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New on DVD: 'Modern Family'

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, left, and Eric Stonestreet, with Suzy Nakamura, play a couple who are part of a "Modern Family." Season One of the series is newly released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, left, and Eric Stonestreet, with Suzy Nakamura, play a couple who are part of a "Modern Family." Season One of the series is newly released on DVD and Blu-ray. (Adam Larkey/abc)

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By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 24, 2010

The family sitcom has supposedly died on many occasions, yet somehow this tried-and-true TV genre always finds a way to reinvent itself.

Most recently, that reinvention has come in the form of "Modern Family," the Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Comedy Series whose first season debuted Tuesday on DVD ($59.98) and Blu-ray ($69.99). A laugh-track-less, mockumentary-style series that focuses on the daily insanity of domestic life within three related broods, "Modern Family" captures the meaning of that term in all its contemporary forms -- with parents both gay and straight, siblings both biological and step, marriages both first and second.

With its references to Spandau Ballet nostalgia and the importance of snagging an iPad as a gift for dad, the humor -- which swings from slapstick to ultra-dry asides, sometimes within a matter of seconds -- aims directly at the Generation X moms and dads currently attempting to usher their sons and daughters into adulthood. Yet the characters span such a vast age range, from infant to grandparent, that viewers in nearly any demographic can relate.

Much of what transpires on "Modern Family" feels real because it has been snatched directly from the lives of the cast and crew, a message conveyed in some of the featurettes on the DVD and Blu-ray. In "Real Modern Family Moments," several of the show's writers share the true stories that inspired "Modern Family" moments; scribe and co-executive producer Brad Walsh even has the guts to admit that he and his sister figure skated as a pairs team when they were young, a fact that wedged its way into an episode in which siblings Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Claire (Julie Bowen) revisit their own Ice Capade-y past. Family photos and home videos are even produced as proof, as they are in another featurette -- "Fizbo the Clown" -- in which Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet (who plays Mitchell's partner, Cam) explains how the clown persona he created as a kid in Kansas City wound up in a birthday party episode.

The special features that let us see that personal element in the "Modern Family" creative process make this a particularly enjoyable series to experience on disc. And learning more about the lesser-known members of the cast -- especially Nolan Gould, who plays the dim-witted young Luke and, in real life, is a member of Mensa -- is fun, too. But not all the extras are winners. There are loads of deleted and extended scenes, but only a handful are worth watching. And none of the episodes features commentary tracks.

So sure, the members of this "Modern Family" are absolutely worth getting to know, especially for those playing catch-up while the second season of the show gets underway. (New episodes returned to ABC on Wednesday.) But if your own "modern family" situation demands that money be spent very carefully, it may be more prudent to put these discs in your Netflix queue instead of plunking down cash to invest in a permanent purchase.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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