Country of origin
Theme music composer
Christopher LloydSteven Levitan
Ed O'NeillSofía VergaraJulie BowenTy BurrellJesse Tyler FergusonEric StonestreetSarah HylandAriel WinterNolan GouldRico RodriguezAubrey Anderson-EmmonsJeremy Maguire
Gabriel MannDaniel Licht (pilot only)
American Broadcasting Company
Christopher Lloyd, Steven Levitan, Danny Zuker
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series
Modern Family (stylized as modern family) is an American television mockumentary sitcom that premiered on ABC on September 23, 2009, which follows the lives of Jay Pritchett and his family, all of whom live in suburban Los Angeles. Pritchett's family includes his second wife, his son and his stepson, as well as his two adult children and their spouses and children. Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan conceived the series while sharing stories of their own "modern families". Modern Family employs an ensemble cast. The series is presented in mockumentary style, with the fictional characters frequently talking directly into the camera. The series premiered on September 23, 2009, and the eighth season premiered on September 21, 2016.
- Main characters
- Family tree
- Initial development
- Critical reception
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 3
- Season 4
- Season 5
- Season 6
- Season 7
Modern Family was acclaimed by critics throughout its first season, although reception has become more mixed as the series has progressed. The show won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in each of its first five years and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series four times, twice for Eric Stonestreet and twice for Ty Burrell, as well as the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series twice for Julie Bowen. It has so far won a total of 22 Emmy awards from 75 nominations. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 2011.
The broadcast syndication rights to the series were sold to USA Network and 10 Fox affiliates and CW affiliate WLVI for a fall 2013 premiere. The success of the series led to it being the tenth-highest revenue-generating show for 2012, earning $2.13 million an episode.
Modern Family revolves around three different types of families (nuclear, step- and same-sex) living in the Los Angeles area who are interrelated through Jay Pritchett and his children, Claire Dunphy (née Pritchett) and Mitchell Pritchett. Patriarch Jay is remarried to a much younger woman, Gloria Delgado Pritchett (née Ramirez), a passionate Colombian with whom he has a baby son, Fulgencio (Joe) Pritchett; and a son from Gloria's previous marriage, Manny Delgado. Jay's daughter Claire was a homemaker, but has returned to the business world; she is married to Phil Dunphy, a real-estate agent and self-professed "cool Dad". They have three children- Haley Dunphy, a stereotypical ditzy teenage girl; Alex Dunphy, a nerdy, smart middle child; and Luke Dunphy, the off-beat only son. Jay's lawyer son Mitchell and his husband Cameron Tucker have an adopted Vietnamese daughter, Lily Tucker-Pritchett. As the name suggests, this family represents a modern-day family and episodes are comically based on situations which many families encounter in real life.
The characters in green have regular roles on the show. Dotted lines indicate a parental relationship through adoption or marriage, and dashed lines indicate a divorce between characters.
Note: The series has also had many recurring characters. Reid Ewing appeared in several episodes as Haley's boyfriend Dylan. Fred Willard has guest starred as Phil's father Frank; he was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards but lost to Neil Patrick Harris's performance on Glee. Shelley Long appeared in the first two seasons and occasionally thereafter as DeDe Pritchett, Jay's ex-wife and Claire and Mitchell's mother. Nathan Lane appeared during the second and fifth season as Cameron and Mitchell's flamboyant friend Pepper Saltzman. Adam DeVine appeared as Andy Bailey, Jay and Gloria's 'Manny', Phil's assistant and Haley's boyfriend. Stella, Jay and Gloria's dog, has appeared in most episodes, played first by Brigitte and then by Beatrice. Larry, Mitchell and Cameron's cat, is played by Frosty.
As creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan retold stories about their families, they realized that the stories could be the basis for a show. They started working on the idea of a family being observed in a mockumentary-style show. They later decided that it could be a show about three families and their experiences. It was originally called My American Family, and the camera crew was originally supposed to have been run by a fictitious Dutch filmmaker named Geert Floortje who had lived with Jay's family as a teenage exchange student and developed a crush on Claire (while Mitchell had a crush on him). The producers later felt that this component was unnecessary, and it was scrapped. Lloyd now prefers to look at the show as "a family show done documentary-style".
