Despite losing to HBO's Veep in this year's Emmy race for Best Comedy, Modern Family opened its ninth season strong.
Wednesday's season premiere began with the famed Dunphy-Pritchett clan cruising on a houseboat for a solar eclipse viewing in Lake Tahoe. As usual, everyone seems to have their own internal problem. Jay worries about his legacy, Phil and Claire fear they've lost their sense of youth, Alex is afraid of committing to her boyfriend and Manny attempts to reinvent himself as 'Manuel' for college. On the other hand, Mitchell avoids the sun due to antibiotics, Cam deals with an old crush, Gloria fears the lake water, Lily and Joe attempt to binge-watch and Haley and Luke fight for the attention of an unknown stranger on a Jet Ski.
As usual, the show begins with a cute but smart opening line. This time Mitchell makes a snarky remark about Cam's sun protection getup, which looks more like a Halloween costume than anything else. Effective editing techniques and transitions snap between crucial moments of each group adventure with perfect timing and shrewd, comedically delivered lines. Despite each character's personal conflict, by the end of the episode each individual disregards their problems — solved or unresolved — and comes together for a happy-go-lucky gathering.
While at times the show seems predictable, and somewhat disjointed in its attempt to solve each character's issue in 20-something minutes, it also manages to create relatable and realistic conflicts applicable to almost any age group.
The season opener tackles the issue of aging and what that means for individuals in each stage of life. After nearly 200 episodes, the senior comedy is no stranger to this topic. At the youngest level there's the childish antics of Joe and Lily, who attempt to stay on board the houseboat and watch TV while fending off an unwanted babysitter. Meanwhile, the older kids tackle relationship problems, college anxieties and how to enjoy the fleeting moments of summer. For the adults, the situation is different — Phil and Claire attempt to relive their past, while Jay worries about death after hearing about the loss of a competitor.
While most moments are funny, and in some cases ridiculous, the show effectively blends serious and emotionally thought-provoking moments that provide a sense of realism. For example, Jay's announcement of his fear about what individuals will say at his funeral is combined with the family shouting appreciative memories from the balcony. On the other hand, Mitchell remarks "he needs this" and the scene closes. The snapshot makes viewers reminisce of grandparents and hectic family gatherings.
Modern Family's ability to draw upon real life conflicts in a natural manner, blended smoothly into the hilarious storyline, is what makes the comedy seemingly invincible.