by Ed O’Neill’s entrance).

    Like most good single camera shows, god is in the details. How could you not laugh when Ty Burrell asks Julie Bowen “Where’s the baby oil?” and as she starts to say “On our night stand” notices the camera and immediately catches herself, saying instead “I don’t know just find it!” But that line is easily missed by someone who might not be paying full attention. I applaud the direction of (NU Alum) Jason Winer in this pilot.

    It seems like a lot of your dispute with the show is with the format itself. Handheld cameras and quick cuts are mainstays of the mockumentary format and after 6 years of THE OFFICE, audiences expect both the camera movement as well as the importance of throw away lines.

    I think this show has a lot of potential and am absolutely watching next week.

    • CJ Cregg said

      I think my biggest problem with the show is not the format, but rather the humor. I certainly heard the line about the baby oil (I’d like to think I was paying pretty close attention), but I just didn’t think it was funny. I certainly understand the function of the throwaway lines and quick cuts, but I don’t think those “save” a show that just isn’t (in my opinion) patently funny. I have no problem with the quick cuts or the handheld camera, I just think this show RELIES on it to make things that aren’t funny funny. And it doesn’t work. It’s still not funny.

      Just wanted to defend my opinion against people who seem to wonder whether or not I actually did watch the show. I did.

      Glad there’s so much discussion/controversy about this show. It’ll be interesting to see how it does, as consensus is I’m way out of left field on this one.

      • Malcolm said

        Hey I’m just responding to the issues raised in your review. I would argue that the show doesn’t rely on format technique but rather makes use of them…a thin distinction I know.

        Of course some people just don’t find certain things funny (Huge groups of people don’t find ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT or 30 ROCK funny and I find them to be 2 of the funniest things ever).

        I personally found this pilot to be funny due more to a great cast than a great script, but I think the pilot devoted a lot of time to characterization that will allow it to really move forward as solid family sitcom. Either way, the “F” is certainly undeserved.

      • CJ Cregg said

        I will say, I’m not a fan of Arrested Development. Not my kind of humor. I do like 30 Rock, but your point is a good one. I just didn’t find it funny. Other people did. To each their own.

        I’ll also say that I just taught 3 sections of UW Undergrads. They liked it. I must be the odd person out 🙂

      • Malcolm said

        I guess my main issue isn’t even that you didn’t find it funny, but that it was SO not funny that it deserved the same grade as Cougar Town.

  7. Malcolm said

    Just curious if CJ has changed her mind about this show…

    • CJ Cregg said

      Oh, Malcolm. You have hit me at a particularly weak moment. Yes. I have to admit. I hate to admit. I judged too quickly. Although, the show’s first several episodes were not as good as they have been as of late. One of these days if I get around to it, I will post a ‘retraction’ or ‘revision’ of this review. I find the show to be funny now. Really funny at times.

  8. […] the way, Modern Family won an Emmy for best comedy series.  I officially recant my scathing review of the show when it aired last […]

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