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Modern disaster

The cast of ABC's Modern Family

Modern Family, Wednesday 9:00 pm, ABC. It probably sounded like a clever idea in the pitch meeting, but how they managed to actually get Modern Family on the air is a true mystery. USA Today calls it one of the season’s most promising newcomers, which is also odd because they usually make better calls. The show follows the exploits of three related families, and is shot mockumentary style (enough!). There is the “traditional” nuclear family comprised of Phil (Ty Burrell), Claire (Julie Bowen) and their three kids. Traditional indeed, right down to the rebellious daughter (Sarah Hyland), the sly middle sibling (Ariel Winter), the cute youngest offspring (Nolan Gould), frazzled mom and the trying-to-be-hip-but-is-so-not dad. Painful. Then there’s Claire’s gay brother Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who, along with his partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), has just adopted a baby from Vietnam. Their dad (Ed O’Neil) meanwhile, has gotten married to a much younger and very spicy Colombian woman (Sofia Vergara). She has a child, Manny (Rico Rodriguez), from her previous marriage. It couldn’t be more excruciating, from the lack of good gags to the clumsy direction. It isn’t like the mockumentary form should be the sole province of The Office, but used improperly it’s definitely a liability and not an asset. The unfunniness is simply amplified by the characters looking at the camera as they try to embellish an empty premise. A mostly likeable set of actors (Ferguson, Bowen and O’Neil particularly) have been set a drift in an uninspired high-bred of Roseanne and The Office, which comes close to the greatness of either.

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