All in the Modern Family
The WSJ has a great article about Modern Family; here are some of the highlights:
What do you call a mother of three, naked under her trench coat that gets caught in a hotel escalator just as she randomly bumps into her father and his much-younger Colombian wife whose 11-year-old son is trying to woo a girl with the help of his uncle, his uncle’s partner and their adopted Vietnamese baby daughter, who was dressed by one of her fathers in one of his feather boas for Valentine’s Day?
The new face of network-television family comedy.
The strong appeal stems, in part, from the many different types of characters for many different types of Americans to identify with. “The whole show is a send-up of contemporary culture, a mirror of the contemporary American family and something of an amalgam of many different sitcoms that came before it,” says Richard Dubin, a former TV writer who is now a professor at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
The writers dig into some of the tensions between straight parents and gay children that emerge even within the realm of relatives that love and mostly accept each other’s lifestyles. Jay cares about spending time with his son’s partner, but when the chosen activity is racquetball, he worries about being in a locker room with a gay man, telling the camera documentary-style, “I mean, for me it’s a locker room. For him, it’s a showroom.” When Cameron runs into Jay and his friends outside a restaurant, Jay introduces Cameron as a “friend of my son’s.”
“They have been so smart in the portrayal of what it means to be gay in a family that tries but sometimes fails to be totally welcoming,” says Jeffrey Richman, a writer who has worked with Messrs. Lloyd and Levitan on sitcoms like “Frasier,” and is gay.
In 2008, Messrs. Levitan and Lloyd were coming off a high-profile failure in “Back to You,” a workplace sitcom with big stars: Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. Friends since they worked together on the staff of “Wings,” the writing partners would meet at their office and casually bat around ideas, telling tales about their wives and kids. “We were licking our wounds and we would just end up telling funny stories about what happened that weekend at home,” Mr. Levitan says.
Late that summer, they pitched the idea to Twentieth Century Fox Television, which wound up producing the show (and, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp.). Mr. Levitan described a (slightly embroidered) incident when he went into his eldest daughter’s room to tell her to shut off the computer and go to bed, then heard a voice from the computer say, “Nice boxers, Mr. Levitan.” (She was Skyping with a friend.) This resurfaced in an episode of “Modern Family” when Claire, played by Julie Bowen, finds herself, in undergarments, getting ogled by her teenage daughter’s boyfriend who is hanging out in the daughter’s bedroom, via video chat.
Read the rest of the story on The WSJ.