The issue with having a show entitled Modern Family is that each episode has to resort to the conventions of a traditional sitcom but live up to the contemporary twist in its name. Some viewers and culture commentators have made very fair assessments on the ways that Modern Family is not, inherently, a very modern representation of an American family today.
Sure, there is a homosexual couple, but they often tread closely to stereotypes and rarely show any sensual emotions toward each other. Sure, May/December romances are rare, but the writers have mined surprisingly little comedy treasure with the Jay and Gloria dynamic, except for jokes comparing their ages and unsuitability for each other.
But for a series that tries to explain what constitutes a modern family, an episode like “iSpy” turns it into an especially dated sitcom. This episode would have fit on any network comedy airing in 2004; however, 10 years later, conflicts arising from characters worrying about family members invading the privacy settings on their cell phones feel antiquated.
Even adding an element of contemporary warfare, – a bit of drone technology – feels like a last-ditch plot device hoping to make the show feel more politically “relevant.” I did, however, appreciate Phil’s manic obsession with the new technology, since the best jokes in the episode fell around his old-fashioned gumption, whether it being a “Farewell to VHS Festival” he promotes for a family night in or his dated terms for marijuana.