What’s happening with Sunday evening television? For pretty much all of last year it was a complete dirge; the very best that could be said of it was that it encouraged folk to do something else. I even found myself talking to my wife, once. Lovely woman.
Now though, everything’s been turned on its head. As if a double dose of Martin Clunes in TV One’s Doc Martin and Reggie Perrin isn’t enough, TV3 have come to the party with the mockumentary-style sitcom Modern Family (Sundays, 8pm), meaning we can now be glued to the set from pretty much the end of dinner until bedtime.
To safeguard readers against headaches, no attempt will be made in this column to describe the different relationships in Modern Family. Suffice to say it isn’t traditional, nor even nuclear, and includes (but is not limited to) stepchildren, estranged partners, a gay couple, older husband-younger wife syndrome, and ethnic minorities.
To get an idea, think of Ed O’Neill (Married With Children) as the patriarch Jay, Columbian beauty Sofia Vergara as his much younger wife Gloria, kids from both marriages, grandchildren, and all the issues that go with three families thrown together.
Toss in special guests such as former Cheers star Shelley Long, who last week played Jay’s misunderstood former wife DeDe, a mockumentary style that channels Best of Show and two of the best writers in the business, and you have the ingredients for a decent laugh.
Screenwriter Christopher Lloyd won six Emmys for his work with Frasier and co-writer Steven Levitan is best known for scripting Frasier, Just Shoot Me!, The Critic and The Wonder Years.
Last week’s episode The Incident reminded us of an unhappy scene at Jay and Gloria’s wedding, when DeDe had to be carried kicking and screaming from the reception.
Her efforts to apologise for the uproar dominated the half-hour but there was also time for some Columbian revenge, some gentle teasing of son Mitchell’s gayness, and the issue of her teeny-bopper granddaughter’s relationship with her guitarist boyfriend.
This Sunday’s episode brings together the three families again at Jay and Gloria’s house in the name of football and a barbecue. Of course, Mitchell disapproves of football but wants to fit in, so tries to learn by constantly asking questions.
But things become more awkward when it’s discovered that Jay’s grandson Luke often refers to his new “step-grandmother” Gloria as a “coal-digger”. Naturally, Luke’s dad corrects his son’s pronounciation, clarifying that he really meant to say “gold-digger”, and soon the battle lines are being drawn.
It’s true, there is a need to separate O’Neill from the Married With Children role in which he made famous, but in Modern Family he’s certainly found a sympathetic home.
He’s expanded in girth somewhat, but is still on the lookout for soft chairs, warm Jacuzzis and the easiest parenting routes, and remains an infinite source of bad advice and misinformation.
And whatever you might think of that, it’s still better than having to talk to your wife.