I love Modern Family.
The show is incredibly endearing and makes me yearn for the simpler times when I was Luke and Manny’s age, back when my extended family still got together for holidays and special events. It was the period of time just before the iPhone was even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye and people didn’t sit around with their noses buried in their devices. We made pot holders, played whiffle ball or gathered around as the entire family attempted to balance my grandfather on the unicycle that someone got from Santa for Christmas. Sure, there were squabbles and the only way to catch time away from the rest of the relatives was to fake-nap on a couch tucked away in a corner somewhere, but it was fun and everyone felt included and special.
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Time marched on. Feuds were had, people died, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and parents moved away, and now it’s been almost 10 years since we’ve all been in one room together. But when I watch Modern Family and spend time with the Pritchett/Dunphy/Tucker clan, I’m whisked back to that period when my family was close. The show has often brought a nostalgic tear to my eye, though I’m quick to wipe it away. I guess I take after Jay in that respect.
So when I heard that an upcoming episode of Mod Fam titled “Connection Lost” was made entirely using iPhones and other mobile devices and features the family interacting purely through video, voice chat, text and email, I was kind of crushed. “Everything was shot on the iPhone 6 or new iPads,” said cocreator Steve Levitan, according to the New York Times. “With one or two small scenes shot with MacBook Pros.”
Why, why, why would such a charmingly sentimental show create an entire episode that revolves around the technology that is, in my opinion, quickly deteriorating the amount of honest interactions we have with the people around us? The approach is taking away the one thing that makes the show what it is: the story of a family that still revolves around real, human interaction.
Even Gloria learned the hard way back in Season 2 that talking out conflict face-to-face is always the best option, when she accidentally hit “send” on a nasty email to Claire about an upcoming bake sale.
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The reason the show rings so true to me is the Pritchett/Dunphy/Tuckers are modern in that they’re dealing with contemporary issues such as gay marriage, adoption, divorce and the blending of families, but they still manage to maintain old-fashioned family values in that they stick together. They love each other beyond belief, yet drive each other crazy at the same time. Those of us who don’t have the opportunity to function in that capacity with our family anymore get to live it again through them. Having the group interact through iPhones and iPads cheapens the heart and soul of the program.
Then there’s the other elephant in the room: the episode seems like a huge advertisement for Apple products. Levitan insists that compensation was not received for the episode from Apple, though he admits that the company knows about the episode and “loved the idea” so much that they contributed all of the products for the shoot, according to the Associated Press. Levitan also added that it’s common for major computer companies to have ongoing relationships with TV shows. There was an episode during the first season in which Phil was obsessed with getting an iPad for his birthday, so clearly there is a history between Apple and Modern Family.
Yes, it is only for one episode and the Dunphy/Pritchett/Tucker clan will likely go on to gather for many a drama-filled BBQ at Jay and Gloria’s house and yes, connecting through technology is a convenient way that most families use to stay in touch nowadays. I also understand that shows have to work hard to stay relevant and fresh in today’s competitive and rapidly changing entertainment world. There’s also no doubt in my mind that Levitan and company will manage to make the episode endearing and entertaining, despite my gripes.
Still, call me archaic, but I want my Modern Family the good old-fashioned way. I want them together and throwing each other in pools and reading Phil’s-osophies around the fire, not looking at one another through screens.
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