The family may be the most fertile basis for the sitcom: sibling rivalries, parent-child issues, and parents going through things with their kids that they had done. The new comedy Modern Family professes to portray the current, new form of the American family, but it follows many traditional storylines. Fortunately, it's also very funny.

Shot in the same fake documentary style that was popularized by The Office, Modern Family follows three branches of the Pritchett family. Patriarch Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) is the admittedly lousy dad trying to do better with his kids. He also just married Gloria (Sofia Vergara), a South American beauty well less than half his age; she also has a young son, Manny (Rico Rodriguez). Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is a serious, deadpan lawyer -- who just adopted a little girl from China with his life-partner, the pudgy and dramatic Cameron (Eric Stonestreet). And former wild-girl Claire (Julie Bowen) is married and handling three young kids -- plus her husband Phil (Ty Burrell) is more immature than any of them, while convinced that he's cool. ("I know all the songs from High School Musical.")

Modern Family wants very hard to be new with its three non-traditional family units, but the stories are pretty standard fare for family sitcoms: telling someone they're a horrible driver, having a young kid's birthday party, something embarassing that belongs to the dad being thought to belong to a kid, etc.

Modern Family is elevated from being just another family comedy by the combination of terrific writing and terrific cast. These relatives and their families fight and bicker (plus support each other) just like real families, and the jokes come fast and often. The cast is uniformly terrific (though my favorite is Ty Burrell as the always optimistic and completely clueless dad) and they all work seamlessly together in whatever combination the show puts them together. Modern Family may not be as revolutionary as it thinks, but it's a very entertaining show.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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