Modern Family

Modern Family is my family’s favorite television show. Only twenty-two minutes in length, it always garners guffaws. When we watch it separately and come back together we ritualistically recite our favorite lines from memory. Even though I’m older than Phil, I want to be him when I grow up.

A recent New York Times columnist’s deconstruction of it wasn’t too terribly illuminating.

I would have expected some slippage by now, but each episode is as tightly written and produced as the previous one. Wonder how many hilarious, heartwarming episodes they have queued up?

Like every hit show I suspect, MF’s success starts with the writing. But its success is also explained by three myths we happily embrace.

Myth one. Interpersonal family conflicts are resolved quickly and simply, mostly within twenty-two minutes. Pilot episode—gay son and his partner don’t feel accepted by the gay son’s dad. Throw in an international adoption, jab him a bit about his old-fashioned homophobia, and acceptance follows. MF provides a fantastical break from the complex, intractable conflicts that shape our lives.

Myth two. The three families live close to one another, enjoy one another’s company, and make time for one another. For most people, the phrase “extended family” is quite literal. Take me for example, my three siblings live in three different states, my mother in a fourth. Their closeness is endearing.

Myth three. Work is unrelated to wealth. This is great news for American viewers for whom fiscal responsibility doesn’t require sacrifice. MF is nearly as work-free an environment as Seinfeld’s apartment. Phil recently showed a house, but the housing correction hasn’t impacted his family’s lifestyle. All three families drive nice cars, live in very nice homes, and very rarely work. Magically, mortgages, car payments, and vacations all get paid for.

And of course for Pacific Northwest viewers like my family and me, the warm and sunny SoCal setting doesn’t hurt either.

2 thoughts on “Modern Family

  1. And it’s all connected with absurd commercials that promise to restore your youth, beauty, wealth and popular appeal with people, especially a member of the opposite sex. Great analysis on the fantasy aspect of TV shows.

    • Larry, thanks. I’ve always thought there may be a minority of people like me willing to pay more for ad-free content. In essence I’ve done that through the purchase of a TIVO DVR and Netflix subscription. The only thing one has to give up, besides the extra $, is day after water cooler talk which is no problem for me. Ninety percent of my television viewing now is commercial free. The only time I see them is during live sports events, but then I usually watch two events at a time and switch back and forth minimizing the commercials. Another benefit, the same is true for my daughters. This could make for a really interesting economic study. Does a family make up the TIVO, Netflix, and related commercial fighting costs by family members’ reduced spending on commonly advertised commercial products? May be too tough to measure pre-post commercial spending and isolate the key variables.

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