Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In Its Second Season, Modern Family Continues To Delight!

The Good: Very funny, Decent characters, Good acting
The Bad: Light on DVD bonus features, Replayability is less than I would have thought
The Basics: Modern Family - Season Two continues to chronicle the story of the Pritchett/Dunphy extended family in an entertaining fashion that does not use the DVD medium as well as it could.

Modern Family is one of those television shows that has rapidly worked its way into my heart. My wife was home ill one night when I was working late and she caught multiple episodes and she had me get Modern Family Season 1 (reviewed here!) out from our local library. Since then, we have been watching it very regularly and when I picked up Modern Family - Season 2 on DVD, it made her very happy. And while I enjoyed the second season of Modern Family, while experiencing it on DVD, I had the odd sensation that it was not a very enduring comedy. That might seem like an odd thing to write, but there were a few episodes in the second season that my wife and I caught on television several months back and when they came up on these discs, neither of us wanted to watch them again.

Whenever I consider a season or a series, the level of replayability is part of what I evaluate in order to recommend for or against people buying the DVD or Blu-Ray. In the case of Modern Family Season Two, objectively the show was wonderful and I enjoyed the experience of watching it, but when it came time to rewatch it, I was far less inclined to than I would have suspected. In other words, Modern Family in its second season seems to be doing everything right, but the comedy does not hold up as well over multiple viewings as some other sitcoms I have watched and reviewed of late.

In its second season, Modern Family is a series of twenty-four half hour (less considering there are no commercials on the DVDs) episodes that focus on the extended Pritchett/Dunphy family. The main characters remain the same from the first season to the second and in the second season, their story continues as pretty much a series of embarrassing or awkward situations that illustrate well the foibles in contemporary relationships, especially as they pertain to family life.

It is in this season that Mitchell helps to build his daughter’s play castle and he gets caught in an awkward situation on Halloween at his job. Claire attempts to get a speeding neighbor to stop, which drastically complicates Phil’s business relationship when that neighbor wants to sell her house. This is the season where Alex has her first kiss and discovers that popular kids are deeply insecure and that by not caring about popularity, she can become popular. Cameron and Mitchell also have to choose who Lily would go to should they both die fast and horribly and they use an earthquake to get out of visiting one of their friends.

As with the first season, the second season of Modern Family features multiple episodes that are centered around a single theme or event. For example, in “Two Monkeys And A Panda,” the three major conflicts all center around characters trying to put themselves in the place of another. It’s like an empathy test as Phil – using a spa day that Claire was supposed to use – tries to learn just what Claire wants to hear in order to be a better husband, Claire tries to keep peace in the family when Alex accidentally ruins Haley’s sweaters, Mitchell has to rectify Lily’s adoption paperwork (which put Cameron’s last name as Lily’s middle name) and Gloria deals with Jay’s plan for their bodies that conflicts with her own idea about what one does with their own corpse. Throughout the course of the episode, truths compel the characters to grow by making them see the world through their partners’ or family member’s eyes.

While the somewhat episodic nature of the second season of Modern Family makes the show a little more plot-based than character-centered, Modern Family still has more character (and more characters!) than most other situational comedies. In the second season, the principle characters of Modern Family are:

Jay Pritchett – The patriarch of the family, he is married to Gloria and works hard to raise Manny with her, despite finding Manny to be a little weird. He tries to help Cam keep Mitchell away from tools and is frequently put in his place by Gloria, especially when he disrespects her Colombian customs. Loosening up a little to show affection in order to not repeat the problems he had with Mitch and Claire, he is a solid guy who enjoys the benefits his success has brought him,

Gloria Delgado-Pritchett – Irked by how Jay disrespects her sometimes, she is a little clingy with Manny. She becomes obsessed with the way one of their neighbors’ dogs barks constantly (which leads the neighbor to realize that Gloria’s shrill voice is what he has been misinterpreting as an animal for months) and she tries to help out at one of the school dances, against Claire’s wishes. She also tries to maintain a friendship by telling her friends that Jay is not well,

Manny Delgado – the socially awkward son of Gloria, he has a more formal and oddly adult outlook on life. He has an epiphany late in the season that he has been wasting his childhood by being a good kid and he has a bit of fun changing up his life,

Mitchell Pritchett – The son of Jay and partner of Cameron, he works hard to fit in at his new job, while still being taken seriously. He avoids public displays of affection, continues to be somewhat competitive with Claire (though they come together to try to get Cameron and Phil to change their behaviors). He starts to trust his relationship with Cam more this season,

Cameron Tucker – Mitchell’s significant other, he falls apart on Halloween when recounting his own version of a traumatic experience. He refuses to believe Mitchell when Mitch tells him his mother is being inappropriate with him and he does most of the day to day parenting for Lily,

Lily Tucker-Pritchett – Falls a little behind her peer group, which alarms Mitch and Cam. Otherwise, she is pretty much just a baby,

Phil Dunphy – The awkward husband of Claire and father to Luke, Alex and Haley, he continues to do well as a real estate agent. The family seems to accept that he has a crush on Gloria and he works very hard to impress his father-in-law, Jay. Outside Valentine’s Day, though, he and Claire seldom seem affectionate,

Claire Dunphy – Jay’s daughter (and something of a Daddy’s girl) and Phil’s wife, she slowly begins to tire of running the kids around, even to the point where she trades responsibilities with Phil for a day. It is her idea to get rid of the old car that has a lot of her and Jay’s personal history,

Hayley – Having dumped Dylan, she finds herself bouncing between multiple guys, enjoying her popularity. She grooms Alex to be popular and is otherwise just an average teenager,

Alex – the brainy daughter of Phil and Claire, she has an ongoing rivalry with Hayley. As her middle school graduation approaches, she seriously considers using her valedictory address to put the popular kids in their place,

And Luke – The youngest Dunphy child, he has attention deficit issues and takes after his father.

As for the acting, the adult actors – led by Ed O’Neill (Jay), Ty Burrell (Phil) and Julie Bowen (Claire) – continue to masterfully execute their, usually ironic, lines. Burrell stands apart as his dry and often comically inappropriate deliveries are paired with a greater sense of physical comedy than anyone else in the cast. The child actors continue to disprove the notion that kids are not worth working with. Rico Rodriguez and Ariel Winter continue to credibly deliver lines that are written as if their characters are much, much older (or mature) than the actors are. Nolan Gould also seems more comfortable with his dialogue (losing the mumbling lisp that plagued him in the first season).

On DVD, Modern Family season two comes with minimal bonus features, making it a tougher sell to buy than it would be to recommend viewers watch as it starts making a rotation in syndication. Even so, this DVD set is easily worth recommending consumers view, if not buy right away.

For other works with Julie Bowen, please check out my reviews of:
Horrible Bosses
Weeds - Season Four
Boston Legal


For other television reviews, please be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films and shows I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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