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  • Acceptable Targets:
    • Colombians get an interesting treatment. On one hand, Gloria is one of the most sympathetic and positively-portrayed characters on the show. On the other, all Colombians know how to spot a fake crime scene and smuggle illegal goods onto an airplane. Gloria lampshades this by saying "Because, in Colombia, we trip over goats and we kill people in the street. Do you know how offensive that is? Like we're Peruvians!"
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    • Subverted in a later episode where Gloria admits that she exaggerates a lot of the time for entertainment.
  • Actor Shipping:
    • Sarah and Adam are shipped quite a bit in real life. Due to their chemistry together, some people are shocked to discover that they aren't actually dating.
    • The actors that play each married couple are shipped together.
  • Awesome Music:
    • "In the Moonlight".
    • Cameron singing Ave Maria whilst Mitchell simultaneously attempts to kick a pigeon's ass in slow motion.
    • In the Season 5 episode "The Late Show", we see two scenes where they sing Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight and the Pips, one with the kids and the other with the adults at the end.
    • The season 2 episode "Bixby's Back" which ends with Dylan and Haley reuniting after he serenades her with a rock ballad outside her house on Valentine's Day, and a nice little montage of the other couples to close out the episode.
      "Imagine me NAKEEEEEED! I imagine you NUUUUUUUUUDE!"
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  • Bait-and-Switch: The show is amazing at subverting the typical sitcom plots and punchlines. Just generally, the show is such a subversion of the cliche family sitcom.
  • Cargo Ship: Played with hilariously In-Universe with Jay and Barkley, the dog butler.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: "Man Shouldn't Lie" features a Christian Rock Band performing an anti-gay anthem. That's offensively outdated. However, Cameron (a gay man) helping said band perform their song being oblivious to it's content until the lyrics reach "man shouldn't lie with another man" and his awkward reaction afterwards. That offensively hilarious!
  • Ear Worm:
    • "In the Moonlight" is so catchy, even Haley's grandpa ends up singing about how much Dylan wants to do her.
    • Phil getting autotuned.
      "I, like a lot of men in this town, enjoy making love to my wife-ife."
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    • Dylan serenading Haley on Valentine's Day with "Imagine Me Naked". It has a nifty little guitar solo!
    • Man shouldn't lie!!!
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Stella, Jay's adorable pet dog.
    • The gay Cameron played by a straight actor sometimes has him called this. The same occurs with the heavily accented Gloria.
    • Andy is extremely popular, due to being one of the most warm-hearted characters and being a part of the most popular storyline ever on the show. Seeing how perfect him and Haley are together, and facilitating her character development, plays a big part also.
    • Dylan, at times.
    • Mitch and Cam's friends, especially Pepper and Sal.
    • Phil's Dad, Frank
    • Ben and Margaret, Claire's co-workers.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Andy is by far the most beloved boyfriend of Haley, so much so that even Sarah Hyland has expressed how much she wanted Haley and Andy to end up together.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With The Office and Parks and Recreation. All are mockumentaries and very heart-warming and realistic in their comedy styles.
    • Also with How I Met Your Mother, as both are outstanding in subverting sitcom norms. Both are produced by 20th Century Fox and share a number of producers.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The fourth-season episode "Arrested" has a brief scene almost near the end when Haley returns to her room after being expelled from college six weeks into her freshman year. Alex sweetly tells her how happy she is that Haley's home again, a Heartwarming Moment that doesn't last as they almost immediately start feuding again. Within a week of that episode airing, it was disclosed that Ariel Winter, who plays Alex, had been removed from her mother's custody due to emotional and physical abuse and was now living with... her own older sister.
    • The very next episode, "Mistery Date," had a scene where Alex, after washing out of a Brain Bowl-type event unusually early, accuses her mother of trying to live through her. Again, a little hard to watch given what was really going on in the actress's life.
    • Sarah's real life boyfriend Matt Prokip played a guy trying to compete with Dylan to become Haley's new boyfriend (at the insistence of Claire) in the Disneyland episode. In September 2014 it was later revealed that Sarah and Matt broke up and that Sarah had filed a restraining order against Matt due to an extremely abusive relationship. Sarah had also asked Julie Bowen to intervene and provide protection and shelter to her due to the abusive circumstances of the relationship.
    • The jokes about Gloria's accent and inability to find the right words in English get less funny after her "do you even know how smart I am in Spanish?" speech.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • In Britain and Australia, the show is extremely popular, and a total media storm happened when they went to Australia.
