Television, if you think about it, is like one big, crazy extended family. You’ve got your stern, but lovable dad (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood), your kooky aunt (30 Rock, Cougar Town – welcome back!), your hip, urban-dwelling cousin (Happy Endings, New Girl), your drunk uncle (Saturday Night Live, Mad Men), and the relatives that no one dares to bring up at reunions and get-togethers (Sister Wives, Jersey Shore). If that’s the case, that makes Modern Family everyone’s over-achieving, award-winning, incredibly wealthy older brother. “Why can’t you be more like Modern Family?” (Fiiiiine, we get it, Emmys and Golden Globes. But sheesh, give little siblings like Parks and Rec their time to shine, too!)
But it’s not Modern Family’s domination of the awards ceremonies that has Contrarian Corner calling it over – with love and admiration, mind you – for a heart-to-heart. After all, their insanely talented writers and actors no doubt deserve the accolades that have come their way. (Of course, in true one-upping older sibling fashion, they even make their acceptance speeches fantastic and hilarious. You just can’t win, kid sisters.)
No, it’s the fear that the full-package Modern Family (silly, smart, good-looking, sarcastic, sensitive, coordinated… sort of) has become complacent with its enviable qualities. Here’s a show with every potential at its fingertips that just can’t seem to get out of its comfort zone. In its third season, Modern Family has simply grown accustomed to showing us more of the same: Gloria will butcher (sexily, of course) something in English (all while reminding us of how different things would be in Colombia), Mitch and Claire will roll their eyes at their respective free-spirited, goofy spouses, Manny will do and say things far beyond his years, and everything will be wrapped-up nicely with a lesson by the end of the episode. Of course, those are the very charms that made us love the characters and welcome them into our homes in the first place. But like any family member, repeated quirks can begin to test your patience.
All the credit in the world should be given to Modern Family for managing the tough balancing act of being bitingly funny, sweet, and forward-thinking, but here’s hoping the series gives its characters a chance to expand their horizons a little bit more. And let’s give credit where credit’s due: As of late, they’ve succeeded in maturing Alex, who, despite still being a lovable live-action Lisa Simpson, has really grown out of her shell. (Look out Haley, you’re not the only Pritchett sister who can bag a dude. Kid sisters, maybe you can win, after all!) Why can’t they do the same with the rest of the Pritchett clan?
Yes, there’s something so infinitely comforting about the familiar, which is largely part of Modern Family’s appeal. (Watching the first season of the Modern Family on DVD when you’re sick or sad can be great for what ails you. Well, that and antibiotics. Has Gloria said antibiotics yet?) But like a family member you dearly love who is so clearly stuck in a rut, here’s to hoping that Modern Family can maintain all the things that make it wonderful, while still growing to its fullest potential. (A legitimate conflict or cliffhanger could go a long way.) After all, it’s a great big TV world out there, big bro. It’s yours for the taking.