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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Modern-Family-S4-br-usThe laughs — and the awards — just keep on coming for the #1-rated Modern Family,” winner of three consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series! With Jay and Gloria’s baby on the way and Haley going off to college, the entire Pritchett/Dunphy clan faces some major surprises as they bicker and bond over house-flipping headaches, unwanted play dates, and everything from hot-tempered hormones to in utero karaoke.  Featuring a stellar array of guest stars including Matthew Broderick, Shelley Long and Elizabeth Banks, Season Four takes a heartfelt and laugh-out-loud hilarious look at what it means to be a “Modern Family.”  
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Phil (presenting to the class): ”Guess what? I’ve been in your house when you weren’t home! And yours. And yours. No, I’m not a burglar. I’m a realtor.”

Show (4 out of 5 stars)

The show is about three families that are all related to each other but couldn’t be more different.  The show is filmed in a documentary kind of format similar to The Office which works really well for this show as the interviews are just as funny as the craziness going on in their day to day lives.  The patriarch of the family, Jay (Ed O’Neil) is married to a beautiful Colombian woman named Gloria (Sofia Vergara) who is not only significantly younger than him but also has a 12 year old son named Manny (Rico Rodriguez) that keeps him on his toes.  Like all of the couples on this show, Jay and Gloria are a polar opposites.  Gloria is a passionate extrovert while Jay’s mellow and just wants to watch football.  Manny is a precocious boy who acts much older than his years and is often seen in a velvet smoking jacket or quoting poetry.
Jay has two kids with families of their own.  His uptight perfectionist daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) is married to a goofy real estate agent named Phil (Ty Burrell) who thinks he is the coolest Dad around.  Claire and Phil have three kids,  Haley (Sarah Hyland), Alex (Ariel Winter), and the dimwitted Luke (Nolan Gould).  Claire was a wild child growing up but she is now a control freak who humors her husbands eccentricities.  Jay does all he can to be hip with his kids and has his own way of parenting them (he even created a book called “Phil’s-osophy”) which is hilarious.  One of his “Phil-isms” is, “If you love something, set it free.  Unless it’s a tiger.”  Jay also has a highly strung son named Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who lives with his exuberant partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and their adopted daughter from Vietnam, Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).  Part of the great humor from this show is watching the old-school Jay interact with his gay son and his partner.  Jay does his best to be accepting but still is still adjusting and Cameron enjoys tweaking him now and again.
This season has been the most different and the weakest so far but it’s still very funny.  Even though by this point the characters are fairly predictable as are the story-lines, this season is also conversely the one with the most change in it.  Hayley is off to college, Manny and Luke are going to high school, Jay and Gloria have a baby, Cameron and Claire discover a new profession, and more.  The characters themselves are changing in small ways with Luke becoming devious, Claire is more independent and sarcastic, Gloria more shrill, and basically every character’s personality and flaws have been amplified this season.  These are still the characters we all love but they’ve taken on a more real world feel that makes them more believable which can be good or bad.  There’s also a bunch of guest starts this season including Billy Dee Williams, Elizabeth Banks, Matthew Broderick, Shelley Long, David Faustino, Rob Riggle, Justine Bateman, and Fred Willard.  Even though this season didn’t live up to the previous ones, it’s still a great show and an easy one to recommend.
Here’s the episodes for this season:
  1. Bringing Up Baby - Gloria begins sharing the good news with everyone that she’s pregnant, but she’s not sure how to break it to Jay, who doesn’t like change.
  2. Schooled - Haley leaves for college, and Phil and Claire can’t seem to stop embarrassing her as they help her move into her dorm.
  3. Snip - Claire is having a particularly bad day with the kids but in five years, the Dunphy household will be completely free of children. As part of Phil and Claire’s “5-year plan,” Phil goes in to get a vasectomy.
  4. The Butler’s Escape - Like father, like son, Luke has been studying magic but he wants to give up the dark arts. Phil isn’t happy with that decision, so he’s letting the Great Lukini hang up his cape only if Luke can pull off the infamous trick, the Butler’s Escape.
  5. Open House of Horrors - It’s Claire’s favorite holiday, but a neighborhood petition bans the Dunphys from putting on a scary Halloween display. After Phil claims Claire isn’t scary, she tries her best to freak him out at his open house.
  6. Yard Sale - At the family yard sale, Phil discovers Jay’s old motorcycle. Shortly after taking it for a spin, he takes a spill and finds himself pinned beneath the bike. For the next 127 minutes, Phil documents his harrowing experience.
  7. Arrested - When the cops break up an underage drinking party at Haley’s college, she gets thrown in jail for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, so it’s up to Phil, Claire and lawyer (environmental lawyer) Mitchell to bail out Haley.
  8. Mistery Date - Alex is competing again in an academic competition. When Claire takes her, Luke and Manny away for the weekend so Alex can uphold her title, it becomes clear mom takes too much pride in her daughter’s victories. It also becomes clear to Manny and Luke that crashing bar mitzvahs is a tricky business when they have trouble locating Manny’s crush who’s attending one of three possible parties at their hotel.
