"TV was missing a show the whole family could watch," Carroll said. "And TV was missing a show that wasn't so specific in its sense of humor. 'Modern Family' deals with everyday circumstances, not someone going back to community college, or a quirky person running an office, or people at a TV show. Those are well-done shows, but pretty much everyone knows what it's like to have a family."
The success this fall, which included an Emmy as best supporting comedy actress for Bowen, is making for a happy set at 20th Century Fox, where the sitcom is filmed. But nobody is taking it for granted or thinking it's forever.
"From our perspective, we're just doing our show," says Winer, who also serves as an executive producer. "Everybody is working really hard to be these characters, to write these scripts, to direct these episodes, and to edit them. And we're in a great groove and we're having fun doing that. And it's exciting that people talk about 'the effect' that it's having out there in the world — and the fact that it's succeeding on a critical and commercial level. But we have to remind ourselves that all that stuff — that's beyond our control."
The show's actors, who have mostly found fame late in long careers (with O'Neill as the most obvious exception, having starred on "Married … With Children" for 11 seasons), are also appreciative but cautious.
"I'm the great naysayer on set," said Bowen, who previously appeared on NBC's "Ed" and ABC's "Boston Legal." "I'm always looking for the backlash and for things to go terribly wrong. I've been on the darling that became the not darling. I've been on the one that never quite got off the ground. I've been on the one that sort of middled around for a while. I've been on those, so I'm prepared for it, I'm waiting for it."
Yvonne Villarreal is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.