When in doubt, introduce a baby.
Except, Modern Family had no such doubts, reigning as a king of network comedy as it brought in pregnant Gloria (Sofia Vergara) to butter up plot lines for this fourth season. Instead of desperation, writers cast the pregnancy angle as the centerpiece, a twisting, winding narrative which can draw in each sector of the Pritchett clan.
Modern Family shows no weariness in speed, chaos, or timing, fitted with a cast of likable regulars and determined traits with focus on their quirks. ABC’s show has not evolved so much as it has blossomed on the strength of Phil’s (Ty Burrell) obsessions, Cameron’s (Eric Stonestreet) exaggerations, and Haley’s (Sarah Hyland) indiscretions as she follows a course set by her mother’s past.
Season four seats itself in the home, sans any advertiser infused trips to Disney theme parks. Cameos remain and never prove intrusive, from Billy Dee Williams taking over a New Years party (playing himself), or Elizabeth Banks as an inopportune hussy. Each seamlessly embed themselves into this knotted, fourth-wall breaking family universe, without forgetting any traveling plot strings between episodes.
Writing never ceases to latch onto key timing or rambunctious pre-commercial actions, acutely aware of generated laughs, breaking only when necessary. Most segues are lifted on laughs, adding strength to build-up in following scenes. Modern Family is consistently in a tireless pursuit for another jib or appropriate look direct at the camera, with a faux reality show veneer which is (smartly) never acknowledged. It is as much a peer into their dysfunction as it is the viewer’s own.
The show remains true to its namesake, hoisted on cultural diversity without proving exploitative of any specific subset. Lifestyles are different not only for their character development, but to grab at the cross section of America’s growing acceptance, while being enormously entertaining in the process. It is that rare network comedy which can nudge the audience forward in their thinking and still land on success without lapses in cohesion.
Modern Family airs, at least locally, with a smothering of DNR which obliterates any semblance of fine detail. Whether that adheres to standards across all local ABC channels or not, this Blu-ray is a reminder of how pitiful and compressed cable/OTA HD can be. Encoded with AVC and welcoming high bitrates, the three disc set is a wealth of fidelity which could never be captured during broadcasts given bandwidth limitations.
Like nearly all current television, Modern Family is brought to life digitally, and it does so sans noise. While variances in fidelity exist – say from interior car cameras – much of the key set work is resolute and pure. Medium shots carry a rare level of facial definition spurred on by excellent lighting work. Contrast is pure, with occasionally washed backgrounds from simulated sun, which translates into brilliant foreground brightness. Begging for more? Then black levels, sublime at their peak, perk up images further with depth, sans anomalies.
Hit with saturation avoiding an overdose, palettes are inviting and pure, pushing away from exaggeration of flesh tones while lifting primaries. Exteriors are rich in color, and clothing decisions always push into brilliant in terms of intensity.
Still, the most amicable quality remains texture work, from the interview segments with distance to generous helpings in close. Stitching and hair are fully resolved as if the discs don’t have to try. Environments are never impeded by loss of clarity, dips in resolution, or source concerns. Modern Family’s search for a natural visual base renders it clean, precise, and wholly appealing.
DTS-HD or not, Modern Family is hardly reaching out to beg the mix into performance. Of consequence is the opening theme, a chipper, bumpy tune with LFE impact for its drums and screechy highs which are managed perfectly.
Surrounds are used, taking dialog from a boring center space and filling rooms with mild echoes. Stereo splits, on occasion, will provide examples of how to stretch material to the sides effectively. Without any major action, Modern Family will provide a capable sound space of little consequence and without notable glitches.
Extras are spread across each of the three discs, disc one housing a brief slate of deleted/extended scenes. Each disc will host the same of varying length, including a whopping forty second clip on disc two.
Disc two begins commentaries, from writers Bill Wrubel and Danny Zuker on dual episodes. A rather dull featurette, An Addition to the Family, focuses on the pregnancy storyline and how it affected characters for six minutes.
Disc three brings it all, with two episode commentaries (writers Brad Walsh, Steve Levitan, and Paul Corrigan on one, Levitan and Jeffery Richman on the second), along with a featurette on the writers and the source of their ideas. A Modern Guide to Parenting is collage of scenes determined to show how awful characters are in their process of raising kids, and A Day With Eric is arguably the best bit here. Following Stonestreet through an average day on set, this 12-minute bit is fun and insightful as to the process. A gag reel has some zingers too.
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