Before I started watching "Modern Family" (about midway into its first season) I read an article about it in the Life section of the Argus Leader, which I could probably never find again but I'm sure it was from the Associated Press anyway. In the article, they talked about the genesis of the show: the writers were working together on another show and they would get together in the break room and tell funny stories about their families, and when the other series didn't last long or didn't get picked up or something, they decided, "Hey, we should take all those funny stories about our families and make a show out of that!" And that was very appealing to me because it seemed like such a labor of love.
Although it was midseason, I was fortunate to find the pilot on Hulu, and I started falling in love with it during the opening segment, in which Cameron and Mitchell are bringing their adopted daughter Lily home from Vietnam, and someone on the plane says, "Hey, look at that baby with those cream puffs!" and Mitchell gets up and starts making this speech about how love knows no race, creed or gender and how dare you judge us, etc. Meanwhile, Cameron is trying desperately yet discreetly to get Mitchell's attention, and then Mitchell looks at Lily and realizes that she is holding actual cream puffs. Embarrassed, he sits back down. I found this totally relatable and also made me feel a little better about not speaking up in solidarity as often as I could, because you don't want to make matters worse.
After that it was kind of a slow build. I'm not a huge fan of the mockumentary format, so I try not to think about it too much or it gets distracting. I definitely felt my heart swell again when they cast Shelley Long as Mitchell and Claire's mother and Jay's ex-wife. I don't really know why, but as soon as she appeared on screen I just laughed out loud. I guess maybe she just brings a lot of sit-com credibility by her comedy ethos and her presence.
It is such a breath of fresh air to see a show with a gay couple as main characters who aren't statuesque or flamboyant or cosmopolitan but who are just trying to raise a family and have a normal life, still trying to find their place and work out the terminology just like the rest of us. Their relationship is totally believable and authentic (all the relationships are, though, but theirs really stands out to me). I love that Mitchell's dad, Jay, is still trying to adjust to having a gay child so that they can explore those issues, but at the same time everybody else in the family is pretty much okay with it.
Initially I wasn't overly impressed with the Dunphys; it was like, "Hmm, clueless husband, overbearing wife, bratty kids...I've seen this before." Also, Phil's fascination with Gloria felt a little weird and uncomfortable; thankfully, they've backed off that trope in the second season. But then I started to appreciate that Luke isn't bratty so much as he is sweet and adorable in his naiveté, and in appreciating him I started to appreciate Phil more because they're very similar. I don't remember the specific moment when I started falling in love with Phil, but this season I am falling more and more in love with him every week.
Speaking of characters I love, I love Manny because he reminds me of myself as a kid: really mature for his age in some ways, yet socially inept in others, perhaps overly serious and overly preoccupied with romance. Cameron reminds me of myself because he's sensitive and cries at the drop of a hat. I think that he's a more thoughtful and generous person than I am, though, and practically everything he says is hilarious. And he played football in college. Surprise! And then Mitchell tried to learn about football so he could share it with Cameron and Jay, and lasted all of one down before his "interest in football ended as suddenly and dramatically as the climax of West Side Story." And I totally relate to that too.
It's so funny every week, and yet there are also these beautiful, poignant, touching little moments. And yet, somehow it never gets overly saccharine or preachy. It started out feeling a little cliché, or at least deriviative, but I think it's growing and finding its voice, and while it's finding its own voice, it's also giving voice to so many families in America who haven't really been represented much on TV.