The last time a network showed a complete pilot at its upfront, it was “Joey.” The general consensus then was that it was a darn good pilot — which goes to show you that you can’t really judge a show just by its pilot.
So I’m not going to make any grand pronouncements about whether “Modern Family” — a new comedy that ABC screened for us in full at its upfront presentation Tuesday afternoon — is going to be the next big comedy hit. But I will say that the pilot is really funny.
The show, created by sitcom veterans Christopher Lloyd (“Frasier”) and Steven Levitan (“Just Shoot Me”), trains its fake-documentary cameras on three different kinds of families: an overscheduled husband and wife (Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen) with three kids; a gay couple (Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet) bringing home their newly adopted daughter; and an older man (Ed O’Neill) married to much younger woman (Sofia Vergara) with an 11-year-old son (Rico Rodriguez).
I was initially skeptical of yet another show using the documentary conceit, but it works pretty well here (there are several talking-to-the-camera segments, but it’s otherwise barely acknowledged). The cast is uniformly strong — Burrell in particular, whose character thinks of himself as the “cool dad,” has some great moments — and each character feels pretty sharply drawn, which is somewhat rare for a pilot script.
The show got big laughs in the right places when ABC screened it for the audience at Lincoln Center, and based on various Twitter updates and other online chatter, it seems to have played just as well outside the auditorium.
It’s too early to go into full-fledged review mode for “Modern Family” (with any luck, ABC will have more than one episode to show critics by the time its premiere rolls around) — call it the “Joey” Rule. But if ABC wanted to start the buzz train for the show, then it did pretty well.
Here’s a scene from “Modern Family.”
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