Lloyd and Levitan pitched the series to CBS, NBC, and ABC (they did not pitch it to Fox because of issues they had with the network over a previous comedy series, Back to You, that Lloyd and Levitan also created and produced). CBS, which was not ready to make a big commitment to the single-camera style of filming, rejected the series. NBC, already broadcasting The Office and Parks and Recreation, decided against taking on a third mockumentary-style show. ABC accepted the pitch.
The pilot episode tested positively with focus groups, resulting in the network ordering 13 episodes and adding it to the 2009–10 fall lineup days ahead of ABC's official schedule announcement. The series was given a full season pickup in October 2009.
Principal photography takes place in Los Angeles. Many of the exteriors used are on the city's Westside. The Dunphys' house is in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood. As of 2014, Palisades Charter High School is used for the exteriors of Luke and Manny's school.
Lloyd and Levitan, whose credits both include Frasier, Wings, and Just Shoot Me, are executive producers of the series, serving as showrunner and head writer under their Lloyd-Levitan Productions label in affiliation with Twentieth Century Fox Television. The other producers on the writing team are Paul Corrigan, Sameer Gardezi, Joe Lawson, Dan O'Shannon, Brad Walsh, Caroline Williams, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker, and Jeff Morton. The first team of directors included Jason Winer, Michael Spiller, Randall Einhorn, and Chris Koch. Winer has directed nineteen episodes of the series, making him the most prolific director of the series.
In the first season, the "adult" cast was paid a range of approximately $30,000 to $90,000 per episode. As a result of the show's success, the cast attempted to renegotiate their contracts in the summer of 2012 to obtain higher per-episode fees, but talks broke down to the point that the fourth season's first table read had to be postponed. Five of the cast members (Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofía Vergara) retained the Quinn Emanuel law firm and sued 20th Century Fox Television in Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 24, 2012. While not part of the lawsuit, Ed O'Neill joined his fellow castmates in seeking raises for each to about $200,000 per episode; O'Neill had been earning more money per episode than the other five. The lawsuit invoked the "seven-year rule" in California Labor Code Section 2855 (the De Havilland Law) and requested a declaration that their contracts were void because they were in violation of that rule. As of July 28, 2012 the conflict has been resolved. The five adult cast members' salaries were increased from $55,000-$65,000 per episode to $150,000–$175,000; with increases every season plus a cut of back end profits. O'Neill had already been earning $200,000 an episode, so his salary was lowered to parity with his co-stars but a larger cut of the back-end profits. Later in the summer four of the five child stars negotiated increases from $15,000/$25,000 to $70,000 per episode with an additional $10,000 per season raise.
In The New York Times, Bruce Feiler called attention to how the show depicts the increasing way communications technology shapes the way people perceive others, even family members. "[It] is surely the first family comedy that incorporates its own hashtag of simultaneous self-analysis directly into the storyline," he writes. "Mark Zuckerberg may be a greater influence on Modern Family than Norman Lear."
The show's writers and actors agree. "We used to talk about how cellphones killed the sitcom because no one ever goes to anyone's house anymore" for routine information, Abraham Higginbotham told Feiler. "We embrace technology so it's part of the story." Ty Burrell draws on Fran Lebowitz's observation that there is no institution other than media. "I had this little flash of Phil—and me—that we are parsing our personality together externally from how people perceive us."
James Parker of The Atlantic commented "How does one 'parent'? Who does what, which 'role'? Is Dad sufficiently dad-like and Mom enough of a mom?"
In a 2014 article in Slate, the site's podcast executive producer, Andy Bowers, a resident of Los Angeles's Westside, where the show films most of its exteriors, praised the series for its realistic depiction of life in that part of the city. Many of the show's locations were familiar to him as places he regularly visited or passed.
Since its premiere, the series has remained popular. In its first season, the show became the sixth highest-rated scripted show in America and the third-highest rated new show. Aided by winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, the show's second season became the highest rated show on Wednesday on premiere week and also rose 34% from the previous season among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The show frequently ranked as television's top scripted series in adults 18–49 as well. The success of the show has been positively compared to The Cosby Show. During the 2010–2011 season, Modern Family was the highest rated scripted show in the 18–49 demographic, and the third highest rated overall sitcom behind CBS's The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. The season also ranked first among DVR viewers. The third-season premiere became ABC's top-rated season premiere in six years. The series' success in ratings has also led it to being credited for reviving sitcoms. In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that Modern Family's "audience pattern is the prototypical example of a city show — most popular in liberal, urban clusters in Boston, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara, Calif., and least popular in the more rural parts of Kentucky, Mississippi and Arkansas".
