With Modern Family contract negotiations ongoing and the future of the series in limbo, producers 20th Century Fox Television still managed to trot out the show's cast and creators for an Emmy FYC panel on Wednesday night. But at the event, no one seem too concerned about the status of the long-running comedy.
"I think it's going to be fine. I'm not worried about it. I think everybody wants to come back," co-creator Steve Levitan told The Hollywood Reporter when asked about the talks. Of other shows that have endured prolonged contract disputes, he added, "It typically works out. Fortunately, I think we're in good shape."
The ABC comedy wrapped its eighth season in February without new deals for the cast or an official renewal from the network. The delay stems from a disagreement between 20th TV and ABC over the cost of the show, for which this far into a series' run the network usually fronts more of the production budget.
If it's up to Levitan, he'd want more than just one additional season though. "I'd like it to go ten seasons. It seems like a nice, round number," says the writer-producer, who splits showrunning duties with co-creator Christopher Lloyd. "But most importantly, I'd like to end strong. If that means ending it after nine, that's ok. If it means ending it after ten, even better."
Nearly all of the castmembers were in agreement with Levitan that a decade on the air is the goal. "I think ten years is a really nice achievement. The show deserves that kind of send-off," said Jesse Tyler Ferguson (who plays Mitch), adding that two more years would be sufficient time to flesh out some of the major storylines.
For Eric Stonestreet, somewhere between nine and eleven seasons is ideal - but he'd keep playing Cam for even longer if he could. "The real answer is we all love our jobs and we would do the show as long as they wanted to keep making it," he told THR, noting that he doubts he'll ever find a better job as an actor.
The actors are crossing their fingers that they'll have future seasons to explore new storylines, too. Ferguson is hoping to see Haley (Sarah Hyland) get married and have kids, while Ty Burrell (Phil) wants more scenes with Stonesteet's character. Ariel Winter, for her part, hopes she'll get to see her character evolve more into an adult. "I'd like to see her branch out more on her own," she said.
Despite ratings being down year-over-year, Modern Family still ranks as ABC's No. 1 comedy, with the most recent season averaging a 4.0 rating in the key demo. The show also remains a lucrative property for 20th thanks to syndication deals with USA Network and other channels.
Still, making it to ten seasons could mean going through contract negotiations all over again since the current talks are only focused on making a ninth season happen. "We decided in our dealmaking with the network that that was our best way to approach it," says Levitan, adding, "But it's fine. I'm always more than willing to bet on ourselves."
During the panel, the conversation turned political when Levitan noted that the show has only co-existed with the Obama administration. "Comedy is like fashion - it changes and evolves. So, I wonder how [this new political movement] is going to affect our taste in comedy," said the showrunner, noting that it feels like there's almost a resistance movement in comedy today.
"Do you think they're going to cancel us?" Sofia Vergara joked of the Trump administration, adding to laughs from the crowd: "They'll deport me for sure."