    • Remarkably for a sitcom that has gay main characters, the show does spectacularly well in more conservative countries, which many attribute to its universally and family-friendly comedy.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-universe. Phil and his father Frank's jokes to explain Phil's mother's absence from web-cam chats and family visits ("She's sinking fast... in the tub, of course!") take on a much darker tone once she dies prior to the Season 4 finale, with Claire describing her death as "sudden, but not entirely unexpected". The knowledge that she's been ill for a long time can make it hard to re-watch some of those jocular conversations, knowing it's actually their way of dealing with the declining health of their wife and mother rather than just their usual brand of silly humour.
    • Claire's comment to Alex about needing a new training bra (whilst in front of the girl's peers) seems more acute after the news came out about Ariel Winter's mother verbally and physically abusing her, it was said she berated her daughter for her appearance and weight.
      • The training bra joke gets even harsher after Ariel Winter had a breast reduction after dealing with being objectified, fat-shamed, and for a size that fits her petite frame.
    • An episode with Phil and Claire trying to get to a Steely Dan concert, complete with Claire noting how much older "they" are getting, aired a whole month after Walter Becker's death.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Alex breaking down in Claire's arms in "Under Pressure" is this due to Julie Bowen being a support system for Ariel Winter following Ariel's legal battle and eventual emancipation from her mother. According to reports, Julie thinks of Ariel as her daughter and is a real mother-figure in her life.
    • Lily’s recasting was due to the original twins Ella and Jaden Hiller’s parents pulling them from the role, even as “Modern Family” was growing in popularity, when they saw the twins no longer enjoyed acting. (Though they’ve all mostly remained out of the public eye, but the last news heard about them said there were no regrets). Given what happened years later with Ariel, who briefly referred to her mother’s Stage Mom tendencies that led to her emancipation, it’s even more nice knowing the twins’ parents chose to put their children’s well-being ahead of money and fame.
  • He Really Can Act: Eric Stonestreet gets universal praise for playing Cam, despite being straight. Many people are so shocked that he isn't gay in real life.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The aforementioned training bra joke is also kind of funny due to the fact that, post-puberty, Ariel Winter has the second-largest chest in the cast.
    • In one episode, Phil and Claire try to enjoy their Guilty Pleasure of cheesy monster movies by seeing a film entitled "Croctopus". A few years later...
    • Sarah Hyland (Haley) and Laura Ashley Samuels (Beth) are best friends and have been for several years.
    • Sarah's boyfriends at the time- Matt Prokop and Dominic Sherwood- have guest-stared on the show, both playing Alex's love interests.
    • In one episode, the show mentions the movie "Finding Nemo." In 2016, the sequel "Finding Dory" features both Ed O'Neill (Jay) and Ty Burrell (Phil).
    • Dylan and Andy not only share a love for Haley, but their actors share a birthday: November 7.
    • Haley mentions that Andy looks like a LEGO. Adam would then later voice a LEGO in The LEGO Batman Movie.
    • One episode has Jay meeting Terry Bradshaw at jury duty, weeks after Barack Obama appeared at jury duty.
    • In the first episode, Alex jokes about Haley getting pregnant when she starts dating Dylan. Ten years later, she does get pregnant out of wedlock with Dylan.
  • Hollywood Homely: Alex refers to herself as less pretty than Haley, and is invariably treated as the uglier one of the two. She's really not any uglier than her sister. And then the actress hit puberty...
    • Claire is often treated as less beautiful than Gloria. Have they even seen how incredibly stunning Julie is?
  • Idiot Plot: "Three Turkeys" is entirely dependent on everyone in the family apparently not having a sense of smell, making them unable to tell a freshly cooked turkey is nearby, nor a sense of hearing, since they couldn't hear Jay and Gloria (in high heels!) dashing up and down the stairs dragging around a pair of rolling suitcases.
  • Informed Wrongness: In "Fight or Flight," Manny is being bullied at his cooking class by a guy who punched him in the groin hard enough to make him drop to the floor in pain. Jay teaches him to throw a punch so he can defend himself. The next time he goes to class, the bully comes up behind him and menacingly says, "Hey Delgado, you want a piece of this?" Manny turns and punches him in the face, after which it is revealed that the guy was offering him a piece of apple crumble as a way of apologizing for his earlier behavior, and that he was acting out because his parents were divorcing. Manny is horrified at what he did, and even Jay tries to eschew responsibility when he finds out what was going on, but it's pretty hard to sympathize with the bully. He says he felt bad about "teasing" Manny, but that's not what happened; he assaulted Manny in a pretty humiliating fashion. Maybe Manny shouldn't have been quite so fast to throw a punch, but the other boy was certainly old enough to know that violence has consequences.
  • Les Yay: In "The Wow Factor" when Claire and Cam attempt to outwit each other while trying to flip a house, Cam recruits Pam, an actual contractor who also happens to be a lesbian. In order for her to swing Claire's way, Claire "puts on a little show" for her by doing things such as showing off some skin, making her cleavage visible, and even "accidentally" spills water onto her white shirt.