Michelle Haimoff of the Christian Science Monitor criticized the show for only casting the women as stay-at-home moms while the husbands have very successful careers: "There is a difference between quirky, flawed characters and ones who are incapable of professional success. And when the latter is reliably female, it makes for sexist television. It also makes for unrealistic television." Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writer Ali Waller asked her Twitter followers "If Modern Family is so 'modern' then why don't any of the women have jobs?" Other authors reinforce this criticism, claiming that stay-at-home mothers are no longer the norm in today's society. In season 4 of the show, the character Claire Dunphy reveals that she had been trying to find work now that her three kids didn't need a stay-at-home mother as much anymore, but that she found it tough to reenter the job market after such a long hiatus, despite her holding a college degree. In season 5, Claire returns to work with a job at her father Jay Pritchett's closet company.
According to a CNET staffer commenting on a first-season episode: "The wife and daughter are unable to learn how to use the remote and must be taught by the father, while the son is 'good with electronics,' even though he is thought of as the stupidest member of the family." Arianna Reiche from Gawker commented on the episode "Game Changer" where Gloria hides her skill at chess so her husband will not be upset at losing: "This moment is at best a sappy quip about compromise in an often heavy-handed series, and at worst, it's a moment in a show with 9.3 million viewers, on a network owned by Disney, which explicitly validates girls and women subduing their intellect." The show eventually focused more on Claire's career progress, with her running for city councillor, flipping a home, and finally, in the fifth season, getting a job.
The first season was met with critical acclaim. It scored 100%, based on 20 reviews, on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's critical consensus stating "Thanks to sharp writing and an eccentric but exceedingly likable cast of characters, Modern Family signals the triumphant return of the family comedy." The first season also scored 86/100, based on 27 reviews, on review aggregator website Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim".
Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, calling it "immediately recognizable as the best new sitcom of the fall". In Time's review, the show was named "the funniest new family comedy of the year". It has also been compared to the 1970s series Soap because of the multiple-family aspect. Some have made comparisons to The Office and Parks and Recreation because of their mockumentary formats. BuddyTV named the show the second best show in 2009, saying, "Every actor is fantastic, every family is interesting, and unlike many shows, there isn't a weak link". Robert Canning of IGN gave the season an 8.9 calling it "Great" and saying "Simply put, Modern Family was one of the best new comedies of the season." He also praised the ensemble cast and the characters, calling them lovable. According to Metacritic, the first season was the best reviewed new broadcast television series.
Modern Family drew criticism from the LGBT community for its portrayal of Cameron and Mitchell as not being physically affectionate with each other. The criticism spawned a Facebook campaign to demand that Mitchell and Cameron be allowed to kiss. In response to the controversy, producers released a statement that a season two episode would address Mitchell's discomfort with public displays of affection. Executive producer Levitan has said that it was unfortunate that the issue had arisen, since the show's writers had always planned on such a scene "as part of the natural development of the show." The episode "The Kiss" eventually aired with the kiss scene in the background, which drew praise from multiple critics.
The show's second season received mostly positive reviews from critics. Robert Bianco of USA Today gave the second season four out of four stars, saying "Not since Frasier has a sitcom offered such an ideal blend of heart and smarts, or proven itself so effortlessly adept at so many comic variations, from subtle wordplay to big-laugh slapstick to everything in between." In a later review Bianco stated "as good as it was in its first year, is even better in its second", positively comparing the characters to the characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Cosby Show, and Friends. During the second season, Adweek named the show one of the 100 Most Influential TV Shows (98th chronologically). Despite this, some critics were less favorable toward the season and described it as a sophomore slump. Eric Stonestreet's acting was widely praised throughout the first season, but criticized during season two for being too contrived and "over-the-top"; Alan Sepinwall called Cameron Tucker a "whiny, overly-sensitive diva". On the other hand, the praise for Ty Burrell's performance (as Phil Dunphy) continued.
