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Series


Meet the Modern Family. This family tree begins with Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill), a self-made wealthy man in his 60s. Jay is currently married to Gloria (Sofia Vergara), a boisterous, not to mention buxom Colombian native at least two decades his junior, and has adopted her son Manny (Rico Rodriguez), an 11-year-old with the soul and wisdom of a 50-year-old man. Jay also has two adult children from his previous marriage – Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson). Claire is an overprotective, always productive housewife, and married to Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), a neurotic real estate broker that desperately tries to connect with his children as a peer rather than a parent, and who relentlessly dotes on Claire. Claire and Phil’s children are (in order of age) the pretty, popular and shallow Haley (Sarah Hyland), the smart, stressed out, and crafty Alex (Ariel Winter), and the simple, and easily amused Luke (Nolan Gould). Mitchell is an extremely uptight, awkward homosexual. He and his flamboyant, melodramatic partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) have an adopted Chinese daughter named Lily.

Modern Family: Season 2
The things I shouldn’t like about Modern Family outweigh the things I do like, and the series defies all my usual critical logic across the board. It’s frightfully politically correct (bo- ring), it’s family friendly (I’m a bachelor), it builds much of the comedy on awkward misunderstandings (I can’t watch The Office for this very reason), and an even larger section of the comedy is based on obvious, broad slapstick (la zy). The basic plots of each episode are recycled from Roseanne, The Cosby Show, Friends, and every other ‘90s sit-com that fed into the prime time sit-com machine that created modern atrocities like Everyone Loves Raymond and Two and a Half Men. It’s also sweet as saccharine, and ends almost every episode with some kind of, bleh, moral. But, dammit, those familiar sit-com clichés fill a warm void left by the brutality and melodrama of the unequivocally good stuff like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, the awkward stuff is offset with sweetness, and the sweetness is often as genuine and hard-earned as the sweetness found in a Pixar film. Something sharp flew right into my damn eye during the mother’s day episode. And the slapstick is expertly timed in pretty much the opposite manner of every terrible Kevin James film (that broken stair got me every time). Ugh, the creators even utilized the over-used mockumentary format. They utilize it to great effect. Those bastards.

The highest hurdle I surmount with stupefying regularity is the fact that I don’t relate to any of the major characters on a basic, personal level. I don’t relate to their social standings, I don’t relate to their jobs, I don’t really have a similar relationship with my family, I didn’t have a similar childhood, and I don’t have any kids of my own. If they were real people I’d have zero interest in getting to know them. Yet after only a season’s worth of set-up I find myself genuinely liking them, and laughing in anticipation at their reactions to the situations the writers stick them in before they’ve had the time. The characters are made up of archetypes, which was initially another strike against the series, but they’re deceptive in their simplicity. Occasionally the stereotypes get the best of the writers, and the characters’ idiosyncrasies can grate, but there’s real life in these people, thanks in no small part to solid performances. And against the sit-com rule of obnoxiously cute children, the youngest members of the cast manage to steal scene after scene from under their more mature cast-mates’ feet. The show is at its best when mixing and matching characters, and widening the scope of the little family universe. Regrets Only makes especially unlikely pairings out of Cameron and little Luke (Cameron’s relationship with the kids is a constant source of subtle entertainment), Phil and Gloria, and Claire and Jay, none of whom interact all that often otherwise.

Modern Family: Season 2
There are some off episodes, or at least off thirds of episodes during this second season. Mother Trucker is a particularly unfunny episode, probably the weakest of the entire season, featuring a boring teenage break-up, a sub- Seinfeld health scare, and an embarrassing mother-in-law being too touchy C-story. Our Children, Ourselves is another off performance, running on a clumsy paternity scare for Mitchell and Cameron (that ends on an incredibly predictable punch-line), and an uncomfortable pretend Jay is senile gag that runs out of steam very quickly. A charming Dunphy story saves the episode from ruin, and strikes a little too close to home (Phil and Claire watch a stuffy French film instead of ‘Crocktopus 3D’ to impress Alex’s school rival). The second season is overall slightly weaker than the first thanks to these dips, but the first season didn’t feature anything as side-achingly funny as Chirp, which takes many of the more unattractive character traits to extremes without tipping into annoyance (Phil’s blow-up at the end is good for a hearty chuckle), Manny Get Your Gun, or Good Cop, Bad Dog. Slow Down Your Neighbors gets my vote as the best single episode in the series history thus far, and features my favourite storyline for all three family units. If any episode can turn opinions towards the show’s favour it’s this one (‘Teacher of the year.’)

