Ranking Modern Family Members
Modern Family is a sitcom and for sitcoms characters are essential. Thankfully, the characters of Modern Family are mostly likable and they work as a family overall due to some great dynamics and interactions between them. Not all of them are great as some (especially kids) are either unlikable or very weakly developed, but most are pretty good and the best of them are both lovable and complex.
In creating this list, I excluded some characters. Joe isn’t in nearly enough episodes to qualify as he was basically just present in the seventh season so far and even there he wasn’t emphasized a whole lot. I also did not include any pets here as one of my main issues with this show has constantly been its handling of animals and pets within a family and I just never got the sense that they were a part of the family as the show creators are obviously not animal lovers. So Stella is not going to be on this list despite having a couple of episodes concerning her, but still not enough. But at least she got some episodes to herself which is more than can be said for Larry if anyone can even remember him.
Another point I have to make is that there were four things I calculated into each character’s placement: the overall personality of the character, his or her development throughout the seasons, the presence or lack of humor and the interactions that he/she’s had with the rest of the family. So without further ado, here is my ranking of all eleven Modern Family characters.
Of course the last place belongs to this very troublesome kid. Mitch and Cam are obviously obsessed with parenting and the fact that their kid herself is so annoying and so weakly developed only further adds to the frustration that I’ve felt regarding her. Yes, she can be funny at times, but she’s just too annoying for the most part and sometimes even plainly unlikable, she isn’t given enough development and what is the most frustrating thing is that most of the others in the family have little or no interaction with her. Due to all those reasons, she is easily the worst character of the show.
Luke is another troublesome character, even more so than Lily because he’s changed so much throughout the series’ run, but unfortunately only for the worse. The earlier MF years saw him being a stupid, cute kid and the relationship between him and Phil was so great to watch. But everything changed when he hit puberty and Luke lost all of his charm and that relationship with his father. He became annoying and even strongly unlikable in some episodes, his development is so weak and the show focused rarely on him and when they did, his parts were unfunny and irritating. He is the only truly weak link of the Dunphy bunch.
Manny is admittedly an interesting character. This is the point on the list where we move to plain bad to just weak characters and Manny is definitely far from awful, but still far from great. I really like his personality and even though it doesn’t lend to a lot of the humor, he can be funny from time to time and the fact that he is basically an old soul does lead to many interesting and funny scenes throughout the show’s run. I also really like his relationship with Gloria as it was unhealthy, but very realistic. So he is quite solid, but he is so far down the list mostly for the fact that his character, along with Luke’s, is ruined in a couple of recent seasons and the frequent emphasis on the pairing between the two produced many annoying subplots.
Everything I said about Manny can also be applied to Alex as she also is an interesting, but frequently poorly used character. I really liked the mix of geek and arrogance in her personality and the fact that she is the only truly smart person in this show led to many hilarious moments. She also interacts pretty well with the others (Phil and Haley are the highlights). But the reason why she is very disappointing is because the directors just never knew what to do with her, resulting in many repetitive and very boring subplots. And the fact that her family is basically ignoring her constantly is funny, but mostly just too brutal and unfortunate.
Mitch is probably the biggest straight character on the show because he is usually the voice of reason and rarely do episodes feature him in more comedic roles. That is perfectly fine, however, as shows need characters such as his and he does solidly counteract the other characters, especially Cam. He is pretty good in the earlier seasons, but I found him as well as Cam to gradually worsen as the series progressed. Also, the fact that he doesn’t interact with the rest of the characters nearly as strongly or as enough as he should is the main reason why he’s so low on this list.
Coming in at the middle of the list is Gloria. She is such a polarizing character to me. On the one hand, I find most of her episodes to be funny and she does bring a lot of the energy and humor to the series. And her interactions with Jay and Claire in particular are very strong. But on the other hand, she is basically a Colombian stereotype and she hasn’t really matured or moved from that distinction throughout the seasons. She is the one person here that I’ve had a very different opinion on which varied from episode to episode as she is quite likable and funny at times, but also sometimes pretty unlikable and annoying.
My biggest problem with Claire has been the frequent sexist portrayal of her, most evidently in the fourth season. She was too much of a typical nagging housewife in earlier seasons and she was too unlikable and even just horrible during the aforementioned season. But she managed to progress a lot during the last couple of seasons as she got a job and genuinely became a nicer person. I also really liked her crazy sense of humor, her relationship with Phil is fantastic as is her relationship with Jay. Thanks to all of those reasons, she is one of the better MF characters and she in the end takes the number five spot.
And the highest spot for a kid of course belongs to Haley as she is easily the best and most well developed and likable younger member of the family. She seemed like a clichéd ditzy, superficial teenager at first, but as critics pointed out, she became so much more than that later on and she became so endearing to follow. Her relationship with Andy, although prolonged, was rewarding to follow and her interactions with the rest of the Dunphy family were constantly very good. Her storylines did not only offer emotional and character driven parts, but frequently solid humor as well.
Cam is again a stereotype. However, as is the case with most of the other family members here, his characterization transcended those clichés and led to a genuinely funny and likable character. He became progressively worse throughout the years, but during those earlier seasons, he was such a great comedic relief and his energetic and over-the-top character and the clash with the rest of the more serious characters did lead to many hilarious moments. He is easily the best person in that weakest family of the three and he is probably the most well realized character here in terms of personality and hobbies.
Jay’s dry sense of humor is absolutely fantastic as it was the most realistic type of humor and I respected him all the more for it. He is such a different character from the rest of the bunch and that juxtaposition of modern versus traditional was very well established and explored. He is the best when interacting with the others, most notably Gloria and Phil. His and Phil’s growing relationship is easily the most emotionally rewarding and well developed relationship in the entire series. He is not only realistic, but also very funny. His storylines were frequently some of the best on the show and he would be the best character here if it weren’t of course for…
And yes, the number one spot is the obvious one, but sometimes the obvious is the only one that counts. And Phil is the major reason why this show works. You do get a lot of the laughs from most of the cast members here, but Ty Burrell easily provided the majority of those. His endearingly childlike sense of wonder and his evident good nature and care toward others is a great mix in a wonderful personality. His more goofy and slapstick humor perfectly clashes with other types of humor and watching him interact with other more realistic and serious characters was pure gold. Modern Family benefits from quite good character development overall, but it succeeds mostly because of Phil as he is the heart and soul of the show and there is nobody else who even comes close which is why this choice for the top spot should be universal in my opinion.