'Modern Family' Isn't Breaking Any New Ground, But Here's Why That's a Good Thing
There's a new Modern Family on tonight, and I couldn't be more excited. That might sound like an odd statement, considering that we all know Modern Family stopped being funny after the second season, and that Veep totally should've won the Emmy, and all of those actors are overrated, anyway. I've heard it all before, and sometimes, I even agree. But during the past few weeks, ever since the show entered its fifth season, I've realized something: I don't care. Modern Family is the last smart, sweet, predictable comedy we have, and I'm grateful that it exists.
We're in a Golden Age of comedy right now. Between the whip-smart shows on cable (Veep, Louie), the groundbreaking series offered by Netflix (Orange Is the New Black), and the wonderfully quirky selections available on the networks (Community, New Girl), TV hasn't been this funny since Ross and Rachel went on a break. All of these shows are hugely entertaining, filled with sharp humor and surprising twists. Yet during this comedy renaissance, something has been lost: the sweet, well-meaning, predictably heartwarming sitcom.
And that's where Modern Family comes in. Today's episodes are a far cry from the show's hilarious, original season one, but even the series' weakest episodes are stronger than many of the best installments offered by other networks. The main criticism that Family gets is for its predictability; it's said that the plotlines have gone down in innovation, and seemingly every episode now ends with a tidy resolution and a group hug. And this is true; I can't remember the last conflict on the show that didn't get resolved by the half hour's end. Yet this is exactly the reason I keep watching Modern Family, even when so many other fans moved on long ago.
No other show available today is as void of drama and real conflict; practically every comedy needs an "edge" now, or at least an angle. The characters must be "quirky" or "ironic," or anti-heroes and anti-heroines. This is not in itself a bad thing, of course; shows like New Girl (quirky) or Girls (anti-heroine) are beloved, and for good reason. But there's something to be said about the sweet, predictable comedy, one with no moral complexity or anxiety-ridden drama.
Modern Family, with its low-key, solidly entertaining plots about soccer practice and date nights, is one of the last of its kind. With simple storylines and likable characters, every episode is happily predictable. It leaves the groundbreaking concepts and morally ambiguous characters to the other shows, and for 30 minutes each Wednesday night, it provides viewers with sweet, satisfying entertainment. And when I've just come down from an episode of Homeland and am prepping for the cringe-worthy humor of Girls, it's nice to know that there's at least one show I can count on to make me do nothing but smile for half an hour.