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Featured TV on DVD Review: Modern Family: Season Four

October 12th, 2013

Modern Family: Season Four - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Recently, Modern Family won its fourth Outstanding Comedy Series at the Prime Time Emmys. This puts it just one behind Frasier for the all-time lead in that category. It has three Emmys for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, putting it one behind M*A*S*H* in that category. It "only" has two nominations for Emmys for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, but it won both times. It has also earned nearly two dozen nominations for various acting categories, including five wins. It is easily the most acclaimed comedy series on TV at the moment, and despite being on the air for just four season so far, it is one of the most acclaimed comedy series of all time. This creates incredibly high expectations. Is it possible to live up to these expectations? Or will the show start to disappoint?

The Show

For those who don't know, Modern Family looks at the Pritchett family, lead by Jay Pritchett, who at the beginning of the season is turning 65. His family consists of his second wife, Gloria, and her young son, Manny. Jay also has two children from his first marriage. There's Claire, who is married to Phil and the pair have three kids of their own: Haley, Alex, and Luke. His son, Mitchell is in a committed relationship with his boyfriend, Cameron Tucker, and the pair are raising an adopted child, Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

At the end of season four, Mitchell and Cameron were trying to adopt a baby, but that fell through and that leaves a gap in their family and it takes a while for them to adjust. However, at the same time the adoption fell through, Gloria learned she was pregnant, but didn't have a chance to tell Jay. The more people who find out before Jay, the more worried Gloria becomes, because they all think he's going to freak out. Additionally, Haley is heading off to college, which is causing a some problems in the household. Phil is panicking that his little girl is growing up, while Alex is reacting in another direction. Without Haley to butt heads with, she's lashing out at everyone else. (This does give Claire one of my favorite quotes of the year, "Yeah, something is bothering me, too, but I think it's going to be rich, so we better be nice to it.") That's the basic state of affairs for the three families at the beginning of season four.

With most TV shows that don't have season-long story arcs, I generally point out the highlight episodes. Sometimes this leads to short reviews, as there are not many good episodes to talk about. In this case, it is the exact opposite problem, as all episodes are highlight episodes. It would be quicker to talk about weaker episodes only, but there are none. The closest you get to a weak episode might be Mistery Date, but that's only because it gets uncomfortably close to a real-life issue. In the episode, Alex goes to the academic decathlon, which she won the year before. This year, she is eliminated in the first round and Claire goes all stage-mom. It's a funny episode, but at the same time this episode originally aired, we learned Ariel Winter was dealing with some real-life issues that were similar, only much worse. (I read that the producers were considering firing her, because her mother was interfering on set, and that's not the worst part of it.) I don't want to get into the details, I'm just glad Ariel seems to be in a much better home environment.

There are a number of changes throughout the season that I can talk about without giving away any spoilers. This includes Gloria giving birth. Hopefully that's not a spoiler for anyone, as that's how pregnancy works. Needless to say, the entire extended family has to adjust to that. The two boys, Manny and Luke, have some more romantic episodes this season. Claire gets back into the workplace, but her first Boss is Phil's rival. Claire and Phil try to get Haley to buckle down and be more serious. It doesn't really work. They also try to get Alex to loosen up. They are a little more successful there. (Alex joins a band called the Electric Light Dorkestra. She actually a very good singer.) Finally, Lily is getting older and Mitchell and Cameron are having a little more trouble dealing with her.

Everything about this show works. The writing is fantastic and they manage to balance the humor and the emotional aspects of the stories nearly perfectly every time. The acting is award-worthy, which is obvious given the number of times they've been nominated or won major awards. The fact that Ed O'Neill hasn't won an Emmy is a crime against humanity. I may be overstating things. Even the younger actors are amazing, and I'm really starting to like Aubrey Anderson-Emmons. (She steals scenes in nearly every episode.) There are also a ton of strong guest appearances throughout the seasons, including returning characters like Shelley Long as Jay's ex-wife, Fred Willard is back for a few episodes as Phil's dad, etc. There are also great guest appearances by Richard Riehle, who is a highly underrated character actor. David Faustino becomes the first Married... With Children alumni to make an appearance on the show, but hopefully not the last.

The Extras

Extras on the first disc begin are limited to four minutes of deleted and alternative scenes. Disc two has one more deleted scene. There are also audio commentary tracks on two episodes, Party Crashers and Fulgencio. Finally, there's a six-and-a-half minute long featurette called An Addition to the Family, which is about the Gloria pregnancy / new baby storyline. Disc three has two more audio commentary tracks on Career Day and Goodnight, Gracie. Goodnight, Gracie also has a director's cut. There are also two minutes of deleted and alternative scenes. A Day With Eric is a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with Eric Stonestreet giving a tour of his day. A Modern Family Guide to Parenting is a five-minute montage of parenting advice the characters have given over the years. Modern Family Writers is a 13-minute featurette with some of the writers telling stories from their real lives that inspired stories in the show. Finally, there are ten minutes of outtakes.

There's not a whole lot to say about show's technical presentation. Modern Family isn't the most visually flashy show on TV, but the Blu-ray looks phenomenal. I didn't see any flaws in the presentation. (I thought I saw some digital artifacts in one scene, but I went back and it was just a trick of the light.) The audio is very clear, but complicated, which is what you should expect from a sitcom.

Finally, according to the list price, Blu-ray costs $10 or 20% more than the DVD. However, right now, the DVD has a much deeper discount on, so the Blu-ray costs $20 or 80% more.

The Verdict

Modern Family is still the best sitcom on TV and the TV on DVD release is loaded with extras. It is easily worth picking up, but keep an eye on the prices. Right now the DVD is much cheaper than the Blu-ray, but that should change.

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Filed under: Video Review, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, David Faustino, Sarah Hyland, Shelley Long, Ed O'Neill, Richard Riehle, Rob Riggle, Sofia Vergara, Fred Willard, Ariel Winter, Eric Stonestreet, Nolan Gould, Rico Rodriguez, Jesse Tyler Ferguson