  • Memetic Mutation: A gif of Gloria smacking Jay while screaming "I KNEW IIIIIIIIIIIIIT!" is a pretty popular reaction image.
    • Why The Face?
    • When life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like WHAT??!!
    • Phil'sophy
    • What the hell is that?!?! An alpaca! I got the last one!
    • I know all the dances to High School Musical so...
    • Luke, grab that little hoe
    • Today I get to talk about the love of my life... Residential real estate
    • ....Ooooohh it burns!!
    • "Shake it.... the container Cam."
    • Is Phil sexy?!
    • The entirety of Gloria, Cam, Mitch and Lily being in the Vietnamese restaurant.
    • IT SENDED!!!
    • "TAXI! They don't stop for me because I'm Latina." "Or because that was just a yellow car."
    • WHOOOOO!!
    • Whenever someone mentions something about a movie in 3D, expect this gif to show up.
    • I vaguely remember someone crying.
    "I'm playing a game. It's called 'every time I'm depressed, I take a drink."
    "That game exists. It's called alcoholism."
  • One-Scene Wonder: Stephen Merchant as the Vegas bellhop.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Haley was probably the least popular character in Seasons 1-4. However, the fact that getting expelled from college actually triggered some decent Character Development, coupled with her Will They or Won't They? dynamic with Andy, has given her a significant increase in popularity since then and she's since emerged as one of the most popular characters on the show.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • The Scrappy: Haley early on. Manny also fits in this trope, as his precocious adult-child character can easily come off as annoying, unrealistic and the actor's delivery oftentimes cringeworthy. Andy, with his very fake sounding happy-go lucky attitude, not to mention how hold his relationship above everyone as though it's 'real'.
  • Shipping: Averted in the first four seasons, due to the fact that nearly all of the characters in the show were, y'know, related, and that all three couples were long-term and very stable. Played Straight from Season 5 onward with Haley and Andy.
    • In real life, the whole cast all ship Haley and Andy together and they said that whenever Adam came on the show, that they were so excited to find out what would happen to Haley and Andy.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: "Snow Ball” gives us one that shows us that anyone can be a bully (including members of marginalized groups), anyone can be a victim of bullying, and sometimes bullies don't need a reason for what they do other than it feels good.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Due to Adam Devine's performance, Andy steals every scene he's in and is one of the most acclaimed recurring characters in recent history. His rare ability to have chemistry with the entire cast and his three-dimensional portrayal has many asking him to become a main character.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: In one episode, Phil and Claire are shopping and Phil turns to talk to an attractive woman. While doing so, he pushes the shopping cart into Claire knocking her over, and doesn't even notice because he's more concerned about the other woman, and when he finally does notice refuses to take any blame. Later, when they're arguing about it in front of the kids, they all instantly take Phil's side and spend the rest of the episode mocking her for "always having to be right" (even when she makes clearly factual statements like the Titanic hit an iceberg or how many fingers make five, not even Alex backs her up). Later, after tracking down video footage to prove her point, she's forced to admit she does always have to be right. Problem is, while getting surveillance camera footage was a ridiculously over the top response, the family had spent the entire episode being Jerkasses, and when Phil was given undeniable proof of what he'd done he instantly changed the subject, never facing the consequences.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: DeDe has always been a complicated character. Her rather outlandish behavior is sometimes too overbearing, even on a show that’s known for outsized characters. Her presence often only serves one purpose: to create chaos and push the other family members apart. She creates conflict and anger wherever she goes, and that leads to a lot of predictable storylines. However after 9 seasons of Character Development where the characters have not only learned to admit their faults, but that things weren’t always as bad as they said, she is the only one who is still constantly Playing the Victim Card. It's telling that, after she was revealed as the much-talked-up death in Season 10, many fans were underwhelmed or completely indifferent.
    • This came a head in the episode ‘’Mother.’’ The episode’s Aesop is supposed to be how hard and thankless it is to be a mother, yet DeDe comes off as a Karma Houdini for backpacking on Gloria's legitimate grievances and guilt-tripping Claire, who she involves in a Right Behind Me. The problem was that Gloria had a legitimate reason to be angry (Manny and Jay accidentally used her voice for the sound of their monster) and all she did was leave Manny’s script out for Jay to find. However DeDe’s actions come across as genuine emotional abuse. She also became friends with Cam specifically so she can manipulate Mitchell's decisions.
    • Andy in "White Christmas". It's hard to feel sorry for him when he finds out that Beth was cheating on him and he dumps her, as he was also cheating on her with Haley. He comes across as more of a massive Hypocrite than anything.
  • Values Dissonance: The ableist comments regarding Stephen Hawking (in the Season 2 episode "Slow Down Your Neighbors") and Temple Grandin (in the Season 6 episode "Halloween 3: Awesomeland").
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