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‘Modern Family’: TV’s most complacent sitcom

Julie Bowen as Claire in ABC’s “Modern Family.”Hopper Stone/abc

Modern Family 9 p.m., ABC

As we bid goodbye to “The Good Wife,” “Nashville,” and “Castle,” I wish we were also saying goodbye to “Modern Family.”

When “Modern Family” premiered in 2009, it was fully realized. There were no kinks to be worked out. The pilot was perfect, as it introduced three related families of amusing characters, including the uniquely old-school Manny and a couple of very non-Bravo gay men. And the show did well enough to inspire ABC to build a night of family comedy around it.

Now, as the seventh season ends on Wednesday and an eighth has been ordered, “Modern Family” has graduated to another class: tired. Or, more accurately, overtired, that manic state when you’ve moved into punchiness and pointless repetitions.


Once mighty, the show has become so formulaic it has fallen into the category of bland TV comfort food.

Every so often, the writers come up with a good joke or a sharp episode — usually when they break up the rigid three-story format. But generally speaking, after a handful of strong seasons, “Modern Family” has become TV’s most complacent comedy.

The problem is that the writers just keep redoing the same material over and over again. How many times can we watch Manny and Luke do their odd couple bro thing and still find it entertaining — if it ever was? Are Gloria’s accent and her tough Colombian upbringing, Alex’s intelligence, the mockumentary confessionals that contradict what we just saw, and Cam and Mitchell’s misunderstandings still funny? Maybe after winning five consecutive best comedy Emmys, no one wants to futz with or change anything about the show, including the characters and their relationships?

They’re all good characters, and there’s a nice synchronicity between the actors and the writers. But still, very few TV characters are rich enough to sustain 166 episodes and counting without becoming cartoons. I wish the show could have been a more compact venture, four or five seasons at the most. By the time “Modern Family” ends, which probably won’t be for another few seasons, it will be more notable — like “ER,” for example — as a guest that overstayed its welcome than as a classic.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.