  9. When a Tree Falls - Cam tries to stop the city from chopping down a tree at the park that was the site of many sentimental moments between him, Mitchell and Lily. But when understudy Cam has to fill in for a local production of Cats, it’s up to Mitchell to step in (or climb up?) and finish what his partner has started.
  10. Diamond in the Rough - When Luke and Manny’s baseball team the Wolves unexepectedly make the playoffs, there isn’t a field available for their big game so Claire and Cam take on the task of building one so they will come.
  11. New Year’s Eve - It’s a New Year’s Eve without the kids when Jay takes Gloria, Claire, Phil, Mitchell and Cameron out to Palm Springs to ring in 2013. After Gloria gets too tired, Claire and Phil sneak off to get romantic, and Mitch and Cam try to recapture their youth exploring the club scene, Jay is left alone. That is, until Jay meets Billy Dee Williams (guest-starring as himself) in a hotel poker game.
  12. Party Crasher - Gloria wants Manny to feel really special on his birthday since he’s been overshadowed by the baby lately. But that proves difficult once Gloria goes into labor at his surprise party. She tries to delay it so Manny can have a day that’s all about him, but soon Manny and the new baby are sharing a birthday. It’s a boy!
  13. Fulgencio - Gloria’s fiery mother Pilar (guest star Elizabeth Peña) and gloomy, underprivileged sister Sonia (guest star Stephanie Beatriz) visit for the new baby’s christening. Tension mounts between the two sisters, and even more animosity develops between Pilar and Jay, because he refuses to name his son after Pilar’s late husband, Fulgencio.
  14. A Slight at the Opera - Cam is putting on the school production of The Phantom of the Opera. Marcus Talbot is cast as the lead, but when he gets sick, Manny sees it as his chance to be the star of the show. Cameron sees it as Luke’s chance to be the star when he hears the Dunphy singing. Soon Manny finds himself torn between sabotaging Luke or giving up the spotlight. It’s a can’t-miss production, and even Phil’s dad Frank Dunphy (guest star Fred Willard) shows up to see it.
  15. Heart Broken - Since Claire and Phil are babysitting baby Joe on Valentine’s Day, they celebrate a day earlier by having another role-playing rendezvous as “Juliana” and “Clive Bixby.” The tryst is cut short when Claire passes out after her heart suffers a minor arrhythmia known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Claire doesn’t want it to be a big deal, but Phil wants her to be OK with him taking care of her once in a while.
  16. Bad Hair Day - Claire visits her alma mater for her college reunion, where she reunites with classmate Esther and buddy Drew a.k.a. “Tater” (guest star David Faustino). Her old professor who also happens to be her ex-boyfriend is there, too, which is exactly why Claire doesn’t want Phil to tag along. Phil shows up anyway and things get awkward, but soon Claire is grateful for Phil when all thoughts of what could’ve been with Professor Cooke are burst with a glimpse at her ex’s bitter wife and unhappy life.
  17. Best Men - Mitch and Cam’s old gal pal from their party days, Sal (guest star Elizabeth Banks), is getting married, but they’re not so sure she’s ready to settle down.
  18. The Wow Factor - Claire and Cam work on flipping the house they bought in Episode 410, “Diamond in the Rough.” They’re constantly at odds with one another during the renovation, so Cam brings in handy lesbian friend Pam (Wendi McLendon-Covey reprising her role from Episode 402, “Schooled“) for help, but she ends up agreeing with Claire that Cam’s idea of building a water feature to add some wow factor is a bit too much.
  19. The Future Dunphys - Claire checks into the hospital to have an angiogram, where she and Phil catch a glimpse at three adult siblings who resemble their own kids. The sight of the dysfunctional, grown-up siblings (including guest star Justine Bateman) cause Phil and Claire to fear a future that could hold the same sad fate for Luke, Alex and Haley.
  20. Flip Flop - Claire and Cameron (collectively dubbed “Clameron” by Phil) have finished flipping the house they bought, but two months have passed with no prospective buyers. So it’s up to the best real estate agent in town to sell it, and that’s Gil Thorpe, not Phil Dunphy. When negotiations with Gil (guest star Rob Riggle) fall through, the family is left to woo a potential buyer recommended by Luke. To make sure the house is perfect for him, Haley researches him online so the family can customize the pad to his liking (or at least to what he’s liked on Facebook).
  21. Career Day - It’s Career Day at school, so Phil gives a presentation at Luke and Manny’s class. Real estate rival Gil Thorpe (guest star Rob Riggle) upstages the show, and to add insult to injury, he offers Claire a job.
  22. My Hero - Mitch’s ex-boyfriend invites the family to a fundraiser at the local roller rink, where Haley teaches Alex how to flirt, Manny tries to find a family member worthy of being the subject of his school essay on heroes and Claire tries to avoid Jay because he’s offered her a job but she’d rather not work for him.
  23. Games People Play - When Phil gets a new RV (thanks to selling a house to California’s top RV salesman), he decides to take the family on a fun road trip up the coast. Claire dreads that the kids being cooped up in the RV (nicknamed “Jolene” by Phil) would lead to interminable fighting, but soon she begins to thinks that maybe she’s one who brings out the worst in them.
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Gloria: “What I want is a husband who wants to go shopping for a stroller with me.”
Jay: ”If you had a husband who liked picking out strollers, you wouldn’t be having a baby.”

