MODERN FAMILY: The Complete First Season DVD Review

Modern Family Season 1 DVD

MODERN FAMILY was one of the top-rated new series last season and it won the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Now Modern Family: The Complete First Season is being released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, September 21 (available at Amazon).

Filmed in a breezy “mockumentary” style, Modern Family takes a satirical look at the complicated lives of a diverse extended family. Patriarch Jay (Ed O’Neill) is married to the much younger Columbian beauty Gloria (Sophia Vergara), with whom he’s raising Gloria’s wise beyond anyone’s years tween son Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Jay’s occasionally frazzled daughter Claire(Julie Bowen) is married to the super-cool in his own mind Phil (Ty Burrell) and they have three kids: Haley (Sarah Hyland), the typical teen girl, Alex Ariel Winter, the clever and sarcastic younger daughter, and Luke, the rambunctious and lost in his own world young son. Jay’s uptight son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) has been in a relationship with the dramatic and hilariously layered Cameron (Eric Stonestreet, Emmy winner for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series) for five years and they have an adopted Vietnamese baby named Lily.

With smart, tight writing, pitch-perfect comedic timing, and one of the best and funniest casts ever assembled, Modern Family is a hilarious take on family life. Season one took ordinary situations like the first day of school, Haley’s driver’s test, and a family vacation to Hawaii and twisted them, giving a unique and laugh-out-loud funny perspective. The family interactions and the different pairings of characters keep the show fun and heartwarming without getting sappy.

Guest stars in the first season included Edward Norton, Elizabeth Banks, Minnie Driver, and Judy Greer, and while their episodes were good (Judy Greer was particularly funny as Phil’s ex-girlfriend), I prefer the ones that keep the focus solely on this crazy and loving family.

There are some quality special features included in the set. Each of the four discs has deleted/extended/alternate scene and deleted family interview sections for the episodes included on that disc. The extra scenes are mostly extended versions, and while there are some good moments (Cameron giving voice to the dog butler in “Not in My House,” kills me), for the most part you see why they were cut. Not every episode has deleted family interviews, but the ones that are included are mostly alternate takes or again, an extension of what was shown in the episodes. Fun but not must-see.

The fourth disc has the real extras. I’m a sucker for gag reels, and Modern Family‘s is excellent with line flubs, ad-libs, and crazy faces galore. In “Real Modern Family Moments,” we learn just how much of what shows up on screen comes from the lives of executive producer Steven Levitan, consulting producer Ilana Wernick, and the rest of the team behind the show. It even has an exploration into a crawlspace underneath a house. Classic. “Before Modern Family” gives us snippets of the cast telling us what they were doing before the show. We see some screen tests, which are great, and my favorite moment comes from Julie Bowen who calls Modern Family “the best shirt-folding video” she’s done.

Fizbo the Clown gets his own feature where we learn his background. I’m with Phil on clowns–they scare me, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. “Modern Family: Making of Family Portrait” focuses on the season finale. Ilana Wernick explains-with a visual aid-what inspired the episode, we see part of the table read, and we go behind the scenes of Mitchell’s pigeon encounter, Cam’s stint as a wedding singer, and shooting at the Lakers’ game. “Modern Family Hawaii” combines cast interviews about making the “Hawaii” episode with some beautiful behind the scenes footage.

Each disc has a montage of moments from its episodes that plays on the intro screen and easy menus. For some reason it just tickles me that the designer went so far as to include the dinosaur-robot picture Haley’s would-be boy toy was drawing in the “Airport 2010” episode on the inside back cover and references other memorable moments (4:15-Shoot Luke) on the back cover.

I’m a huge Modern Family fan. Its sharp, witty writing and charismatic but relatable cast make me laugh every episode and those episodes hold up very well on repeated viewing. In fact, I see some of the subtler humor better after multiple viewings, and I better appreciate just how funny Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ed O’Neill who have the less flamboyant roles, really are. With all 24 episodes and the surprisingly comprehensive special features (my only complaint is that I wish there were audio commentary for some of the episodes), this is a good buy for fans.

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