How ‘Modern Family’ Enables Change by First Serving Comedy

Christopher Lloyd is a veteran of “Wings” and “Frasier” and, with Steven Levitan, is co-creator of “Modern Family.”

Outside of callow undergraduates and cowering S&M practitioners, nobody likes a lecture.

Which is why, from the outset, we were devoutly apolitical with Mitch and Cam on “Modern Family.” Of course, it was tempting to create some jowly, closed-minded antagonist, a Mr. Fox, say, and have Cam let loose with a pearly diatribe, his colored cuffs flailing. In truth, it was almost equally tempting to go at our pious pro-gay detractors who harangued us weekly for not making Mitch and Cam flawless men who paused only briefly from leading exemplary lives to bend each other over backward in a show of we’re-not-afraid-of-anyone’s-judgment love. Note to that camp: We didn’t do that not because we found it unseemly, but because it would have been unseemly in how unfunny it would have been.

Mitch and Cam were a couple, that was all. They struggled with careers, and family dynamics, and in raising a child, and in becoming less neurotic, and in being better partners to each other. That’s where the comedy lay and, if we served in any small way to move the needle in the right direction on gay rights, that’s where it was slyly done — in having Mitch and Cam be utterly, non-aggressively recognizable.

We had a moment in season one where we braced for a backlash from the network and the public alike. It was inevitable: The scene called for Mitch and Cam to be in bed together. It wasn’t so long ago that Rob and Laura Petrie slept in twin beds, so to see a homosexual couple in a California king was bracing, to say the least. Except for this: The scene was simply about Cam and Mitch trying to get their daughter to sleep through the night by letting her cry herself out, and Cam was finding it near impossible to hear the wails of baby Lily through the speaker in his room, and with Mitch rubbing his back, encouraging him, and Cam clutching the speaker and now crying desperately himself, we had a hilarious scene, but perhaps more importantly, a universal scene.

And no one said a word against it. Because they saw what we had always seen: two good-hearted, imperfect people fighting their way through one of life’s challenges, and finding, as we always do, that it’s just a little easier when you get to do it with someone else.

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