Why it's Time for the Emmys to Stop Fawning Over 'Modern Family'

Anne T. Donahue
Yahoo! TV Emmys Blog

Since its debut in 2009, "Modern Family" has cleaned up when it comes to awards season. This year alone, the ABC series is nominated for eight Emmys: (Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Nathan Lane), Outstanding Single-camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series, Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill, Ty Burrell), and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara).

That's a lot. Especially since "Modern Family" hasn't been exactly basking in critical praise lately. In January, an episode in which Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and Jay's (Ed O'Neill) son was christened was dubbed "borderline rude" and worked to perpetuate "some rather ignorant stereotypes" of Latinos when Gloria's sister and mother came to visit.

"In most episodes, Gloria's typical Colombian, I-lived-in-a-village jokes are tolerable because they're few and far between," wrote Paste's Dalene Rovenstine. "A whole episode of it from three women was not tolerable or funny in the slightest. Example: her sister asks where the garden is, and wants to wash her clothes in the river -- just because the woman is from a developing country does not mean she's an idiot."

Not that the "Modern Family" cast isn't aware of the show's problems. In a recent interview, Emmy nominee Julie Bowen commented on how the series is behind shows like "Glee" in terms of tackling gay issues, while even expressing her hope that co-star Sofia Vergara will finally earn an award of her own.

That said, it's time for another show to be dubbed this year's critical darling.

Family-based are difficult to get right in a TV landscape currently defined by alternative comedies like "Louie" and "Girls," or even sitcoms with stacked casts like "Parks and Recreation" (which, unbelievably, wasn't nominated for Best Comedy). For the record, "Modern Family" isn't a bad show. In fact, it's a good show -- a show performed by a talented cast, and written by talented writers. However, the beauty of comedy is that it acts not only as a cultural commentary, but that it keeps changing. Change is important if you want comedy to grow, and since "Modern Family" isn't even really tackling gay issues (despite promising to deal with gay marriage this season), it's time to look to series like "Girls," which addresses topics like OCD, or "Louie," which finds humour in day-to-day darkness.

Arguably, thanks to its sharp writing and quit wit (not to mention Julia Louis-Dreyfus's fantastic performance), HBO's "Veep" is also in need of a prize, while Tina Fey's last season of "30 Rock" is also deserving of recognition -- especially thanks to the series finale (and Jenna Maroney's rendition of "Rural Juror"). "Modern Family" may also have quick wit, but shows like "Veep" address and challenge gender roles consistently through Louis-Dreyfus's character's complexities and strong mindedness.

"Modern Family's" female characters, on the other hand, are now struggling to define themselves other than by "wife," "daughter," "mother," and "student" -- which, yes, are identities women have, but the sitcom does not push the boundaries in ways that makes "Modern family" relevant or brilliant enough to sweep another Emmy ceremony.

Again, it's not that "Modern Family" is a bad show; it's that "Modern Family" needs to catch up to 2013. Upon its 2009 debut, the show challenged normal sitcom conventions by celebrating diversity within families. In 2013, it is stuck in its formula, while comedies that are darker, weirder, and more commanding fly by without any Emmy love. Perhaps this upcoming season will see "Modern Family" reinvent itself. But until then, it's time for the Emmys to recognize that "Modern Family" has stayed the same while other, less mainstream shows are actually trying new things when it comes to comedy. There's a reason "30 Rock," "Veep," "Louie," and "Girls" are critical darlings, and that's because they keep surprising and challenging us.

As for why "Big Bang Theory" is nominated again, now that's a real surprise.