Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 October 2020

Farewell 'Modern Family': why Mitchell and Cameron got the most memorable send-off

Warning: spoilers ahead for the final episode of the long-running sitcom

Julie Bowen, left, and Ty Burrell star in the show as Claire and Phil Dunphy. ABC
Julie Bowen, left, and Ty Burrell star in the show as Claire and Phil Dunphy. ABC

The ending of Modern Family was always going to be an emotional affair for viewers.

While the dip in quality after its first few seasons meant the show was never going to threaten the funniest sitcoms of all time, no other series of its ilk could match the way it mixed humour and sentimentality.

More often than not, this was done so potently that audiences didn’t know whether to laugh or cry first. So they usually just ended up doing both simultaneously.

'Modern Family' was so popular with both critics and audiences alike primarily because of its impeccable ensemble

The same can’t really be said for its two-hour finale, as these episodes ended up stirring many more tears than belly-laughs. For in its final instalment, its loyal viewers of more than a decade watched a hefty portion of Modern Family’s characters move on to pastures new.

All three of Claire and Phil’s children finally left the nest, as Alex suddenly revealed that she had a new job, and maybe even a boyfriend, in Switzerland, while Luke announced that he was going to study at the University of Oregon, and Haley, Dylan and their new-born twins moved into Mitchell and Cameron’s house.

The cast of 'Modern Family' in season one, 2009. Getty Images.
The cast of 'Modern Family' in season one, 2009. Getty Images.

That was because, after repeatedly being delayed, Mitchell, Cam, and their own two children, Lily and Rexford, finally flew out to Missouri, where the latter had secured his dream job as a football coach.

Their bon voyage included the most heart-rending moment of the two episodes, too, as Jay told the pair, “Both my sons are leaving,” which immediately left Cam – as it probably did viewers at home – on the verge of tears.

It feels right that this trio of characters would be given the most memorable moment of Modern Family’s conclusion.

The cast of 'Modern Family' in season 11, 2020. Getty Images.
The cast of 'Modern Family' in season 11, 2020. Getty Images.

Not only was Eric Stonestreet’s performance as Cam praised throughout its run, so much so that he has picked up two Emmy Awards for his efforts, but when Modern Family debuted back in September, 2009, it was its depiction of Cam and Mitchell and the relationship between Ed O’Neill’s Jay and Sofia Vergara’s Gloria that made it stand out.

Which was all the more important because, ahead of its airing, Modern Family was in need of some originality. Shot in the hugely popular mockumentary style of the era, which had already been perfected by The Office and was being used by fellow 2009 TV debutant Parks and Recreation, too, Modern Family had a lot to prove.

But by the end of its hugely successful first season, everyone had forgotten about these comparisons. Instead, Modern Family drew acclaim for being one of the first ever shows on a major American network to depict two male characters adopting a baby girl and building a loving family.

At the same time, Jay quickly blossomed into one of the most adored father figures on TV. Even though he was tough, dismissive, and somewhat manipulative, his undying love for every single member of his family was always present.

By the end of the series, despite their huge age difference, his marriage with Gloria even felt stronger and more loving than either Claire and Phil’s or Cam and Mitchell’s.

Eric Stonestreet was widely praised for his portrayal as a gay man adopting a child. ABC
Eric Stonestreet was widely praised for his portrayal of Cam.

That’s not to say that either of those dynamics were weak or held Modern Family back. In fact, during its first three seasons, when the show was at its peak, Modern Family was so popular with both critics and audiences alike primarily because of its impeccable ensemble.

Every member of all three families was hilarious, while the show only seemed to improve when these characters crossed over or they all came together.

Ariel Winter, left, and Nolan Gould played the Dunphy kids. ABC
Ariel Winter, left, and Nolan Gould played the Dunphy kids. ABC

Unfortunately, like pretty much every other sitcom that begins with a younger cast, the older the kids got, the less funny Modern Family became. It also didn’t help that the arrival and success of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime meant that it was losing more and more of its appeal to their seemingly never-ending rush of new shows.

Yet, because of its cast and the love that was at the heart of each of its episodes, Modern Family managed to endure. Some viewers just couldn’t resist growing old with the Pritchetts.

This image released by ABC shows, from left, executive producer Christopher Lloyd, and actors Ed O'Neill and Ty Burrell on the set of "Modern Family." ABC’s “Modern Family” ends its 11-season run with a two-hour finale on Wednesday. (Tony Rivetti/ABC via AP)
Executive producer Christopher Lloyd, and actors Ed O'Neill and Ty Burrell on the set of 'Modern Family'. AP

Luckily for them, there’s every chance that the show could return in some fashion in the future. There has already been talk that Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Stonestreet could return for a Mitchell and Cameron spin-off.

Something that series co-creator Christopher Lloyd hardly downplayed, when he recently told Hollywood news site Deadline: “It does present a possibility for us. Will that happen? I'm not sure. But we would be probably dumb to not explore it.”

The potential spin-off wouldn’t be short of guest stars, too. Not only because it wouldn’t make sense if the rest of the family didn’t travel to the Midwest every chance that they could to see Mitchell and Cameron. But the affection and bond between Modern Family’s cast was so genuine that every single one of them would jump at the chance of a reunion.

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Updated: April 16, 2020 06:41 PM

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