After putting forth a picture perfect second season, ABC’s Modern Family nearly matched it in season three. With only two or three episodes which notched slightly below its hilarity-norm, the program had another stellar season and ended the year among the top comedies on network TV in both ratings and critical acclaim. It’s no accident the show won the SAG award for the second year in a row as the Best Comedy Ensemble on television. From kids to adults, the cast is firing on all cylinders and miraculously works well either in the usual family pairings, mixed into new combinations, or all together in some of the year’s most hilariously memorable episodes.
Modern Family: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
Directed by Michael Spiller et al
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 515 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 59.99
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Review Date: September 19, 2012
The families in question number three. First up is wealthy, middle-aged Jay (Ed O'Neill) and his wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) who brings with her old soul thirteen-year old Manny (Rico Rodriguez) from her first marriage and new family addition bulldog Stella (who steals several scenes just with deadpan looks at the camera). Next is Jay’s daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) and her man-child husband Phil (Ty Burrell) and their three children: the brilliant Alex (Ariel Winter) and her siblings: older flirty sister Haley (Sarah Hyland) and younger (and somewhat I.Q. challenged) brother Luke (Nolan Gould). Finally there are Jay’s gay son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and his partner of seven years Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) who are settling in with their adopted Vietnamese baby Lily (now played by Aubrey Anderson-Eammons and given much more to do this year). With families this sizable and diverse, any combination of characters is bound to generate tremendous laughs (the fact that the characters mix and match so effortlessly is one of the show’s most genius components), and they truly are a group of riotous, endearing, and unforgettable characters. In fact, the show’s writers deftly manage multiple storylines in most episodes that are simply amazing and worthy of utmost praise.
Apart from the absolute hilarity of the stories and performances each week, these actors bring a smile to the face by just facing the camera. Yes, the show uses one of those faux documentary style templates with the characters often talking straight to the camera and with a crew around filming the families as they conduct their daily lives. So whether Phil is spending a weekend showing his old alma mater to college-bound daughter Haley or frightened that Claire is going to skin him alive for buying a sporty car instead of a minivan, whether Cameron is dressing up again as Fizbo the Clown to reunite with his former partner (a funny Bobby Cannavale) or trying to prove that a favorite youthful tale about pumpkin slinging is not a falsehood, whether Manny is worrying that he might be abducted on a trip to Mexico or is welcoming friends to his house with a variety of ridiculously over-the-top salutations: the documentary cameras pick it all up with the casts’ candid confessions always adding to the fun.
Though many individual elements in each episode garner attention, it’s the episodes where the entire family is involved together that often make for the most treasured memories. The season gets off to a pitch-perfect start as the families vacation together at a dude ranch. Between Phil impressing everyone with his cowboy skills, Jay having trouble mastering anything while fending off the advances to Gloria by dude ranch foreman Hank (the peerless Tim Blake Nelson), and Mitchell trying to get the knack of “boy stuff” in preparation of a hoped-for male addition to the family (a recurring plot thread this season is Mitchell and Cam’s desire to add a baby boy to their household), the show was a winner. No less impressive is the episode where the family goes together to Disneyland with Phil’s unhappy realization that he may be losing his childlike mojo and Gloria suffering in her stylish but painful spiked heels. There was no Valentine’s Day episode this season despite having two superb ones in past years, but Phil did engineer Express Christmas™, an early Christmas celebration since the family members all had separate plans falling on Christmas Day. The family’s joint efforts to get Claire elected to town council (a season-long recurring plot featuring her opponent, the wonderful David Cross playing Duane Bailey) made for a fall down funny Election Day escapade for everyone. Also turning in exceptional guest performances this season (in addition to those already mentioned) are Gilles Marini as a hunky trainer Claire mistakenly thinks is gay, Josh Gad as a millionaire entrepreneur who used Phil as his model, Benjamin Bratt in another hilarious appearance as Manny’s biological father, Greg Kinnear as a kissy-kissy client of Phil’s, and Ellen Barkin as a bitchy real estate developer who loves to steal Phil’s properties.
Here are the twenty-four episodes contained in this season’s box set. They are distributed on three discs:
1 – Dude Ranch
2 – When Good Kids Go Bad
3 – Phil on Wire
4 – Door to Door
5 – Hit and Run
6 – Go Bullfrogs!
7 – Treehouse
8 – After the Fire
9 – Punkin Chunkin
10 – Express Christmas
11 – Lifetime Supply
12 – Egg Drop
13 – Little Bo Bleep
14 – Me? Jealous?
15 – Aunt Mommy
16 – Virgin Territory
17 – Leap Day
18 – Send Out the Clowns
19 – Election Day
20 – The Last Walt
21 – Planes, Trains, & Cars
22 – Disneyland
23 – Tableau Vivant
24 – Baby on Board
The program is shown in 720p on ABC, and these 1080p 1.78:1 transfers (AVC codec) do look a bit sharper and more defined than their network counterparts. Color is beautifully saturated with very pleasing and warm colors and with accurate flesh tones. Sharpness throughout is exemplary. Despite only average black levels, contrast is outstanding making for a very dimensional picture. There is the tiniest bit of aliasing in the title sequence. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers a solid encode for the show’s most important element: dialogue. It’s placed firmly in the center channel and has been expertly recorded. Occasionally, there are some fleeting uses of the fronts and rears for ambient sounds: voices of muffled chatter in several restaurant scenes, a vehicle speeding past, and the like. Apart from the main title music, a background score is not really present in the series.
All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
Each disc contains deleted or extended scenes or deleted or extended family interviews. Discs one and three contain seven sequences each with additional content. Disc two contains nine additional sequences with added content.
“Destination: Wyoming” is the first of several behind-the-scenes featurettes on particular episodes. This one details the season premiere episode with the show’s director and some actors relating incidents happening during the shoot. It runs 9 ¾ minutes.
“A Day on the Set with Ty” takes us behind the scenes with Ty Burrell as he works on the series. It runs 5 ½ minutes.
“Adventures with the Modern Family Kids” was also recorded during the Wyoming location shoot and features comments from Ariel Winter, Rico Rodriguez, Nolan Gould, and Aubrey Anderson-Eammons. It runs 3 ½ minutes.
“A Modern Family Christmas” is a 6-minute vignette with director Michael Spiller telling the story of the Christmas episode and showing some behind-the-scenes shots of the location filming. It runs 6 minutes.
“Driving Lessons” has Rico Rodriguez and Nolan Gould telling the story of the episode where they have to drive the car and behind-the-scenes cameras showing how it was done. It runs 3 minutes.
“Ed O’Neill Gets a Star” covers co-star Ed O’Neill being awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Appearing with him and offering comments are the two actresses who have played his loving wives on his two long-running sitcoms: Katey Segal and Sofia Vergara. It lasts 16 ¾ minutes.
“Modern Family Goes to Disneyland” shows the cast on location at Disneyland stealing shots with crowds all around them. This runs 3 ¼ minutes.
The season three gag reel runs 9 minutes.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Clearly one of the best shows on television during the past season, the third season of Modern Family was a superb effort all around making it a must-watch show: a hilarious and sometimes touching examination of living in today’s world with a Blu-ray package that earns a very strong recommendation!