The third season was met with mixed reception. Slant Magazine reviewer Peter Swanson wrote that while the first episode was "the type of wacky-location stunt that's usually reserved for the fifth or sixth season of a dying sitcom", the following episodes "have been better [...] but they're still uneven". He also criticized the writers for relying too much on "stunt episodes and celebrity cameos, like David Cross". He ultimately gave the season 3 out of 4 stars. James Parker of The Atlantic said, at the beginning of the third season that "Modern Family is very, very funny, almost ruthlessly so ... [It's] a bit of a master class in pace and brevity ... The writing is Vorsprung durch Technik: hectically compressed but dramatically elegant, prodigal in its zingers and snorters but austere in its construction." He found it an exception to his dislike for sitcoms that do not use a laugh track. During the third season, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni argued that gay criticism of Cameron and Mitchell actually showed the progress gays have made toward social acceptance. "A decade ago," he writes, "[gays] would have balked—and balked loudly—at how frequently Cameron in particular tips into limp-wristed, high-voiced caricature." But now, "most gay people trust that the television audience knows we're a diverse tribe, not easily pigeonholed ... Modern Family endows us with a sort of comic banality. It's an odd kind of progress. But it's progress nonetheless."
The fourth season of Modern Family received mixed reviews from critics. Halfway through the season, Rachel Stein of Television Without Pity wrote, "much as I liked the pairings and some of the dialogue, ["New Year's Eve"] is just another contrived episode of Modern Family we can cite when we talk later about how a different show should have won the 2013 Emmy for Best Comedy." Dalene Rovenstein of Paste Magazine gave the season a positive review, but said a better season was possible.
The fifth season of Modern Family also received mixed reviews. Reviewing the season's first eight episodes, Matthew Wolfson of Slant Magazine wrote that the show "appear[ed] to have finally arrived at the depressing and predictable low point toward which it [had] been trending for the past two years." He also went on to say that the show had "turned into a shrill pastiche of stereotypical characterizations and superficial banter lacking both feeling and wit", assigning it a rating of 1.5/4 stars. Different writers for The A.V. Club rated, in total, a majority of the former-half episodes with a "B-" grade or less. One writer for the magazine, Joshua Alston, gave "ClosetCon '13" a "C+" and remarked that "Modern Family becomes a high-wire act when it separates its characters into three storylines with no overlap between them." The second half was more warmly received, with three episodes rated an "A-" or higher.
The show's sixth season received praise from TV critics, with some claiming that it was an improvement over the last few seasons. Joshua Alston and Gwen Ihnat The A.V. Club have awarded the majority of episodes a "B" grade or higher – with particular praise for "The Day We Almost Died" and "Closet? You'll Love It!" – marking an improvement over the repeated "C" grade given throughout the previous season's former half. "Connection Lost" received high critical acclaim, with many praising the episode's writing, originality and "success in transcending what could have been a gimicky episode". In her review for "Closet? You'll Love It!" Gwen Ihnat of The A.V. Club stated that the episode represents "all the reasons why we still watch Modern Family" and awarded the episode an A-. On the same site, David Kallison reviewed "Grill, Interrupted", saying: "This season proves that sitcoms can survive on solid characters and solid jokes".
The seventh season received mixed reviews from critics with many critics calling it similar to the fourth and fifth seasons. Kyle Fowle from The A.V. Club had a very mixed reaction to the season, only giving one episode an A- or higher. Fowle felt the season was frustrating, believing the season would be defined "by its lack of character progress and overstuffed episodes."
Modern Family has won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and 6 Writers Guild of America Awards. The show also later received a GLSEN Respect Award for its portrayal of "positive images and storylines that reflect a diverse America, including the depiction of a family headed by a gay couple." In 2010, Modern Family was nominated for five Television Critics Association Awards. Like Friends, to reinforce the idea of an ensemble cast, the cast all submitted themselves in the Supporting Actor and Actress categories instead of Lead Actor and Actress for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards. The series has also been put on multiple critics' lists. In 2010, the series was listed 2nd on Time's Top Ten Best shows of 2009, 2nd on BuddyTV's Top Ten Best Shows of 2009, Jason Hughes Best TV of 2009, Modern Family was awarded a Peabody Award in 2009. In 2012, the show won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and was nominated for a British Academy Television Award. Every season of the show was also named one of the top 10 TV seasons of the year (from 2009–2012) by the American Film Institute.
Both First Lady Michelle Obama, in an interview with Kal Penn at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and Ann Romney, in an interview with The Insider, have cited Modern Family as their favorite TV show.
In June 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked "Modern Family" number 34 on a list of the 101 most well-written television series ever made.
In December 2013, TV Guide ranked it number 43 on its list of the 60 Best Series of all time.
The series was picked up for syndication by USA Network during the fourth season for $1.5 million and it was picked up by ten Fox affiliates during the second season.