The Remote: Why ‘Modern Family’ is losing its laughs

Ryan Pait

I joked in my “Girls” column that the show had a major problem.

But this time, I’m serious: “Modern Family” has a real problem. It’s hardly funny anymore, and sometimes, it’s just plain sad.


“Modern Family” had a fantastic first season and a great second season. It was a breath of fresh air: it provided a sweet, funny portrait of an extended family. In a world of cynical sitcoms, it was something that felt new.

The show was a wonderful example of an appropriate mix between sincerity and cynicism. It had well-rounded and freshly-written characters that could have easily been boorish and unfunny stereotypes.

I never missed an episode.

The show started running into some problems during its third season. Past plot lines were repeated, and even worse, the show began to fall prey to some of the dreaded comedy clichés that often plague CBS and FOX’s weaker comedic offerings.

There was also a problem with character growth. The first two seasons of the show gave viewers characters that had a ton of potential to change and grow.

All of this potential has been squandered by the third and fourth seasons, particularly with the characters of Jay (Ed O’Neill), Gloria (Sofia Vergara), Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson).

Jay and Gloria, the show’s May-December pairing, have been reduced to bland and unfunny, “He’s old! She’s young and foreign!” humor. The show used to explore the complexities of their relationship, but that doesn’t happen anymore.

It’s obvious that the writers of the show have hit a roadblock with these characters, and so they’ve resorted to using old, tired and borderline offensive jokes to come up with material for the two.

Cameron and Mitchell, the show’s gay couple, have devolved even further than Jay and Gloria. In the first two seasons, viewers were presented with a sweet and sympathetic portrait of a loving couple that had problems and worked through them together.

Now the two constantly bicker and fight, often over nothing. It’s unflattering and often mean-spirited, and worse, it’s not even funny.

I used to watch the show live every week, but now it’s gotten to where I miss the show when it airs and catch up a few episodes at a time online. I used to howl with laughter before when watching the show, and now I hardly chuckle.

It also hurts to compare “Modern Family” to “Parks and Recreation,” a show with a similar tone and format. Both shows are extremely optimistic and don’t feature a ton of strife or conflict. Things may look bad for a while, but both shows always have cheery resolutions.

However, “Parks and Recreation” has been able to maintain and even improve its quality. It may have had a shaky first season, but it is a show that has been constantly growing and changing. The show’s characters have also progressed in a way that feels natural and true to their essence.

On the other hand, the writing on “Modern Family” has stalled and sputtered for two seasons. Old situations have been hashed, rehashed, and re-rehashed, and it’s getting old.

And it’s not funny, which is kind of what I expect when I watch a comedy.

I just want to be able to laugh at “Modern Family” again.