TV Review: With 4th season of ‘Modern Family,’ good things come to those who wait

Haley Boston, Columnist

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You may have noticed by now due to the excess of advertisements, but in case you’ve been under The Rock (or without a TV), ABC’s most glowing, unique and well-written television comedy is back for a fourth season. If you haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing this family-friendly phenomenon, rewind three seasons and you’ll feel as if you’ve always been a part of the Pritchett-Dunphy clan. On the other hand, “Modern Family” is the type of show that will open its arms to mid-series viewers because it doesn’t take much backstory to embrace the humorous dysfunction.

By television standards, this episode (titled “Bringing Up Baby”) is wholly entertaining and hilarious, especially for a show slightly past its prime. However, by “Modern Family” standards, it’s moderately disappointing.

In the season premiere, the talented and Emmy award-winning cast welcomes us back into full-throttle chaos by picking us up right where they left us. For that reason alone, it feels almost like a re-run. Many of the intersecting storylines seem recycled as characters revert to underdeveloped versions of themselves. Again, the family struggles to please proud patriarch Jay on his birthday with a disastrous surprise. A familiar scenario ensues as Phil tries desperately to impress his firmly disapproving father-in-law. For the hundredth time, Cam and Mitchell have to settle for less than they bargained for in the baby department. Finally, the mere reintroduction of Haley’s washed-out, on-again-off-again boyfriend, Dylan, gives the show a repetitive vibe. Dylan serves as a symbolic representation of the few storylines in this show you wish would just go away.

During the climactic moment in the episode, when the ironic tension of Gloria’s secret pregnancy is released, a swooping camera motion pulls us into the future. Like a cheesy flashback, we avoid the expected response and skip ahead to the interesting part. Now we know clearly what creators Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd have planned: They will move the focal point away from the overdone and potentially catastrophic pregnancy storyline and instead onto a more well-received baby storyline. Nobody (except Claire) wants to watch Gloria get progressively fatter all season while a string of moody women jokes come flying at the screen. We just want to see the baby.

When structuring successful and complex television shows such as “Modern Family,” it’s sometimes necessary to stray from the constant stream of brilliant writing or fresh plot scenarios in order to play a game of catch-up for the viewers. Much like the occasional episode of AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad,” the series needs to take a step back and allow viewers to absorb old storylines before busting out the good stuff. By that logic, the season premiere of “Modern Family” is setting us up for something wonderful and enticing down the road. Don’t give up on the beloved quirky family quite yet — if any television show has the intense pressure of meeting audience expectations, it’s this one. Tune in to ABC next Wednesday (Oct. 10) at 8: p.m. for two new back-to-back episodes you won’t want to miss.

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