To start, let’s look at the relationships in and between each family in the show. First we’ll look at Jay’s family, the stepfamily. Jay is a provider – a retired businessman who is living off of the money he has made in life. He loves football and conforming, and doesn’t like shows of emotions. His wife, Gloria, assumes the housewife cliche, buying a bunch of stuff and worrying too much about her son, Manny, who acts more Jay’s age than Jay does. To compare and prove my point, we’re going to look at the assigned roles that each family member should be playing, versus the roles they are actually playing. Between Jay and Gloria there is minimal tension on their roles, but Manny throws a wrench in the plans here. Both Jay and Gloria try to shield Manny from the world, but he sees through the well-intentioned lies that they try to feed him. This change from an oblivious child in sitcoms in the past to a more millenial-ized version of children is the first of many interesting changes. There is also a culture clash in the stepfamily, with Gloria being a first generation Colombian, and Jay having roots back to the Mayflower. Jay trashes on Colombian customs very frequently, while Manny and Gloria mostly just confuse him with their behavior. This type of family is something we would consider normal, but it is still something that we’ve never seen portrayed on TV before.
The second family of the show is the gay/adoptive family of Cam and Mitchell, and their daughter Lily. Cam, the gentle giant, is the mother figure of the family, while Mitchell works as a lawyer to bring home enough to provide for his family. Apart from the fact that they are both homosexual, which is a relationship we barely ever see on TV (you see homosexual people on TV, not homosexual relationships). The stepfamily has roles that they try to set out for each other, and the dysfunctional family has roles that they self-perpetuate, but the modern gay family is the pinnacle of flexibility. Neither parent has rigid expectations of the other, or any bad habits that they carry along, which makes this family the most open. While this, technically, makes them the most like previous sitcom families, the twist on traditional gender and family norms makes this family probably one of the most interesting families to come onto modern television.
And last, but not least, the traditional dysfunctional family. With Claire, Phil and their three children, Alex, Haley, and Luke. Phil is the goofy dad, who in trying to be a cool dad, turns out to be just a manchild. He’s sweet though, and he supplies the love, while Claire, the rock, provides the structure of the household. Already, the typical gender roles of the male and the female parent in the relationship have been swapped. Alex is a social genius and a manipulator, Haley is the popular high school girl, and Luke is the awkward third child who might have ADHD. They go on the basis of anything goes, all is forgiven, and don’t upset your mother. While aesthetically, this is the most similar to previous sitcoms, the gender roles of the family change the formula. While this family is dysfunctional, no rule is too rigid, and no behavior from the kids is too problematic because of all the love to go around.