Before I begin this article let me just say that I do not write this in jest, or to offend those who pray at the gospel of Seinfeld. I, along with many who grew up in the nineties, did so under the tutelage of one Jerry Seinfeld and his band of loyal friends. I was there when Jerry fooled around during Schindler’s List, when George got caught sleeping under his desk at the Yankees front office, and at the show’s riveting conclusion when the entire gang was arrested. The show made an indelible mark on my psyche, so when I say that a new television program is a modern-day equivalent, or perhaps even an improvement on Seinfeld, I do so with the utmost respect for the earlier program.
Modern Family, which is based partially on the families of co-creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan, is premised on an unusual extended family made up of the patriarch Jay, his young Columbian wife Gloria, and her son Manny, as well as Jay’s own two children Claire and Mitchell. Claire is married to Phil Dunphey, and together they have three children. Mitchell is in a same-sex relationship with partner Cameron, and they have an adopted daughter.
The show revolves around the various problems all three separate families face, and the relationships between all the members as they navigate various hardships and hilarity.
While the issues dealt with in Modern Family are not always as mature as those presented in Seinfeld, both shows means of presenting the trials and issues of characters over the span of one episode, with little or no continuation, is strikingly similar. In essence both are shows about nothing, with character interaction and development occurring in each individual episode.
The faux-hip father, the hard-ass patriarch, the desperate to please mother, all of the traditional sitcom characters are present in Modern Family. What makes the characters in Modern Family different from other sitcoms is in the depth they are afforded, the extra ticks each character is given, and the hilarity that often ensues from their actions.
The characters, with all their various eccentricities, are relatable. Who hasn’t accidentally stolen a child’s bike while attempting to teach their son a lesson, or showcased their newly adopted daughter to the opening tune of The Lion King?
Even when they act insane, they do so in a way that is both human and real. Similar to the oddball antics of George Costanza, Phil Dunphy and his family act in a way that does not rely on tacky one-liners or eye-roll inducing humour, but instead takes its time to build up situational humour over the course of an episode, dropping comedy bombs in its wake.
Modern Family continues to be a worthy successor to Seinfeld, and a bold new program that can carry the torch for quality and engaging television comedy into a new generation. Not since Seinfeld have you been able to experience the rare instance of laughing out loud. And not just laughing, but chuckling to the point of tears. Whether it is at Manny’s small stature and much grander advice, Mitchell and Cameron’s attempts at navigating the difficulties of same-sex parenthood, or Phil’s depiction of what it means to be cool, Modern Family makes you appreciate comedy in the same way that a show about nothing did over a decade ago.