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iPadgate!

OK, not really. ABC, 20th Century Fox TV and "Modern Family" producers all swear up and down that no money exchanged hands, and nothing of a sinister or nefarious nature was attached to Wednesday's iPad placement on the sitcom. Apple also confirms that it didn't pay a dime for the placement.

What's more likely: "Modern Family" producers were eager to score a bit of association with the hottest, must-have gadget of the moment. It was indeed integrated well into the show, where it's wholly believable that Ty Burrell's character Phil Dunphy — who was desperate to receive one as a birthday present — would lust for the product.

"It was a fun opportunity and organically fit with the storyline and Phil’s
character who loves the latest technology…and birthdays," an ABC spokesperson said.

Now, perhaps the producers went a touch overboard with the Apple/iPad adoration — hence all the media attention today. And some might argue that it's actually a bit crazy that ABC and 20th didn't receive some scratch from Apple, given the iPad's amazing presence on air. (AdAge estimates that the value of iPad's "Modern Family" appearance may have been worth $1 million to $2 million.)

But Apple has never needed to pay for product placement — given the number of creative types who worship at the altar of Mac, the company hasn't needed to. Remember when the Apple computers on "Seinfeld's" desk evolved with every new iteration? (That even includes the recent "Curb Your Enthusiasm" storyline, when a fresh iMac was parked in Jerry's re-built apartment set.)

It's not unheard for shows to showcase a product without any actual negotiated placement. In the case of "Seinfeld," that show was notorious for its unpaid placements — such as Junior Mints and Kenny Rogers Roasters, both of which fueled entire storylines.

Abcipad Helping spread the conspiracy theories this time around: Not only is Steve Jobs on the Disney board, but ABC today announced the new "ABC Player App" for iPad. The ABC Player will play at least 20 Alphabet net shows on the iPad, including… yes, "Modern Family."

But people, you're missing the REAL stunning product placement on Wednesday's episode: The Grove! 

Julie Bowen's character, Claire, even mentions hitting the Apple store "at the Grove" (and a scene with her in line for the product was clearly shot at the Fairfax-area shopping center). When was the last time a real-life local shopping mall got such great attention in a TV episode?

Hmm, somebody check and see if Rick Caruso is on the Disney board too.

Below, it's The Grove on "Modern Family."

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