In ‘Modern Family,’ a tribute to (gasp!) modern families

So it all started when I canceled my cable. I had one of those introductory rates that sneaks up on you until you realize you’re forking over enough to sponsor two dozen of the kids on the Children’s Fund commercials every month to the cable company. So we parted ways. And now, for the first time since the heyday of Grey’s Anatomy, I’m becoming reacquainted with primetime network television.

And I have to say, I’m impressed, Jay Leno’s new gig notwithstanding. More than the laughs (30 Rock) and the only-slightly-embarrassing tears (The Biggest Loser), I’m impressed by the wide appeal of two new shows in particular: Glee and Modern Family.

But since I only caught one of those this week, here it is: I love Modern Family. It’s funny in an underhanded way, surprisingly fresh, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

And in the bigger, cosmic picture, it reflects the changing face of today’s (gasp!) modern family.

The 2000 census marked the first time that less than a quarter (23.5 percent) of American households consisted of a married man and woman and one or more of their children, and it’s expected to fall even lower in next year’s census. In 1960, that number was 45 percent.

So why shouldn’t we see that reality reflected on network television, broadcast for free into every household in America?

Enter: Modern Family, a family tree with more than a few nuts.

American families overwhelmingly no longer resemble the Cleavers anymore. Shouldn’t our TVs reflect that?

Jay, a remarried divorcé with a hot wife and an awkward middle-school-aged stepson, is trying to be a better father and husband the second time around. Jay’s son, Mitchell, and his partner Cameron are settling into their roles as new parents, with a few bumps along the way (who hasn’t locked their infant inside the car?). And the Dunphys? Phil is still trying to be the “cool dad” while Claire is trying to keep 16-year-old Haley from running off with the long-haired, guitar-playing trouble also known as Derek.

There is something refreshingly real about this show. Not that we all know an aging, paunchy exec who married a leggy Colombian, or an adorably neurotic gay couple who turn their adoption of a Vietnamese baby into the opening scene from the Lion King, or even an attractive suburban couple with their three fairly normal, if quirky, kids. And to be sure, the show certainly plays into stereotypes attached to each of these labels. But what rises above is an acknowledgement that the American family has moved way beyond the Cleavers, and to those of us living that reality every day, that’s a good thing.

That message has a broad appeal, one that still touches (and tickles) me, a twentysomething single gal with no kids. I find myself laughing about it with my own parents and my equally single twentysomething friends, as well doling out “You have to watch this show!” to almost anyone here at the CP offices who will listen. And today, that includes you. You have to watch this show.

You can catch Modern Family Wednesday nights at 9/8 Central on ABC or at

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