[02/26/10 - 07:00 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: ABC's "Modern Family"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

7:08 PM - This year marks another change in venue for the Paley Festival - this time to the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. (My only complaint so far: $10 for parking? Really? Tickets are already $25-$75 depending on where you want to sit.) As always, each night begins with a clip from the Paley Center's archives. Not surprisingly, tonight's comes from the 1987 pilot to "Married... With Children."

7:17 PM - The Paley Center's Pat Mitchell greets the audience and intros tonight's moderator, "Access Hollywood's" Billy Bush. He professes his - and his wife's - love for the show. He in turn brings out "Modern Family" co-creator Steve Levitan, who's brought with him next week's episode, "Fears."

7:48 PM - Watching in a packed theatre may bias this but "Fears" just might be the show's best yet. In either case, Billy returns to bring out tonight's panel: Steve Levitan! Jason Winer! Julie Bowen! Ty Burrell! Sofia Vergara! Ed O'Neill! Jesse Tyler Ferguson! Eric Stonestreet!

7:51 PM - Billy asks if anyone doesn't like seeing themselves on the big screen. "I don't ever like to see my Frankenbrow," Ty quips.

7:53 PM - Steve on the origins of the show: "[Christopher Lloyd and I] would come in the morning and sort of look at each other for a while and then sort of started telling stories about what was happening in our lives. And I think it started from there. I think it started from the pure place of there are a lot of good things happening in our lives right now, a lot of interesting stories every day - why don't we just write about that? I think when you start from a place like that - just real and honest - good things tend to happen."

7:55 PM - Ed on agreeing to be Jay: "I never wanted to do another half-hour show because, you know, 11 years [on 'Married... With Children'] is a long time to do a half-hour comedy... And I got a copy of the script and when I read it I thought, 'Oh my God, I've gotta go back to work.' And I really didn't want to. Because to be honest with you I didn't know how to play the part. I mean when I read Jay - I'm 63 - and I thought in my own life I don't know what it is to be 63. [They said] you'll be with this beautiful [woman] Sofia Vergara. [I thought], well, that makes perfect sense."

7:57 PM - Billy on the absence of co-star Rico Rodriguez tonight: " He's preparing for a night of clubbing so he couldn't make it."

7:59 PM - "I have a little bit of a hole to dig myself out of with the ladies," the heterosexual Eric quips about his dating life. "I'm appreciative of all my fans, no matter how much hair they have on their back."

8:03 PM - Jesse on how he came to the show: "The previous season I had a bad experience on a sitcom. Not 'The Class.' I was ready to kind of go back to New York and do theatre and I got this script and it was just one of those things where it just falls in your lap and you're like, 'Oh my God, this is amazing!' But then - I know Ed was offer only - but then there's an audition process."

8:04 PM - Julie on the best part of the show: "We shoot really short hours. I know it sounds like I want to get paid more for doing less but it stays fresher that way. We go in and we just do it and all of a sudden it's over. And you don't get to the end of the day [where] you've beaten the scene to death, looking for the jokes over and over again. We just find it very quickly and we're done. It's the most fun I've ever had."

8:05 PM - Ed on his "L.A. Dragnet" experience: "I did 'Dragnet' with Dick Wolf on ABC... I had never done an hour procedural. And I was Joe Friday so you followed me around and it was 12-14 hours a day every since day. Seven, eight scenes a day. And I remember after about eight weeks Dick Wolf came and said, 'How's it going?' And I said, 'They built the pyramids like this.'"

8:09 PM - Steve asks Eric to demonstrate his transformation into Cameron. He proceeds to stand up and scratch his junk area, Steve says "action," and Eric glides into a Cameron state. Funny stuff.

8:10 PM - Eric confirms that Cameron is a somewhat of an impersonation of his mom. "She's very passionate. She's a real person, she's not a character. She's excitable. I always say the moment in the pilot that most is my mom is when we walk into the [baby's] room and see the mural and I just say, 'Oh my God, do you love it?'"

8:11 PM - Ty on what separates him and Phil: "The biggest difference is that it's kind of a vacation to play Phil because Phil sort of has like his brain is sort of a meadow. I'm a neurotic mess. It's like going on vacation. But I'm also an idiot so that helps."

8:12 PM - Steve on Phil's origins: "I have a warm place in my heart for the dorky dad who scores a hot wife. I think that Claire needed Phil to balance her out... Claire can go to a dark place if left to her own devices I believe... the children of Jay and Dede when left to their own devices would go to a very dark place so they both chose very confident people to balance them out."

8:15 PM - Sofia on the Jay/Gloria relationship: "They do get something out of each out. I mean, it's obvious what he gets from me."