Modern Family: Season 2

Video


Modern Family is shot using high end digital HD cameras, and it’s lit with plenty of bright, soft lights, all of which equates a very good looking Blu-ray collection. The producers don’t do a lot to change things up, or to show off their cameras’ capabilities either, opting instead for a slightly stylized naturalistic palette. There are no lush Hawaiian jungles, neon bar lights, or bright pastel sets in the Modern Family universe, but the clarity and colour quality of the image is rather outstanding. The details are sharp, including lifelike textures, intricate wardrobe patterns, and busy backgrounds. The overall palette is coloured a bit by the generally yellow lighting schemes, which creates some appealing warm highlights that blend softly into the more reddened flesh tones, and cut nicely against the solid cool hues. Contrast levels aren’t excessive, but the basic hues and blacks are consistently solid, without more than basic digital grain to mess with the overall definition. Some of the darkest sequences feature some slightly harsher white lighting, and this leads to some minor edge haloes, and white blowouts, but overall there is very little to complain about.

Audio


Modern Family does little to overcome the basic aural expectations of an average television sit-com, and mostly embraces its mockumentary concept in terms of sound design – the majority of sound comes directly from the front center channel, as if it has been captured by the handheld camera’s microphone. A few instances stand apart from the average, and give the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track a reason to employ the extra channels. During Our Children, Ourselves Phil watches a made-up, big-budget schlock-fest, and the surround channels come to life in a mock version of monster movie aural excess. Bixby's Back ends with a bit of live music that echoes effectively throughout the channels, and utilizes the LFE capabilities. Manny Get Your Gun has some effective ambient mall noise. Occasionally the establishing location shots feature a car or person moving across the stereo channels as well. Besides the main title theme, and any song that plays on screen where the characters can react to it, there isn’t really any score to the series, even during the establishing shots.

Modern Family: Season 2

Extras


Each disc in this three disc collection comes fitted with its own set of extras, most of them pertaining to the episodes that correspond with the disc. Disc one features deleted/extended/alternate family interviews (4:00, HD), deleted/extended scenes (10:00, HD), footage from a public table reading for the episode Strangers on a Treadmill (37:40, HD), and a look behind the scenes of Mitch’s flash mob dance (2:40, HD). Disc two features more deleted/extended/alternate family interviews (4:50, HD), more deleted/extended scenes (10:50, HD), and an ‘Imagine Me Naked’ mock-music video (3:40, HD). Disc three features even more deleted/alternate family interviews (2:00, HD), even more deleted/extended scenes (1:00, HD), a gag reel (8:20, HD), ‘ Modern Family Holidays’ (13:00, HD), a look behind the scenes of the Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day  and Halloween episodes, ‘Waiting for Oprah’ (3:50, HD), behind the scenes on a cast interview with some talk show host, ‘Chatting with Steve Levitan’ (4:10, HD), and ‘At Home with Modern Family’ (6:10, HD), a look at the set that make up the various houses on the show, and bloopers.

Modern Family: Season 2

Overall


It took some convincing, and the Community fan in me wants to be resentful, but I have to admit that I quite enjoy Modern Family. This second season collection is a bit of a mixed bag including some of the best and worst episodes in the series’ history, and not the best place for new fans to start (though there’s not a whole lot in the way of serialized elements), but still a generally great overall production, including top end digital HD video, clean DTS-HD MA sound, and a decent collection of extras.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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