Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Television 09/26/12: Modern Family Season 4 Debuts

Triple Emmy winner 'Modern Family' is back for its fourth season. I think I've mentioned I grew exhausted of 'Modern Family' during its third season, which suffered from a case of lazy storytelling. Never was the writer's contempt to use tired sitcom tropes and recycle story lines more apparent than in the show's last season. However, I had somewhat of a surprise last may, when 'Modern Family's season finale proved to be one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season. It brought me back to the best moments of season one and closed with a big promise for this year: Gloria is pregnant. 

Season four of 'Modern Family' picks right up where we ended season three. It's Jay's birthday and Gloria is worried about having to deliver the news of her pregnancy because of Jay's well established enjoyment of piece and quiet. There's also a history of Jay reacting badly to any kind of surprising news. At the same time, Mitch and Cam have to deal with the fact that they can't adopt a baby. 

For the most part, this episode didn't give me any indications that the show was planning on getting dramatically better. The storylines, as usual, weren't very original and the jokes didn't really land with me. The biggest problem, I think, was that the characters have become too broad and unbelievable in their behavior. For example: Manny's ever more exagerated old-man antics, Claire's reaction to Gloria's news, Hayley don't knowing what 'sarcastic' means, and especially the whole bit with Jay and Phil in the lake. All these moments made me groan. 

But then came the ending of the episode. It ended first with Jay reacting great to the news of the baby, and then, with a jump in time to the middle of Gloria's pregnancy. The final moments of tonight's show mirrored the structure of the great first episode of the series and made me remember what was so compelling about 'Modern Family' in the first season. These performers are very talented and could do wonders with just the littlest improvement in the writing department. 

And there is sign for improvement, because this episode at least stayed away from some of the tired situations the writers constantly pur certain characters in. Basically, Cam wasn't whiny and Gloria didn't yell. It's not much, but it's something. Also, pregnancy is sometimes a good motivator for great seasons of television. Just remember how in the middle of its roughest years, the season of 'Friends' in which Rachel got pregnant was one of the best the show ever did. 

Of course, the promise of a good season ahead of us comes with a lot of caution. That ending, the very same thing that made me hope for an improvement made me dubious of the probability of such improvement happening. The jump in time led us to the middle of Gloria's pregnancy. To a point where Cam and Mitch have gotten over the impossibility of their adoption and Claire has kicked Dillon out of her house for good. The one character ark for the rest of the season is Gloria's and that could turn out either great or with a lot of episodes of Sofia Vergara yelling about anything that ails her during her pregnancy. 

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