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'Modern Family' ends a first great season tonight

"Modern Family," the Peabody-Award-winning ABC comedy, ends its freshman season tonight with an episode directed by Baltimore's Jason Winer.

Winer, who is also an executive producer, put this series on the map in September with a pilot that earned him a Directors Guild award. Tonight's episode isn't in a league with the pilot, but great pilot episodes are practically a genre unto themselves -- and most episodes could never measure up in terms of the time and planning that pilots usually have.

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But tonight's episode  is a reminder of how much fun, energy and enlightened thinking this series brought to the land of network sitcoms this TV year.

Titled "Family Portrait," the half hour features Clair (played by Julie Bowen, another Baltimore native), trying to arrange a family portrait. Only no one in the family seems to share Clair's determination to make the picture perfect.

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This really is a showcase episode for Bowen, one of prime-time network TV's most engaging performers.

Best moments: On the lawn when the family finally gathers for the shot, and a clever montage crafted by Winer that features Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) as a wedding singer while Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) battles a pigeon that has inadvertently flown into their home.

As I write this, I am thinking that montage sounds screwy on paper. But I admire the inventiveness that Winer brings to staging the scenes -- and onscreen, it works.

Let me know what you think after the show.

"Modern Family" airs at 9 tonight on ABC.

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