Stylistically, Modern Family seemed to catch the tail end of the declining “documentary-style” format. Creatively, it’s held its place as one of the best sitcoms on television.
One can accredit this rather noble network tenure to a variety of factors, not the least of which is a well-assembled cast flirting with television hall-of-fame status. But when you circle back to the core appeal of Modern Family and its glimpse into presumably typical American households, you’re left with the writing. Not necessarily bold, by definition, nor risqué. Nor generic or cliché. It’s merely “there.” Unapologetic and ordinary. Humor in the pilot episode feels seamless without falling into the trap of many network comedies inclined to spell everything out (“We’re being different! Look, look!”) or forcing one-liners without purpose.
Maybe it does go back to style, the idea that we’re casual observers into the daily conflicts of three different families united only by blood relation. Like most single-cam sitcoms, it’s inevitably different than a multi-cam as far as look and feel, even comic timing. That fly-on-the-wall approach helping achieve the goal of relevance and realism. Yet it’s a great model for aspiring writers crafting any type of comedy intended to span generations—and proof that writing always outweighs concept. Groundbreaking? No. Grounded? Yes.