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Blu-ray Reviews

Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

Matt Hough

    Executive Producer

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Posted September 25 2013 - 01:24 PM

Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

Four years into its run, and ABC’s Modern Family has won the Best Comedy Series Emmy every single year of its broadcast life. There’s a reason for that achievement (outdone in Emmy comedy history only by Frazier): the top-notch writing with its deft combination of character-based slapstick antics and witty plays-on-words, the delectable ensemble playing by a cast so tight-knit that the fact they can almost finish each others’ sentences only cements their rock solid camaraderie and dexterous acting skills, and direction that moves every episode along so that the storylines (sometimes as many as four per episode) each get equal weight and attention. For many, Modern Family is still appointment television each week.

Cover Art

Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 8 Hrs. 39 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

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Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 09/24/2013

MSRP: $59.99

The Production Rating: 4.5/5

By this fourth season, the actors play together like a well-oiled machine, and any combination of them together seems to work so whether siblings Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Claire (Julie Bowen) and their significant others Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Phil (Ty Burrell) are paired with the kids’ father Jay (Ed O’Neill) and his newly pregnant wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) or the show’s very talented array of child actors playing their various offspring: off-to-college Haley (Sarah Hyland), brilliant super-student Alex (Ariel Winter), less-dim-bulb-than-he-appears Luke (Nolan Gould), suavely nerdy Manny (Rico Rodriguez), and one-line wonder extraordinaire Lily (Aubrey Eammons-Anderson), the results are likely to be uproarious with an expectedly generous amount of heart sewn into each episode (especially true for one of the season’s highlights: the season finale which finds the family on a sojourn to Florida to attend the memorial for Phil’s mom who has just passed away).

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 trying to teach his daughters some helpful household maintenance skills or embarrassing college-bound daughter Haley on her first day at school or is frightened that Claire’s heart anomaly is something more serious than it is (robbing us of another funtastic encounter with their alter egos Clive and Julianna), whether Cameron is doing everything he can think of to save a beloved tree in the park or working again as a super enthusiastic, super judgmental music teacher, whether Manny is experiencing his first kiss on his birthday (not knowing he’s about to get a bigger surprise than he bargained for) or is enduring friends who use him as their secret weapon in a baseball game: 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. In addition to the memorable memorial episode in Florida mentioned above, several episodes this season involve Cam and Claire’s attempts to buy a house, renovate it, and then flip it, a project that inevitably involves the entire family before the story reaches its conclusion. The first twelve episodes involve Gloria’s pregnancy which also tends to involve the entire clan in her various adventures as the Latin bombshell and all those around her adjust to her changing physiognomy (and the episode where her mother and her sister visit right before the birth contains priceless revelations). Phil is involved this season in a series of encounters with his real estate nemesis Gil Thorpe (Rob Riggle) who pushes his buttons in ways that makes Phil more wacky than usual. In one of the season’s wittiest and most creative episodes, a Godfather-like parody concludes a hysterical episode involving the naming and later christening of Jay and Gloria’s new baby boy. As in years past, there are holiday episodes revolving around Halloween and an especially memorable New Year’s Eve show where the family takes a trip together to Palm Springs which doesn’t go the way any of them expect. Phil and Gloria even have an adventure with Billy Dee Williams, one of a number of memorable guests stars this season. Among other famous faces seen in this year’s twenty-four episodes: the return of Shelley Long as Jay’s unstable ex-wife, Nathan Lane (Emmy-nominated) as Mitch and Cam’s fizzy friend Pepper, Benjamin Bratt in another fun appearance as Manny’s biological father and this time bringing along his new love play by Paget Brewster, Fred Willard’s return as Phil’s fun-loving father, Matthew Broderick as a gym friend of Phil’s who thinks he’s on a date with him, Larry Sullivan as Mitch’s ex-boy friend Dr. Teddy who has maintained a close relationship to the rest of the family, and Anita Gilette and Millicent Martin who both make memorable appearances in the season finale.

Here are the twenty-four episodes contained in this season’s three-disc box set. The names in parentheses denote the participants in that show’s audio commentary.

1 – Bringing Up Baby
2 – Schooled
3 – Snip
4 – The Butler’s Escape
5 – Open House of Horrors
6 – Yard Sale
7 – Arrested (Emmy-winner for Best Direction)
8 – Mistery Date
9 – When a Tree Falls
10 – Diamond in the Rough
11 – New Year’s Eve
12 – Party Crasher (writer Danny Zuker and producer Bill Wrubel)
13 – Fulgencio (writer Bill Wrubel and producer Danny Zuker)
14 – A Slight at the Opera
15 – Heart Broken
16 – Bad Hair Day
17 – Best Men
18 – The Wow Factor
19 – The Future Dunphys
20 – Flip Flop
21 – Career Day (creator Steve Levitan, writers Brad Walsh, Paul Corrigan)
22 – My Hero
23 – Games People Play
24 – Goodnight, Gracie (writer-director Steve Levitan and writer Jeffrey Richman)

Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The program is shown in 720p on ABC, and these 1080p 1.78:1 transfers (AVC codec) do look a bit sharper and more well 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.

Audio Rating: 4/5

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 or an occasional sentimental sequence, a background score is not really prominent in the series.

Special Features Rating: 4/5

Audio Commentaries: four episodes contain audio commentaries (see above episode list for participants). All four are genial conversations as the crew involved offer memories of the writing and production of the episode.

Deleted Scenes (HD): seven scenes spread over the three discs, all found in the extras section of the discs.

An Addition to the Family (6:30, HD): Sofia Vergara and Rico Rodriguez discuss the changes adding a baby will have for their characters on the series.

“Goodnight, Gracie” Director’s Cut: adds a couple of extra minutes (and a few extra jokes) to the running time of the season finale.

A Day With Eric (11:57, HD): Emmy-winner Eric Stonestreet takes us through a typical day from arriving on the Fox lot through hair and make-up and waiting around to shoot scenes in the “Tooth Fairy” sequence of an episode.

A Modern Family Guide to Parenting (4:40, HD): brief clips from the show’s four seasons as the characters offer tips for proper parenting.

Modern Family Writers (13:14, HD): several writers including Danny Zuker, Bill Wrubel, Jeffrey Richman, and Abraham Higginbotham describe events from their own family lives which have been adapted into story ideas for the series.

Gag Reel (10:26, HD)

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

As fast and funny as always (though to be fair, the show had some slow moments in the opening episodes of the season), Modern Family brings forth another sterling season on Blu-ray. Some fun extras plus better video and audio than the network broadcast make a purchase of the season a no-brainer for its many fans. Highly recommended!

Reviewed By: Matt Hough

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