New Shows, 6: Modern Family, Cougar Town
by Jonathan Gray — University of Wisconsin - Madison
September 28, 2009 – 14:29
More reviews, after the fold …
I’m conflicted about this show, since its pilot showed ample signs of offering us a really bad “hot-blooded” Latina stereotype (Sofia Vergara, following on from her role as Latina stereotype in Knights of Prosperity), who we first meet yelling wildly at children, and of playing what we could call the Jack card (after Jack from Will and Grace, whereby a show asks for us to like a gay character, then pats itself on the back, and thinks it’s now okay to offer up continual jokes directed at him and at gay men). And stereotypes aren’t just bad because (duh) they’re bad, but also because they’re signs of laziness in a writing room. So, let my skepticism be noted.
That said, I found a lot of Modern Family really very funny, and immediately programmed a season recording into my DVR thereafter. There are hints of Arrested Development to it, in pacing and style, but also in its wonderfully wry take on family dynamics. Phil (Ty Burrell) is a highlight, and if he keeps it up could easily enter the pantheon of great comic heroes of American television. Homer meets Michael Scott. All of the children, too, are hilarious. Given my above-noted concerns, I found Phil’s side of the show much funnier, though the other sides offered some deeply funny moments too. The “Circle of Life” presentation of the new baby was especially well done.
I’m also intrigued by the concept of having three families who we needn’t watch together, but who can be matched up as the writers see fit. If used well, the concept could allow the show to last a little longer, given that the writers can stockpile material for any given family, and “their” issues, for longer.
The previews hadn’t impressed me, but I found this very funny. I just hope they move past their stereotypes with as much intelligence as the show otherwise shows itself capable of.
The previews here didn’t just not impress me – they actively bugged me. I’m so sick and tired of shows that posit being single, 40-something, and a woman as some horrific, all-encompassing problem, and as comic motivation for every bloody scene. While the best comic figures are always those with some inherent lack, why is having no husband posited as such a lack? And the title? It’s so sophomor(on)ic, making me think of 30 Rock’s MILF Island. So, in case you’re keeping tabs, I wasn’t looking forward to this show. At all.
To its defense, I’ll note that Busy Philipps (from Freaks and Geeks) and Christa Miller (from Scrubs) are funny people, especially the latter. And the revelation in the pilot is Aliens in America’s Dan Byrd, who never struck me as all that special on Aliens, but who is really impressive here. Given the boy a better sitcom, will you? Miller, Philipps, and Byrd all inhabit their characters well, and bring a great deal to the screen. Courtney Cox is out of her league with such company, just managing to tread water and not look awful, but when you’re the star, you should be doing more, and I’d guess the only thing she has working for her is a generation of viewers who loved Friends and who might therefore see her as incapable of doing wrong.
Anyway, it made me laugh much more than I thought it would. But it still pisses me off. The guys all seem comfortable in their skin, from her ex, to her son, to her snarky neighbor, while she’s just kinda sad and desperate. If this is what post-feminism looks like, eesh, you ain’t come a long way, baby.
Mon, 28 Sep 2009 19:29:32 +0000