‘Modern Family’: A Modern Day 'Cosby Show’?

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It's that time of year again, when fledgling networks shows get put on the chopping block. Now in its third season, ABC's "Modern Family" continues to make the cut. So what is the secret to this half-hour sitcom's success? Last year, Variety compared "Modern Family" to the 1980s classic sitcom, "The Cosby Show." While "Cosby" paved the way as a powerful lead-in for any show that followed it during the five pivotal seasons when it was the number one sitcom on the air, "Modern Family" certainly isn't hurting the shows in its company on ABC's Wednesday night lineup. "Modern Family" currently airs smack in the middle of a two-hour Wednesday night comedy block. But aside from its lead-in status, what else does "Modern family" have in common with "Cosby"?


Both shows have main character moms who are named Claire. Of course, these two TV Claires couldn't be more different. "Cosby's" Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) was elegant and well spoken, an attorney who balanced work and home life to perfection. Who wasn't envious of her neatly coiffed hair and gorgeous living room? But she also wore the pants in the Huxtable family, especially when it came to hubby Cliff's junk-filled diet. On "Modern Family" we have the more fanatical Claire Dunphy. She's as competitive as Monica from "Friends." She gave up her career in management to raise her three kids, and sometimes her husband, Phil, is like one of her kids! This Claire gets wrapped up in neighborhood safety issues and is very protective of her family.

A kid-filled cast

And speaking of kids, both shows have the kid factor going for them. "The Cosby Show" featured a cast of kids that ranged from 5-year-old Rudy to all-grown-up Sondra. "Modern Family" features several sets of kids: the Dunphy three as well as Jay Pritchett's stepson, Manny, and Mitchell and Cam's adopted daughter, Lily. (Note: Lily may be getting a baby brother for Season 3!)

Parenting 101

Both shows feature plenty of parenting dilemmas. On "Cosby," Claire and Cliff dealt with everything from a dead family pet (a goldfish) to teenage drinking. On "Modern Family" we've seen raging teen hormones and sibling rivalry. Of course, according to "Modern Family's" Phil Dunphy, "peerenting" is the preferred parenting method. Act like a parent, talk like a peer.

But not everyone is raving when it comes to comparisons of "Modern Family" to "The Cosby Show." Washington Post writer Janice D'Arcy commented that "Modern Family" trades on "the absurdity of parenting" and called it "radically different than previous family sitcoms like 'Cosby.'" D'Arcy says that the earlier show reinforced that "a strong family unit, despite slight imperfections and frustrations, will make its members healthier, better people."

Looks like the Dunphys may need to go back to Peerenting 101!

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