Tim Stack
December 18, 2009 AT 05:00 AM EST

No. 9 – New kids on the block

For the past few years, it seemed like the family sitcom was dead…or at least saying a slow, painful goodbye (farewell, ‘Til Death!). But ABC’s Modern Family brought a beating heart back to the genre — heart being the operative word. Acclaimed sitcoms like 30 Rock and The Office bring the funny but also a healthy dose of cynicism. Family, which follows three interconnected clans, brims with warm humor. ”The trick is to hopefully find surprising moments where people are touched,” says co-creator Christopher Lloyd (Frasier). Relatability is also key, adds co-creator Steven Levitan (Just Shoot Me): ”We want people to watch this show and [say] ‘My God, they must have had a hidden microphone in our living room because this is the same exact argument we had last week.”’ A guy who’s had a lot of onscreen arguments, former Married…With Children star Ed O’Neill (cantankerous patriarch Jay Pritchett), says he’s never had a Family this good. ”It’s really the kind of job that I dreamed about as a young actor,” says O’Neill. So did Ty Burrell — a supporting player in countless sitcoms — who costars as breakout character Phil Dunphy, the lovable jackass of a dad. ”He’s a Weeble — he wobbles but he doesn’t fall down,” says Burrell of Phil, who both shot his own son with a BB gun and danced a routine from High School Musical in the pilot. Burrell, who had worked with Levitan and Lloyd a couple of years ago on Fox’s short-lived comedy Back to You, says he can identify with his alter ego’s outlandish behavior. ”I truly feel ridiculous most of the time in my life,” admits the actor. ”So the more ridiculous the show gets, the more I enjoy it.” You’re not the only one, Ty. (Additional reporting by Dave Karger and Benjamin Svetsky)

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