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Family times four: ABC's Modern Family returns

The network's fourth season maintains last three's quirky comedy, emotional power

If you haven’t seen ABC’s Modern Family before, put aside this article and start watching it right now. The show has one of those great premises that‘s funny because it rings true. Even if your family doesn’t resemble any of the three types on display, you will undeniably recognize the characters: the over-the-hump gramps who clings to youth, the goofball dad, the controlling mom, the 10-year-old romantic who’s wise beyond his years, the son who feels he never lived up to his father’s expectations … you get the picture. Together the characters create one of the most comically twisted and heartfelt shows on television today.

And the program’s season four premiere, which aired Sept. 26, epitomizes everything we have come to know and love about the show’s three families: the Dunphys, the Delgado-Pritchetts and the Tucker-Pritchetts. The episode picks up where the third-season finale left off.

Last season’s finale revealed, after a dramatic scene worthy of a Spanish soap, that Cam Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) didn’t end up adopting a baby boy after a season-long effort. This disappointment leaves them with a pair of oversized stuffed animals. Early in the premiere, which is titled “Bringing up Baby,” they debate the best way to cope, mentioning a visit to London. But their first adopted daughter, Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), has other ideas. She decides that if she doesn’t get a brother she has to have a kitten named Larry.

In another of the show’s fictional families, Jay (Ed O’Neill), the patriarch of the Pritchett clan, hits a milestone at 65. As usual, son-in-law Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) ill-advisedly attempts to prove himself to the perpetually grumpy, and hilariously snarky, Jay by kidnapping him and taking him fishing. And, as any good Modern Family watcher would expect, Phil ends up falling into the lake … twice. Meanwhile, Jay’s stepson, Manny (Rico Rodriguez), maintains his adorable, wide-eyed candor, worrying about poetry camp while talking smack to his stepfather.

To add even more drama to the premiere, Manny’s mother, Gloria (Sofia Vergara), has big news: She’s about to get a lot bigger but has no idea how to break it to Jay. In one of the episode’s funnier scenes, she turns to her trusted advisor and son, who reacts by trying to preserve his status as the cutest kid.

In the end, despite Jay’s notorious aversion for surprises, he delivers one of his own in his reaction to Gloria’s news. His speech shows how someone as attractive as Gloria could be into him.

The final minutes spring forward several months, showing Gloria pregnant and glowing, Phil bearded and Manny reciting poetry. We move into the new season with a sense of appreciation for this modern family — and high expectations for the comedy to come.


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