When “Glee” and “Modern Family” earned their Peabody kudos in March, “Family” co-creator Steve Levitan joked that the shows were eventually going to have to settle their burgeoning rivalry with a “spirited dance fight.”
That fight would probably make a good pay-per-view offering now that both shows have capped their charmed frosh seasons with a passel of Primetime Emmy nominations. “Glee” led all series with 19 bids; “Modern Family” wasn’t far behind with 14.
The shows share more than a common studio, 20th Century Fox TV. Both have large ensemble casts that swarmed Emmy’s comedy acting categories — and both were considered risky bets for their respective nets.
Fox’s “Glee” broke the curse of “Cop Rock” by proving that tuners can work in a primetime series format. ABC’s “Modern Family” was the first purely domestic laffer to click with auds in a long time.
Although the “Family” pilot had strong buzz in the creative community, there was skepticism about whether the show could maintain its mockumentary format without getting tiresome. By the time the Delgado-Pritchett/Dunphy/Pritchett-Tucker clan gathered for the family portrait and mud fight that was the focus of the show’s season finale, those doubts were long gone.
There is a healthy rivalry between the shows, but it’s a friendly one. It helps that they don’t have to compete for studio turf — “Glee” shoots on the Paramount lot, “Family” at 20th — and it really helps that both have achieved an impressive level of acclaim and ratings in a short time.
Twentieth Century Fox TV chairs Gary Newman and Dana Walden have likened the situation to being the parents of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and having to watch them play each other — in the Wednesday 9 p.m. timeslot.
“I feel like Dana and Gary are the parents of two very loud, bossy daughters. I think I’m Serena and (“Family”) is Venus,” Murphy said. “But I’m thrilled for them. We were both shows that should not have worked. When we were both doing our pilots, people around town were saying, ‘Why are you doing that? It’ll never work.’ … I do feel like we’re a part of the same family — we’re always at the same events, and we hang out together.”
Levitan shares Murphy’s sentiment. “We both lament the fact that we are constantly put in this position where we have to compete — not that we’re complaining,” Levitan said.
There’s a little more fire to the competish among the thesps. “Glee” landed lead comedy acting noms for Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele. In the supporting comedy actor heat, “Family’s” Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet will go up against “Glee’s” Chris Colfer. For supporting actress, “Family’s” Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara will square off against “Glee’s” Jane Lynch. They’ll also go at it in the comedy guest star field (“Family’s” Fred Willard, “Glee’s” Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenoweth and Mike O’Malley) and for comedy writing, directing and casting kudos.
“It’s like the Mets and the Yankees — and we get to be the Mets,” quipped Burrell (a die-hard Mets fan). Stonestreet added a little sass: “We know as a cast that we are funny, and ‘Glee’ must know they are funny if they are being mentioned next to us,” he said.
Much like her onscreen character, Michele found a way to accentuate the positive.
“It is so important to have these shows on TV that are so different from anything else and work for both fans and critics,” she said.”Glee” has the edge on “Family” in the looks department, grabbing two bids in both the hairstyling and makeup categories.
For the parents, it’ll be a long seven weeks until the winners are announced on Aug. 29.
“Gary and I love our children equally,” Walden said. “In a perfect world, it wouldn’t have been my choice to have these two shows competing against each other. But we didn’t have the luxury of picking different categories for the shows.”
Newman jokes that his experience as the father of twins has come in handy of late.
“The funny thing is that as a parent of twins, you’re usually as happy as your least happy child,” he said. “Fortunately, in this case, both children are very happy. We’ll do everything in our power to support both shows.”
(Justin Kroll and Stuart Levine contributed to this report.)