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Forgiveness and Folly: An Advance Review of This Week's Episode of "Modern Family"

In its few weeks on the air, ABC's warmly witty and imaginative comedy series Modern Family has quickly become one of the viewing highlights of my entire week, turning out some of the best crafted bon mots and well-constructed (if lovably flawed) characters on television. In the hands of its supremely gifted cast, the tangled relationships of the extended Pritchett-Dunphy clan are not only humorous but also touchingly realistic. They squabble, they feud, they make up, and occasionally they hit one another in the face with remote-controlled airplanes. The subtle beauty of the humor makes repeat viewing a necessity (blink and you could miss some truly stunning nuance) as well as a pleasure, making the Pritchetts one family that you want to spend time with week after week. (And really, I can't think of another recent comedy family that that's true of, other than the Bluths.) This week's hysterical episode of Modern Family ("The Incident"), which airs on Wedne

This Is How You Make Your Horsey Go: ABC Picks Up Full Seasons of "Modern Family," "Cougar Town," "The Middle"

Oh happy day! ABC has announced that it has ordered full seasons of three of its four new Wednesday comedies, including Modern Family, The Middle, and Cougar Town . News comes after the third airing of Modern Family and Cougar Town and the second episode of Patricia Heaton-led family comedy The Middle ; all have performed well in the ratings, even against tougher competition last night. Noticeably absent from the pickups: Kesley Grammer's Hank , which kicks off ABC's new Wednesday night comedy block on Wednesdays. It's a vote of confidence for a genre that ABC hasn't had a lot of luck with until this season and very well deserved, especially for Modern Family , regarded by many--including this jaded writer--as the best new series of the season. News of the pickups quickly spread over Twitter this afternoon, following tweets from Modern Family 's cast and crew.

Second Take: ABC's "Modern Family"

Second episodes of new series are always tricky. While the pilot gives both the network and viewers an idea of what the series will be encapsulated into a single episode, second installments are often hit-or-miss as they represent the everyday norm of the series: they're produced on smaller budgets with less time to write scripts, rehearse, and shoot. So when they work just as well as the pilot, there's a sense of relief for all parties involved. Last night's episode of ABC's hilarious and heartfelt comedy Modern Family ("The Bicycle Thief"), written by Bill Wrubel and directed by Jason Winer, didn't stray into the pitfalls of the second episode curse, instead delivering an episode that was overflowing with humor and heart and serviced the characters in beautifully touching ways. Given my feverish love for this series, I was curious to see just how the second episode would affect me and I'm happy to report that I am just as completely enamored of M

Channel Surfing: J.J. Abrams Back in Spy Game, Aylesworth Briefed for "Damages," FX Orders "Terriers," "Lights Out" to Series, and More

Welcome to your Thursday morning television briefing. The Wrap's Josef Adalian is reporting that J.J. Abrams is returning to the spy business with a new potential series project with writer/executive producer Josh Reims ( Felicity, Dirty Sexy Money ) and executive producer Bryan Burk that is the subject of a heated bidding war with several broadcast networks including ABC, NBC, and CBS. The untitled project, from Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot, follows a husband and wife who work as spies. According to Adalian, the script is described as a "fun romp" in the style of classic television spy adventures. ( The Wrap ) Entertainment Weekly 's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Reiko Aylesworth ( 24, Lost ) has been cast in Season Three of FX's legal drama Damages in a recurring role. Details about who Aylesworth--who starred in the original pilot for ABC drama series The Forgotten--will be playing are being kept firmly under wraps. ( Entertainment Weekly 's

Talk Back: Series Premiere of ABC's "Modern Family"

I hope all of you tuned in last night for the launch of comedy Modern Family on ABC. I've been praising Modern Family for months now (you can read my original advance review of the pilot episode here ) but now that the series has launched, I'm extremely curious to find out what all of you thought of this remarkable and hysterical new series. It's hands down my pick for the season's best new show, a fantastically taut series about the trials and tribulations (and humor) of family life in the new millennium. Did you enjoy the series' heady mix of deadpan humor and emotional heart? Did you like the mockumentary aspect? (I thought it worked better than, say, The Office has for the last few seasons.) Did the entire cast--from Ed O'Neill and Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, to Julie Bown and Ty Burrell (not to mention those kids!)--win you over with their overwhelming charm? Did you roar with laughter to Cameron's Lion King homage?

Tune-In Reminder: ABC's "Modern Family"

Just a quick and impassioned reminder to be sure to tune in to the series premiere of ABC's first-rate comedy Modern Family tonight. I've been raving about this series since I first saw the pilot in May (you can read my advance review here ) and I can't help but shout from the rooftops about this remarkable gem of a television series. (Hell, it gives me hope about the relevance of broadcast television and that's no mean feat.) I was interviewed recently by USA Weekend and asked which series I was most excited about this fall and Modern Family topped that list. "Hands down, this is my favorite new series so far," I said about Modern Family , which "has a winning combination of quirkiness, witty banter and heart. It explores how the post-nuclear family ticks and how universal bonds of love and frustration keep it all together." And it's delightfully funny to boot. So do yourself a favor and be sure to tune in tonight. You'll thank me in t

USA Weekend: "Which new TV shows are worth watching?"

