To start to look at the change that has happened over the last generation of television shows and sitcoms, we have to look at the original formula, which I glossed over in my introduction. The norm in sitcoms pretty much up to this point was a heterosexual marriage with children. We see this in shows like the George Lopez show, or the Cosby show, or ALF. Even some shows become self aware with this fact, like Married with Children. While this is still a very commonplace thing to see, on TV and otherwise, there is no denying the fact that we are coming into a new age of familial normality. And, since television is meant to be relatable, it would make sense that we see these changes reflected onto the medium, this time, in the form of the sitcom Modern Family.
The show challenges the norms that we have seen before in a lot of different ways, one of those being story-telling. The show, instead of just following the characters around the shenanigans that they get into, begins the first steps into mockumentary sitcoms, which can give a well rounded, more third person omnipotent point of view on the whole series – giving us the whole story as the directors intended. Not only is the storytelling different, but the stories that are being told are as well. We have, for the first time, an openly homosexual relationship that gets an extremely good amount of screen time comparatively to the rest of the family. We see a remarried family, which does happen in previous sitcoms, but is given a fresh new spin by the cultural differences and disagreements of Jay and Gloria. We also see the new generations archetypes reflected in the children of the show. The awkward third kid with ADHD – the mature past their age child, with their identity based in their ethnicity – these are children that you wouldn’t see as commonly in the eighties, but are seen as regular parts of modern society. Even the family that, structurally, is dead-on to the previous formula challenges the familial norms that we are used to seeing on TV by making the mother the structural head of the household. Modern Family was a solid first step into a new generation of television shows, and we’ll probably be seeing more sitcoms like this one in the future.