8:19 PM - Jesse teases Eric that he was cast first. Eric fires back that Jesse is always concerned that people think they are dating in real life. "Who cares?" Eric quips. "You're just maybe being accused of having [me be your type]. I'm being accused of being with someone who's not my sexual preference." Jesse adds that they originally met for coffee only to realize halfway through it was Valentine's Day.

8:22 PM - Steve points to "Will & Grace" as being a pioneer for the Cameron/Mitchell relationship. "I remember seeing the pilot and it was really funny but [I thought] boy, is America ready for this? And they sure didn't care... I think they broke down enormous barriers and I think the best thing we can do on that front is just present two people who are responsible parents, who are likeable, who are in a committed relationship."

8:25 PM - Everyone says the biggest compliment they get from fans is that they watch it with their families. Eric adds, "We're not curing caner but we're giving rickets a good shot."

8:29 PM - Ty on his most unique fan experience: "My wife and I were in New York City about two weeks ago and we were walking through Central Park. And we're walking through one of those tunnels in Central Park and there's this essentially a homeless guy fiddling. He's got like two strings on the violin. He's like [makes crazy fiddlin' sound]. Just like jibberish. It makes no sense, you can't tell what he's playing. We get close to him and he's like, [makes crazy fiddlin' sound], and he stops and he goes, 'Not since 'Frasier' has a show come on the air so completely confident about [drowned out by laughs] I'm sorry guy from my imagination. Maybe you slipped me some peyote. He had this incredibly well-formed thought about the show and I was like, 'Alright buddy.'"

8:34 PM - Eric on the "moon landing": "[My friend] flew in from Kansas City and it was like nine o'clock on a Friday night and he flew in, landed at LAX, got in a car, came to 20th Century Fox, to see me and Ed touching asses. I said, 'You know, work hard, believe in yourself and maybe one day you too can [touch asses with a television icon].'" Steve adds that, like many of the show's stories, that one was based on one of their writers' experiences, Bill Wrubel. Jason also notes that they actually had to fight with ABC to get the pixilation rather than a blur.

8:37 PM - Steve reveals a friend of his was at a function in Washington, D.C. and he spotted someone with a "Clive Bigsby" nametag. Said man confessed he was a "Modern Family" fan.

8:41 PM - Billy opens the floor for audience questions.

8:43 PM - No one is the resident prankster. Eric notes that they rarely get to work someone besides their partner/kids so they're just excited to see them.

8:46 PM - Julie on being a comedic actress: "I feel like I'm representing overstressed housewives who get naked once a year." Sofia adds, "I think it's important to not be afraid of looking like a fool." Julie fires back, "When do you look like a fool? Does fool in English mean the same thing in Spanish? [In Sofia's accent] Fool is a beautiful lady!"

8:47 PM - Ed gets in on the Sofia teasing: "She was being interviewed and I was in earshot of it. And the interviewer said, 'When did you first realize you were beautiful?' And she said, 'I always knew. [In Sofia's accent] I was beautiful, my grandma was beautiful, [everyone in my family] was beautiful!'"

8:49 PM - An audience member asks about the lack of physical affection between Mitchell and Cameron. "Chris and Steve and the creators, they have an arc to this show," Eric says. "And you're going to see everything you can ever imagine for [them]. We're going to have sex."

8:51 PM - Steve notes they get lots of guest stars requests however they'd rather focus on the cast. Jason adds, "Also it's fun to discover new comedic faces, we have to leave room for that. Like the skinny Santa in the Christmas episode. That was an actor who had done purely theatre and had very few television credits and he killed it."

8:53 PM - "Modern Family: The Lost Scenes." Ty and Steve reveal they shot an alternate version of the "High School Musical" scene in the pilot - since they weren't sure they could clear the song - in which Phil tries krumping. They hope to put on the DVD.

8:56 PM - Steve says Barkley, the dog butler, was also based on a real story. As was the remote control incident, causing him to give a shout-out to his wife. "To her left is my son who I shot with a BB gun. And to her right is my daughter who I walked into her bedroom in my underwear [while] she was video chatting with a friend. Chris's family is here. His son Owen has a burgundy smoking jacket."

8:58 PM - Steve on the show's format: "'Modern Family' is a family show told documentary style rather than a show that is pretending to be a real documentary for the simple reason that I love these characters. I'm very protective of these characters. And if these characters allowed cameras into their homes and into their children's rooms and into their bathroom, I wouldn't like them. So it's just a way of telling a story that has a little grit and edge. The documentary form, those interviews, allow you to cut to the chase in such a nice way. They have a pacing that gets through the exposition. So that's the main reason we do it."

9:01 PM - That's it folks! See you tomorrow for "Lost."

  [february 2010]  


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