Didn't love last night's "Modern Family." Thought the Cam/Mitchell and Phil/Claire plots were very predictable and sitcom-y, and the Jay/Gloria/dog butler plot only worked because it was so silly (and the writing embraced that). But after the jump, I have some press tour thoughts from "Modern Family" co-creator Steve Levitan about several topics we've been discussing about the show over the course of this season...
On whether it's a documentary or not: Levitan said that in the original pitch, it was explicitly a documentary, made by a Dutch filmmaker named Geert Floorjte who had lived with Jay's family as a teenage exchange student and developed a crush on Claire (while Mitchell had a crush on him). In the end, he and Christopher Lloyd decided it was an unnecessary component of the show - especially since they weren't sure how much they liked the idea of their characters letting themselves be filmed.
"It’s a conversation we have a lot," he said. "Is it a true documentary, or is it a family show done documentary-style? I prefer the latter because I don’t like those families who let cameras in their houses in real life. I just can’t stand those shows. So it makes me — it would make me question them a little bit. Who would allow all of this to be filmed by a crew? So I like the idea that it’s just our style of storytelling."
On the heartwarming voiceovers that end each episode: When I asked Levitan what he'd learned over the course of the season, he admitted that he and Lloyd are striving for "a constant balance about how much heart. I think we’re much sappier than we realized we were. We thought we were very cynical, typical comedy writers, and we find ourselves really enjoying those moments where the show sort of sneaks up on you and makes you feel something. And I think that we’re just — one of the biggest challenges for us right now is finding the right level of that so that we don’t overdo it, so that it doesn’t become expected that there will always be a very sweet wrap-up at the end."
On the balance between episodes where the three families intermingle and ones (like this one) where they're mostly separate: I had recorder issues, so I can't give you the exact quote, but Levitan said they don't want to mix the families too often because "it would feel contrived." But he also said they were having a lot of fun with the combinations, and have been surprised how well some of them (like Gloria and Cameron in an upcoming episode) work.
Hopefully, they can find ways to do mixing on a small scale (the best scene tonight, I thought, was Jay and Mitchell commiserating about their great-on-paper spouses) even if they're understandably reluctant to do large family gatherings each week.