'Modern Family's first season was revolutionary. It could easily have been perceived as an 'Arrested Development' clone – granted it owes a lot of its success to the Bluths – but it did more than enough to distance itself by creating an originally witty family-based situational comedy. The first season laid the groundwork. It established the characters, their relationships and their endless vaults of quirky behavior. It quickly established the Pritchett family as a wonky, but loveable family. It reveled in its layered plots, its inter-woven storylines, its inside jokes that carried on from episode to episode, and its slightly off-kilter happy endings.
Season two slowed down ever so subtly. It still had plenty of laughs. There were also number of episodes that rank among the show's best (I still laugh at the thought of Luke passing soda in a cookie tray underneath a jammed door to Claire during the earthquake episode: "I couldn't find the straws. You'll have to drink it like cats"). I loved season two almost as much as season one even though there was a slight air of coasting. That's okay, since the show had earned the respect it was getting.
This is where season three comes in. Is the show still hilarious most of the time? You betcha. Is it still one of my favorite comedies on television? Of course. I'm straining just to think of any other shows that measure up. However, does the show feel like its lost a bit of its luster and originality present in the first two seasons? Almost assuredly.
The minor gripe I have with season three is that it's too gimmicky for its own good. Right out of the gate the season premiere feels a little desperate as the whole family travels to Jackson Hole to do the dude ranch thing. Later on in the season they all travel to Disneyland where wacky hijinks ensue. The gimmick-centric episodes aren't nearly as strong as the episodes where the family is simply dealing with its cavalcade of ridiculous problems.
'Modern Family' is no stranger to celebrity cameos as seen with the appearances of Edward Norton, Elizabeth Banks, and Fred Willard in season one; Nathan Lane, James Marsden, and Matt Dillon in season two. Yet, the show seems to rely too heavily on the season three cameos which include appearance by David Cross, Leslie Mann, Jennifer Tilly, Ellen Barkin, and Greg Kinnear. In the case of Cross, his character arc spans a few episodes, but never really seems to embrace his talents. He's just there to be there.
Don't get me wrong, I still love the show dearly. Phil (Ty Burrell) and Luke (Nolan Gould) remain two of my favorite characters on television right now. The show's writing and plotting are usually exceptionally crafted, creating a half-hour of witticisms, inside jokes, and downright hilarity. It's just that the way season three plays out – not to mention the turmoil behind the scenes with contract negotiations – I'm marginally afraid for 'Modern Family.' I'm scared that we may be heading down the same track to staleness that 'The Office' followed.
That said there are more than enough laugh-out-loud moments in season three to keep me watching all the way through. The way the episodes weave together their zany storylines is Tim Dorsey-like. The way the show delicately recalls jokes and gags from previous episodes with off-hand comments harkens back to the very best comedy that 'Arrested Development' had to offer. Given how strong 'Modern Family' came out of the gates it's understandable that it's slowing up a bit. Not many shows can sustain genius. Here's hoping it does.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 20th Century Fox release. The release comes on three 50GB Blu-ray Discs. The discs are packaged in a standard keepcase that has a swinging arm that houses two discs back-to-back while the third disc is housed in its own hub inside the back cover. Like the second season this one is sans slipcover, the first season is the only season to be provided a slipcover. The Season Play option is back, like on most Fox TV on Blu-ray releases, keeping track of where you are in the season and picking up where you left off. Finally, the release is coded for Region A.
This video transfer mirrors the consistency in clarity that the first two seasons had on Blu-ray. Honestly, cutting and pasting the video presentation sections from either of those reviews and pasting it here wouldn't be out of the question. Nothing major has gone awry. Everything has stayed consistently sharp looking, just how a modern television show should look on Blu-ray.
Detail is superb as always. Textures like the just-applied look of Cam's clown paint appear very lifelike. Colors pop tremendously well as the show features a very warm and inviting palette bathed under the bright Californian sun. Skin tones appear natural. There's never a hint of any artifacting. There is one episode that shows created "stock footage" of Phil on a game show in the 80s that looks like it was recorded on VHS. It's supposed to look that way. The rest of the show is clean and free of blemishes.
Even though 'Modern Family' is a sitcom with a very front-heavy sound design the show still features enough hijinks to keep the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on its toes. Dialogue is nice and clean delivered through the center speaker. Directionality works tremendously well as there are usually one or two other conversations going on at the same time, so the front speakers pick up the off screen slack. Dialogue in this show is delivered fast, and many times under breath, so the mix really needs to focus on the spoken word, which it does.
However, there are more than enough storylines that involve sound effects like car crashes, speeding cars and more car crashes. These effects are done with precision filling the sound field with the needed intelligible effects to complete the scene. Surrounds are engaged many times throughout each episode. Whenever the characters visit a busy restaurant or attend a populated real estate conference, the rear speakers do their share at rounding out the listening area. The Disneyland episode is one of the best for surround sound involvement. The sounds of the rides, the laughter of the patrons, it feels like you're really there.
'Modern Family' still remains one of the funniest, most clever comedies on television. Even though season three seemed to be stuck on coast for many episodes it still provided a lot of laughter and enjoyment for fans. Hopefully, the show's inner struggles with ongoing contract negotiations doesn't affect season four. Only time will tell. If you're a fan of the show you're certainly picking this one up. The audio and video are great. It's a must-own for fans and recommended for everyone else.