After three consecutive Emmys for top comedy series, you’d think producers of “Modern Family” would feel pressure to maintain their winning streak, but exec producer Christopher Lloyd says the real pressure involves retaining the quality.
“We don’t want to find people saying, ‘Oh. They’re telling that story again. Didn’t we already see those people in that situation?’” says Lloyd, who shares showrunning duties with Steven Levitan. “But at the same time, we don’t want to so radically change the characters or what we’re exploring so much that it feels like a different series.”
Fortunately, kids grow up. Manny and Luke are about to enter high school, baby Lily is now a full-fledged character, and Jay and Gloria have a baby. Each stage of life brings new comic opportunities. Like Haley dating an older man — one of Lloyd’s favorite moments from last season.
“It happened in the episode where we were introducing the baby,” Lloyd says. “I think everyone thought the birth would be the emotional moment of the episode, but it wound up being something completely different.”
After struggling not make a fuss about Haley’s older boyfriend, Phil loses it. Says Lloyd: “It reaches this really affecting place where he can simply not allow it. He comes back and says he wants more for his little girl. She overhears that and gets essentially what she wanted.”
Another season highlight: when Luke decides to quit doing magic, but Phil won’t let him quit unless he can master the Butler’s Escape. “Luke’s so frustrated, like any teenager ever, and goes, ‘You guys drive me crazy! I hate you guys,’ then throws this thing down, there’s this huge puff of smoke and he disappears into the middle of it. That’s a moment that will make me laugh forever, any time I see it,” Lloyd says.
Serendipity struck when Matthew Broderick guest starred as a man assuming he’s on a date with Phil.
“It culminated in a scene where they took their shirts off and had a big hug while watching a football game,” Lloyd recalls. “It was very hard for them to get through it without laughing. But I think that laughter, in a way, wound up engendering the whole scene with nervous energy — which is certainly what those characters would have been feeling in that moment.”
While creating fresh stories grows more challenging each year, Lloyd says everyone at “Modern” is up for the task.
“If you’d told me when this show began that we’d win three Emmys, I would not have believed you,” he says. “We feel blessed, but at the same time we’re competitive and we work for this kind of recognition. Our fingers are crossed going into the awards. Who knows what will happen, but we’re really grateful that we’re still in the conversation.”