While its recent Emmy sweep was well-deserved, “Modern Family” may never be as good as the new-to-disc sophomore season. Because roughly halfway into the current airing one, the show has failed to be anything but a hair above average, and sometimes going a week without a single laugh.
But that second season was fairly solid, especially when Phil and Claire Dunphy (respectively played by Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen, both of whom won well-deserved Emmys for their work that year) were placed front and center. From being caught in the throes of sexual intercourse by their kids to going all out for Halloween or literally racing one another to a restaurant to see whose route is faster, they are the show’s MVP’s.
Sofia Vergara may get the press (understandable with all that va-va-voom going on) and the story line of the two dads (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson) with the adopted Asian daughter is commendable and needed to open America’s eyes, but the Burrell/Bowen team is its glue. I’d almost rather see a sitcom just about that part of the fam; they could carry it.
The three-disc set contains a wealth of deleted scenes, a fun gag reel and a table read of the “Strangers on a Treadmill” episode. That sees all the actors sitting at one long table across a stage, literally going through the script to an appreciative audience, but for me, it destroys the illusion.
As much as I urge you to skip that extra, I doubly urge you to try “The League.” While not family-friendly viewing by any means, the FX cable series makes me laugh harder than any current sitcom, save “Parks and Recreation.”
It follows a group of friends ensconced, to say the least, in a fantasy football league. I haven’t a clue how fantasy football works and don’t care to, and such knowledge is not required to hop aboard. The five guys (and one gal, the winning Katie Aselton) are so lovingly cruel toward one another, big laughs are assured, provided you’re comfortable with comedy of discomfort. It’s kind of like the danger vibe of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” crossed with the structure of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
With season two, it’s another season of fantasy football. As with season one, the first episode is all about the draft, this time taking them to Las Vegas. The trip reeks of a “Hangover” hanger-on, making it the one weak spot in an otherwise stellar 13-episode run. Highlights included ruining their high school reunion, ruining an anniversary party, ruining a courtroom trial and even ruining Christmas.
Best of all is the near-ruining of the entire league, as arrogant attorney Ruxin (a droll Nick Kroll) is forced by his “hot wife,” as he calls her (Nadine Velasquez, “My Name Is Earl”), to let her brother join. The problem is that her brother, Rafi, is a potentially insane slacker/loser/addict, played to the hilt by comedian Jason Mantzoukas (who co-hosts the terrific “How Did This Get Made?” bad-movie podcast with “League” co-star Paul Scheer).
The partially improvised, razor-sharp delivery makes lines like the below hurt your sides:
• “I remember your prom date. She looked like Brian Dennehy.”
• “Think of me as your University of Phoenix.”
• “You look like gay Iron Man.”
• “He’s like an ethnic, homeless Santa Claus.”
• “You look like a crafty sexual predator.”
Dive in, and you’ll learn the meaning behind such “League”-invented phrases as “murder boner” and “vinegar strokes.” They, not to mention the series, should be secrets no longer! —Rod Lott