The comedy juggernaut rolls on
The Story So Far...
The third season of the show would see the series maintain the same sense of consistency seen in the second year, as not a lot changes in the world of the Pritchetts, maintaining the dynamic of a family that fights frequently, yet loves each other just as much. While the kids age and there are some modifications to the family's daily lives, in the end, they'll still be doing the coach interviews, still getting caught up in wacky misunderstandings and still celebrating big family vacations and holidays giving them opportunities for new adventures. This season, they traveled to Wyoming and Disneyland, Claire tried her hand at local politics and Cam and Mitchell explored expanding their non-traditional family, and along the way, many laughs were earned.
While the relationship between Jay and his fiery Colombian wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) provide some of the most consistently hilarious moments, the core of the show is Claire and Phil (Ty Burrell) and their three kids, Haley (the oldest and dimmest), Alex (the smart middle-child) and Luke (the youngest and oddest.) They come off as one of the most realistic families on TV, through their bickering and more loving interactions. In this set, in addition to trying to help Claire get elected to the city council, they have to deal with Haley's future, as she starts thinking about college, and it comes with plenty of headaches, including Phil and Claire's begrudging acceptance of her growing up and fear of her ignorance. "Virgin Territory" may be the high point of the storyline, as Phil confronts Haley's adulthood, in one of the best handled examples of a teen sexuality storyline in TV history, and a perfect illustration of how this show gets the most out of depicting how families work.
The other big storyline this year is Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell's attempts to add a boy to their family. Together, they are great, and as their adopted daughter Lily gets older, she gets the chance to steal more and more scenes (one moment with the three of them and a laptop is as funny as anything in the entire season.) From their attempts to adopt, to their flirtation with surrogates (which involves Claire in another great bit of family strife) to the season's emotional finale, their tale really became the core of the show. Even when they weren't focusing on a sibling for Lily, they were center stage, like when Cam's old clown partner Lewis (Bobby Cannavale) returns, much to Mitch's chagrin, or when Lily starts cursing and Cam can't help but giggle manically.
Admittedly, some of the laughs they get are of the easy variety, thanks to playing to some gay stereotypes, but more often than not they are earned via old-school comedy skill, with plenty of clever wordplay, impressive slapstick and brilliantly structured writing. You don't see this kind of classic sitcom comedy too frequently on TV, and when you do get it, it's not so smoothly paired with pathos. You'll probably never see a "very special episode" of Modern Family, but that doesn't stop them from killing off a character to explore how people deal with death or put their stars through the ringer to capture some genuine emotion. It may seem a bit formulaic and certainly a bit too clean the way the episodes resolve during the late-game voice-over that wraps each episode, but they're always true to the show's tone and damn if they aren't always touching.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks are consistent with the previous releases, keeping the majority of the sound in the center channel, thanks to the show's focus on dialogue, while the side and rear speakers handle the mostly subtle atmospheric elements and the score. Everything is clear and free of distortion, and while there's nothing dynamic or thumping to test your system, it's all handled quite well.
The majority of the extras arrive in the form of several featurettes, starting with a trio of behind-the-scenes pieces focusing on the show's big event episodes, "Destination: Wyoming" (9:43), "A Modern Family Christmas" (5:59) and "Modern Family Goes to Disneyland Resort" (3:11). Mixing a recap of the episodes with interviews and on-set footage, they could offer more material than we've already seen, but they do provide some interesting insight, like an explanation of the practical snow effects in the Express Christmas episode. "Driving Lessons" (2:55) is similar, just focusing on Luke and Manny's driving adventure, but there's not a lot to it.
There are a couple of on-set featurettes with the actors, as you get to spend some time with Burrell in "A Day on the Set with Ty" (5:38), watching as he preps for the day and talks with Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, who returned to his sitcom roots and directed an episode this season. Meanwhile, "Adventures of the Modern Family Kids" (3:35) follows the younger castmembers (sans Hyland) as they fill time with various activities on the set of their Wyoming episode.
The last featurette, and largest extra, is a nearly 17-minute look at O'Neill being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The whole affair is a bit weird, taking place alongside a busy street, with the accompanying traffic noise, but hearing from the genuinely likable O'Neill, as well as his famed TV wives, Katey Segal and Vergara, makes it worth watching.
The final extra is a nine-minute gag reel, which disappointingly includes a great deal of physical comedy that was actually in the show. While you'll get a few smiles out of the screw-ups (especially the rather joyful Vergara), overall, you'd expect more laughs from a show that's so funny.
The Bottom Line