PERFORMING ARTS

Modern Family: The Untold Oral History of One of Television’s Groundbreaking Sitcoms

St. Martin’s. May 2020. 528p. ISBN 9781250260031. $29.99. TV
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After 250 episodes and numerous Emmys, Modern Family ended its 11th season in 2020. Journalist Freeman presents the first retrospective: a massive oral history of the hit sitcom. On set for a week during the filming of Season 11’s “The Prescott,” the author had unprecedented access to the cast and crew, and the result is a talking head–style documentary intercut with script excerpts and Freeman’s observations. While the overall tone is glowing (cast and crew acknowledge the show as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity), Freeman also addresses the challenges of making a great show work: Modern Family’s cocreators found it so difficult to collaborate that they landed on the idea of showrunning alternate episodes; memorable travel episodes were logistical nightmares; and the inability to retain women writers became a self-fulfilling prophesy. However, the bulk of the work is dedicated to fond memories and hilarious anecdotes: Ed O’Neill shares acting tips, Sarah Hyland discusses how the show supported her through two kidney transplants, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet reflect on the impact of portraying a same-sex marriage.
VERDICT This definitive guide to the show answers every question a fan could pose, by quoting the people who created it.

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