Gay characters are finally starting to mount up on primetime, but few have gotten all the way to “and baby makes three.” Gay parenting is about to get the big shot at the national stage courtesy of the Modern Family premiere on ABC this Wednesday. (WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead)
And even with Ed O’Neill in an Al Bundy-esque role as grandpa to the newly adopted daughter of Cameron and Mitchell, the best news about this show is room has been left to celebrate the triumph of two guys raising a child on TV. And it can still be funny.
Made in the mockumentary style of The Office, the modern family is actually three in one – Mitchell and Cameron and their adopted daughter; Mitchell’s father (O’Neill) and his young wife and stepson; and Mitchell’s sister, her husband and three kids.
The latter comes out of the pilot the most tired. Dad Phil (Ty Burrell) is trying too hard to be cool, and it’s too far gone to be much more than tolerated as another ho hum attempt at making unhip funny. Kids are self-centered millennium prats (Kid to mom: “why are you yelling at me when I’m upstairs, just text me”). The teenage daughter has male visitor (no spoiler alert needed, we won’t be going any further) storyline leaves no question America isn’t going to latch on to another show about a mom, dad and three kids anytime soon.
Which is where the rest of this Modern Family comes in.
O’Neill and his hot young new wife (Sofia Vergara) survive the MILF/sugar daddy set-up that could easily grate thanks to decent writing and a child (stepson for O’Neill) who gives the relationship some context. Vergara’s accent and references to her hometown in Colombia would point to recent immigration- although her child speaks perfect English. With the son, credit goes to the writers – by not making him a whiz on the soccer field, they prove they’re willing to bypass easy joke fodder vis a vis stereotypes. Considering the import of the show’s gay parenting angle, we’re counting on them following through with that light touch for the show to survive.
As for the gay parents themselves: this is a comedy, so expect to laugh. But in the pilot alone there’s a nod to the attention paid to a man with a baby . . . and the quick change when another daddy walks on the scene, and the reality show-esque interviews with the characters between scenes leaves space for Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) to hash out concerns that mirror those of every day gay parents.
The show premieres this Wednesday at 9 p.m. on ABC.