In the era of peak TV, it is no small feat for a series to reach 100 episodes, let alone 200, but it is an achievement that “Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan considers more of an “industry milestone than something our audience truly cares about.”
Therefore, Levitan and co-creator Christopher Lloyd didn’t feel the pressure to go physically all-out with a big stunt, like the time their 22-minute story was told completely through phone and computer screens (the sixth season’s “Connection Lost”) or a location changer like family trips to Hawaii (the penultimate episode of season one, “Hawaii”) or Australia (season five’s “Australia”).
“Sometimes bigger doesn’t mean cannons are going off and volcanoes are erupting, it just means we’re doing bigger emotions,” Lloyd says. “So our production value can be quite small but we’re having really talked about, serious moments in the lives of our characters.”
The 200th episode, entitled “Dear Beloved Family,” explores one such serious life moment when Phil (Ty Burrell) lands in the hospital. Although he is only going in for gallbladder surgery, his family begins to spin out around him in various ways as they realize the organ may be unnecessary but the complications that can come with the procedure are very real.
“The episode is mostly a show about death,” Lloyd says. “Jay and Gloria’s story is sitting with Joe and explaining this concept that’s very heavy for him, and that winds up to leading to some of the funniest scenes in the show.”
Meanwhile, characters Manny (Rico Rodriguez), Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) see mortality in a new light. While it inspires the youngest of that trio to be bolder and take more risks, the couple ends up speculating about who they might end up with if their spouse dies prematurely.
And Phil’s family finds old tapes he made each time he was in a precarious situation, saying goodbye just in case it was the end.
“There’s a sort of reflective [nature] to a health scare that goes hand-in-hand with the looking back feeling and taking stock of where we are,” Lloyd explains.
In fact, such reflection has been key to many episodes, per Levitan, because it is those “memorable, sweet, heartfelt moments” that he feels stick with the audience the most and have led the show to the success that allows for milestones like this in the first place.