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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Modern Family is an ensemble comedy that offers a poignant and laughably honest portrayal of contemporary family life. The three families featured include a gay couple and their adopted daughter, and a post-midlifer and his much younger second wife and stepson. There's some stereotyping, as well as some rare sexual moments played for humor (characters in underwear; some suggestive positions) and conversations about safe sex. Salty language ("damn," "bitch," "hell") is fairly frequent, and teen drinking is referenced but not favorably. Mature teens will probably find themselves laughing -- a lot.
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What's the story?
MODERN FAMILY centers on the daily lives of three different but related families. There's Jay (Ed O'Neill) and his second, much younger wife, Gloria (Sofia Vergara), and her son, Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Jay's grown daughter, Claire (Julie Bowen), lives nearby with her husband, Phil (Ty Burrell), and is a full-time mom to their three teens. Claire's brother, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and his life partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), are raising their adopted daughter a stone's throw away from the rest of the family. The series chronicles the ups and downs of parenting, marriage, and family relationships. Later seasons have seen developments such as Claire and Phil's oldest daughter leaving for college, Mitchell and Cameron's attempts to adopt another child, and an unexpected baby on the way for Jay and Gloria.
Is it any good?
This show is expertly scripted, the cast is superb, the character evolution is a thing of beauty, and it doesn't shy away from a down-and-dirty look at family life. It's no surprise that Modern Family has been showered with accolades since its debut in 2009. Balancing the good times and bad times isn't always an easy task in a comedy, but this series never disappoints and always ends on a heartwarming note that reflects the beautiful imperfection of family relationships. At the same time, it offers a new take on the picture of the modern American family in its presentation of three very different -- but equally loving -- household structures.
That said, Modern Family isn't for everyone. There are a lot of stereotypes to weed through, and not everyone will be comfortable with the depiction of a gay couple raising a child. The plot often deals with sex, which is discussed openly in teens' company, as well as other mature themes such as death, divorce, and, to some degree, prejudice. Much of the humor revolves around Mitchell and Cameron's life together and Jay's unconventional marriage to his young Latina wife. Take into consideration your family's values before opting into this series, but if you do watch with your teens, know that its ultimate message is one of tolerance and the lasting connection among family members of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Modern Family compares to other family-centered shows. Does the content seem more or less realistic than others? Do the central relationships seem nontraditional to you? How are they different from other sitcom families?
How does your family compare to the characters in this show? What aspects of your family might be considered nontraditional? How do the characters change over the course of the series? In what ways does this show emotional growth on their part?
How does the media portray relationships in general? Is it ever appropriate to use stereotypes as a way of portraying them? Why do you think topics such as unplanned pregnancy, divorce, sex, and sexual identity are dealt with so frequently on TV shows and in movies?
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