You can check out my interview by USA Weekend 's Thomas J. Walter about the fall season here . I was interviewed along with The Futon Critic's Brian Ford Sullivan and Ain't It Cool News' Herc about which series were we most looking forward to this fall. Not surprisingly, two of the series I touted were ABC's Modern Family and V . Of Modern Family (which launches on Wednesday night), I said, "Hands down, this is my favorite new series so far," and that the series "has a winning combination of quirkiness, witty banter and heart. It explores how the post-nuclear family ticks and how universal bonds of love and frustration keep it all together." And V I described as "Gripping and electrifying in equal measure... With engaging leads such as Elizabeth Mitchell and Joel Gretsch, it's difficult not to get swept up by the action and the analogies for our changed world." The piece can be read in full here .

Channel Surfing: Ed Norton Drops By "Modern Family," Bryan Fuller and Bryan Singer Team Up at NBC, Anna Camp Heads to "The Office," and More

Welcome to your Thursday morning television briefing. Entertainment Weekly 's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Ed Norton will guest star on an upcoming episode of ABC's new comedy series Modern Family . Norton will play "the bassist of a famous band whom Claire (Julie Bowen) hires as an anniversary surprise for husband Phil (Ty Burrell)," writes Ausiello. His episode is slated to air in November. ( Entertainment Weekly 's Ausiello Files ) Pushing Daisies ' Bryan Fuller and Bryan Singer are teaming up to develop SelleVision , a comedic one-hour adaptation of Augusten Burrough's novel, which is set behind the scenes at a home shopping network. Fuller will write the pilot script while Singer is attached to direct; both will executive produce with Mark Bozek and Russell Nuce. Universal Media Studio is behind the adaptation. "We were all big fans of Augusten and the book, and we all got along great," Fuller told Variety . "So we decided to ge

Channel Surfing: "Sex and Murder" in the "Dollhouse," Same-Sex Snog for "Gossip Girl," Quinn Finds "Beautiful Life," and More

Welcome to your Wednesday television briefing. E! Online's Jennifer Godwin has a look at what lies ahead for FOX's Dollhouse as she catches up with the Joss Whedon-created series' stars to get some dirt on what's going on inside the Dollhouse next season. "They have a connection," said Tahmoh Penikett of Echo and Paul Ballard next season. "It's not a physical attraction, but I hope it's something that we explore a lot more this season. You're not quite sure what it is. There's a past, there's a history, there's an understanding between them that's very different. I think the audience is really going to like it and be really curious about where we're going in the first few episodes." As for that other would-be couple, Sierra and Victor, Enver Gjokah said, "Sierra and Victor are definitely still involved. They're going to explore that relationship more. They explore the Sierra-and-Victor love as dolls, but the

Channel Surfing: "Deadwood" Vet Gets "Lost," Syfy Expands "Warehouse," Shelley Long Gets "Modern Family," "Party Down," and More

Welcome to your (very early) Thursday morning television briefing. John Hawkes ( Deadwood ) has been cast in Season Six of ABC's Lost , where he will play Lennon, described by The Hollywood Reporter 's Nellie Andreeva as "the scruffy, edgy and charismatic spokesperson and translator for the president of a foreign corporation who is far more powerful than it seems from his position." Just what that means remains to be seen... ( Hollywood Reporter ) Syfy has ordered a second season of sci-fi dramedy Warehouse 13 , with thirteen episodes currently on order for next year. However, Syfy was quick to point out that that number could increase in later seasons. "We took a look at doing 20 episodes, but for logistic and financial reasons," Syfy's Dave Howe told Variety , "it didn't make sense to do that right now, but I wouldn't rule it out." ( Variety ) Holy comedy casting news! The Wrap's Joe Adalian is reporting that comedy legend Shel

Channel Surfing: Mystery Man in Black from "Lost" Talks, FX Aims for Hit with "Archer," "Harper's Island" Doomed, and More

Welcome to your Tuesday morning television briefing. TVGuide.com talks to Lost 's Titus Welliver, who played the mysterious man in black seen in the fifth season finale (that many of us are referring to as Esau). "The way that I interpreted it, on a biblical level, is that it's a sort of Cain-and-Abel scenario," said Welliver of the showdown between Jacob and his character. "So by destroying Jacob, what does that prove — that [the man in black] can ultimately have power over the island? Do the castaways become solely his playthings? And why was it so important that he find the loophole to be able to kill Jacob? That moved me in the direction of thinking that if he needs this loophole, there's a greater power than the two of them that they're answering to." ( TVGuide.com ) FX has ordered six episodes of animated comedy Archer (working title), about the eccentric employees of an international spy agency, from writer/executive producer Adam Reed. Pr

Pilot Inspektor: An Advance Review of ABC's "Modern Family"

I have to say that ABC may have offered the most memorable upfront presentation in recent years, not because of the self-deprecation comedy stylings of Jimmy Kimmel but because they pulled off what many thought was impossible: they showed an entire pilot to advertisers and press. At the upfront itself. Yesterday's upfront presentation , masterfully overseen by Anne Sweeney and Steve McPherson, led up to this groundbreaking moment by first showcasing the entire first act of its new drama series Flash Forward (a treat in itself) but then ABC went one step further by screening the full pilot episode of its new comedy Modern Family . Modern Family , from creators/executive producers Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan (who most recently collaborated on FOX's short-lived comedy Back to You ), tells the story of three very different families living in suburban America. Told in a mockumentary style that's clearly influenced by the work of director Christopher Guest, Modern Fam