(The ten best comedies of 2012 will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage each weekday of this week. To view the rest of the list, click here.)
8 – Modern Family
Settling comfortably into its 4th season on the air, Modern Family has managed to evade the typical viewership nose-dive that tends to take place after two or three golden seasons of ubiquitous country-wide worship. You know, the same kind of wearing-off effect that takes place about three weeks after you’ve ripped the plastic off that brand new bike, or iPad, or sound-system—the kind that makes you wish you had taken that $300 and spent it irresponsibly on miscellaneous instant-gratification buys such as blue martinis and duplicative black sweaters rather than on responsible technological or home entertainment “investments” that lose value more quickly than Blake Lively loses her credibility.
On the contrary, you can still smell the plastic on Modern Family: the series seems to be escalating in popularity. The ABC staple is consistently ranked within the top 5 series on Hulu, and remains the No. 2 broadcast series on television for the month of November. In a world where only one partner is the sole bread-winner, where sons bear more responsibilities than their foreign-born mothers, where brother/sister rivalries endure throughout adulthood, where the domestication and celebration of the homosexual stereotype thrives, where each character possesses a gaudy theatrical articulation that reduces them to caricatures, where everything is a competition, and where every episode is sealed, wrapped, and stickered with a shiny moral lesson, viewers shall flock.
With each bright-yet-handicapped idea of Phil, each chaperoned party by Manny, each over-achieving effort of Claire, each “wish I had these kinds of problems” domestic disputes between Cam and Mitch, and each cynical-yet-lovable comment of Jay, I feel my own childhood wounds heal a little. For Modern Family, the trite and slapstick formula imbibed by its writers actually succeeds in effectuating a “my family seems normal in comparison” response in all who watch it. The campy plot scenarios and one-dimensional character personas have been composed and actualized with heart, cleverly packaged in a way that makes us unexpectedly care about the Pritchetts. It’s an equation that could have just as easily been botched.
The cumulative effect winds up being this: Viewers can astonishingly relate to these larger-than-life characters while reflecting upon their own lives and asking themselves why they take their own nutty families so seriously. And any series that manages to upstage the daunting chaos of our own farcical family lives (or makes us feel less crazy by comparison) with the reminder that ridiculousness is the new ‘norm’ deserves a nod for one of the best series on TV.—Brooke Citron