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

The show’s 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks really good as this show is already filmed in high definition and it looks as good as the previous seasons.  Flesh tones are good and colors pop out both in interior shots and when they are outside in the wonderful California weather.  The image is sharp and has a nice clear picture with fine detail especially during the many closeups in the show.
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Principal: “Mr. Tucker, what happened out there was unacceptable.”
Cameron:
 “I agree. Is this kindergarten or The Hunger Games?”

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season’s lossless track is very good but it’s not exceptional as it is a mostly front channel affair.  To be fair, this is a comedy show so expectations should be kept in check as there’s no way it’s going to be a sonic powerhouse.  The show’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers very clear dialogue but only through the front speakers.  The only time every channel is used is during the show’s theme song which is a lot louder than the rest of the show, but it sounds great.
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Phil (on Claire considering a job offer from Gil Thorpe): ”You can’t be serious! Gil Thorpe is my nemesis!”
Claire: ”I hate to break it to you, Phil, but you’re not Batman.”

Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

These are decent extras and they are all in high definition.  There’s the usual mix of commentaries and featurettes that should have been longer.
Disc One:
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes
Disc Two:
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes 
  • Commentary on “Party Crasher” and “Fulgencio” with Danny Zuker and Bill Wrubel - We get our first “Modern Family” commentary with Danny Zuker who is a writer and Executive Producer for the show along with  writer Bill Wrubel.  
  • An Addition to the Family - Sofia Vergara talks about the new addition to the family along with some clips from the show.
Disc Three:
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes 
  • A Day With Eric - This was an interesting look behind the scenes hosted by Eric Stonestreet.  We get to see his entire day of shooting from the beginning of his day in makeup, getting his wardrobe, filming his scenes, and waiting to film in his trailer.  It’s a quick and fun look at the life of an actor and you’ll see some other people from the show in here too.
  • Commentary on Career Day - We hear from co-creator Steven Levitan and writers Brad Walsh and Paul Corrigan who talk about how their lives make their way into the show.   
  • Commentary on Goodnight, Gracie -  Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman talk about the season finale.
  • Goodnight, Gracie Director’s Cut - This is director Steven Levitan’s personal cut of the episode
  • A Modern Guide to Parenting - Here’s some parenting tips – Modern Family style all delivered through past clips from the show.
  • Modern Family Writers - This is a thirteen minute featurette that offers interviews from some of the writers from the show.  They talk about using their personal lives to fuel their writing especially if they are facing a deadline.  Zuker even mention how if he wants his kids to be good he just takes out a writing pad.
  • Gag Reel - This is a little over ten minutes of watching the cast mess up, have fun, and even dance.  I enjoyed it.
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Phil: ”Young people seek out older mentors all the time. When I was 17, I was really close with my friend Stacy’s Mom. Mrs. Robinson was a former cheerleader, so she knew just how to massage my legs after practice. She had her own homemade Ben-Gay that didn’t burn no matter where she rubbed it on me. If I had the chance to go over there, I never missed an opportunity.”
Claire: ”I think maybe you did.”

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

“Modern Family” is one of the best shows on television and this Blu-ray is a nice package for fans. The video and audio quality are very good and the extras are decent too.  We finally get some commentaries as well but none yet from any of the cast.  If you enjoy the show then you should definitely buy this set!
Order your copy today!
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