Modern Family was a runaway success for ABC right out of the gate when it premiered in the fall of 2009, and ever since then, this heart-warming, hilarious, and progressive comedy has brought a sea of riches to ABC, including viewers, countless awards, and the critical acclaim that ABC hasn’t seen since the early days of Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s Anatomy.
The success of Modern Family for ABC also has its downsides. Is the great success of Modern Family effecting the success of ABC’s other spectacular comedies?
If you look at ABC’s current slate of comedies, it’s easily arguable that it’s one of the strongest comedy lineups on television. The Middle, Happy Endings, Suburgatory, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, and Cougar Town are all funny shows in their own right, if you actually sit down and watch a couple of episodes. However, it’s impossible for these shows to get the ratings they deserve because they’re all in the shadow of Modern Family.
The Middle, which premiered in 2009 with Modern Family on the networks newly created Wednesday night lineup, is a great show about middle America and the struggles middle class families have during a recession, raising a family on limited funds, and just trying to survive without killing their children. The Middle instantly was in Modern Family’s shadow since it didn’t quite find its stride until halfway through the season, while Modern Family was gaining stream throughout the summer before its premiere. Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Neil Flynn (Scurbs) as Mike and Frankie Heck give Emmy-worthy performances each week, but are continuously overlooked by the Academy, and viewers alike.
Cougar Town, which also premiered in 2009 with Modern Family and The Middle has had it the worst. Cougar Town aired as a lead-out to Modern Family at 930p.m. for two stellar seasons, but never got the ratings that the network expected it to get because it was airing after Modern Family. Critics love the show, the audiences hated it (much to do with the deceiving and terrible title). For two seasons Cougar Town can be consistently funnier than Modern Family on occasion, was treated like the ugly stepchild at ABC for its three season run, which is why TBS picked up the wine-soaked comedy for its fourth season before ABC’s eventual cancellation.
Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 both premiered after Modern Family in the spring of 2011 and 2012, respectively. However, these two comedies about up-and-coming-20-somethings living in a big city could have succeed without the help of Modern Family.
Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- aren’t family shows, so they were never the right fit for the post 930p.m. slot, which could be the reason their ratings were less than perfect their first seasons. Happy Endings actually seen a ratings gain during its second season airing after Modern Family, but its highest rated episode of the season “Spooky Endings” earned 8.3 million viewers, and a 3.0 in the 18-49 category – that was when Modern Family aired a repeat prior to Happy Endings. That furthers the notion that Happy Endings can stand alone as a show. The true test will be when it moves to Tuesdays this fall with Don’t Trust the B—-.
Modern Family is a wonderful platform to launch new comedies for ABC, and that’s why the network continues to try new comedies after it season after season – including this coming season with the new alien/family comedy The Neighbors. But if you actually look at it from a ratings standpoint, Cougar Town, Happy Endings, and Don’t Trust the B—- never succeed in the ratings after Modern Family – and all were on the fence for a renewal for their first seasons.
It’s quite possible that people just tune in to watch Modern Family on Wednesday nights – and that’s precisely the problem. These aforementioned shows all deserved to be viewed by larger audiences than they currently are because they all offer unexpected laughs that aren’t really advertised in the way that Modern Family is. Modern Family is the Emmy winner, a Golden Globe winner, and it’s the show that gets advertised excessively. But while Modern Family shines, ABC’s other stellar comedies are forced to take the backseat and just wait for the season where they get a chance to shine. The big question is, will they ever get that chance?