Hooray for Modern American Parenting Portrayals.

By Meredith O’Brien


I adored Malcolm in the Middle, the show about a wacky married couple with four boys (two juvenile delinquents, one genius and one innocent object of his brothers’ harassment). The mom, Lois, a clerk at a big box store, frequently screamed at the kids and threatened them into behaving, one time making them lie on the floor with their heads sticking under the sofa where various moldy food remnants and other nasty things thrived until they ‘fessed up to a wrongdoing. The father, Hal, was a bumbling idiot with a big heart and momentary flashes of brilliance. The family was messy – literally and figuratively – and represented blue collar families that were once only seen on a show like Roseanne. Now that Malcolm has been off the air for a while – three years to be exact – I’ve been in the market for a new Malcolm-like comedy, a smart satire dramatizing family life with a hint of a sharp edge.


My search is now over, thanks to two new half-hour sitcoms on ABC on Wednesday nights: Modern Family and The Middle. If you want shows that make you feel good about how you parent, these two are for you as they showcase slightly off-kilter parents just trying to make it through their days with all the kids alive, housed, clothed, relatively educated and fed some manner of edible substance.


Modern Family has received heaps of critical buzz, and for good reason. After watching the first half dozen episodes, I’m hooked. Modern Family is like a big wheel whose center is one family and the spokes represent all its various off-shoots. Jay Pritchett -- the divorced father of two grown children, Mitchell Pritchett and Claire Dunphy – is at the center. Jay recently got married for a second time, to a woman named Gloria who’s the same age as Jay’s adult children. Gloria has a 10-year-old son Manny (a great young actor) from her first marriage. That makes Jay a stepfather to a child who’s as old as his grandchildren.