ABC
ABC

15 Surprising Facts About Modern Family

ABC
ABC

In the fall of 2009, ABC debuted a new sitcom called Modern Family. Except for TV veteran Ed O’Neill, it had no huge stars. And apart from its trendy mockumentary style, it promised no gimmicks. Yet this simple story of three families became a ratings hit and unbeatable Emmy winner for ABC.

1. THERE WAS AN EXPLANATION FOR THE MOCKUMENTARY STYLE.

Why are the Dunphys and Pritchetts always talking to the camera? There’s no reason, but originally, the show had one. Modern Family was initially conceived as a documentary shot by Geert Floorjte, a Dutch filmmaker who had lived with the Pritchetts years ago as a teenage exchange student and came back to the U.S. as an adult to film them. But Geert got cut before Modern Family entered production because show creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd (no, not the actor) decided he was unnecessary. The show was simply shot “documentary-style,” without the fictitious camera crew.

2. CRAIG T. NELSON WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF JAY PRITCHETT.

Like many things in Hollywood, Nelson's decision to pass on the project came down to money. "I really wanted to do Modern Family," Nelson said. "I really liked the script and I liked the people. I just said, ‘You know what? I’ve been doing this too long.’ We’re in the middle of a cutback here, ladies and gentlemen, in Hollywood and salaries have gone way, way down ... I just felt disrespected to tell you the truth." The next year, Nelson signed on for Parenthood.

3. ROB HUEBEL "AGGRESSIVELY TURNED DOWN" THE PART OF PHIL DUNPHY.

Rob Huebel was being considered for the part of Phil Dunphy, but "When I read the script for it, I just hated it," he told Splitsider. "That’s what an idiot I am. It’s the most popular show in the country, and I love that show now ... I’m just a f***in’ idiot because I read the script for it, and I didn’t even go into the audition because I just hated it so much. I told my agent I didn’t just wanna pass on it. I wanted him to call them and aggressively pass, which is not even a real thing." Clearly there were no hard feelings, as Huebel went on to play Glen Whipple, Phil’s nemesis, in one episode—fittingly titled “The One That Got Away."

4. JULIE BOWEN WAS VERY PREGNANT DURING THE FIRST EPISODE.

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When Julie Bowen auditioned for the role of Claire Dunphy, she was heavily pregnant with her twin sons Gus and John. Although she was convinced this would take her out of the running, she won the part anyway. But she still hadn’t reached her due date when it came time to shoot the pilot, so she masked her belly with strategic cereal boxes.

5. A SET OF TWINS PLAYED BABY LILY, AND THEY HATED IT.

Speaking of twins: Mitch and Cam’s adopted daughter Lily was initially played by twin sisters Ella and Jaden Hiller. The baby girls appeared in the series for the first two seasons, but acting quickly wore them out. As their mom Michelle explained to Woman’s Day, “Halfway through season two their personalities had started to develop, and it was really clear to us that they weren’t enjoying their time on set. So we told the producers the girls wouldn’t be coming back.” Those producers apparently tried to sway the Hillers with more money, but they wouldn’t budge. So Aubrey Anderson-Emmons was chosen as a replacement. She has played Lily ever since.

6. ERIC STONESTREET WAS FIZBO THE CLOWN AS A KID.

Stonestreet began dressing up as Fizbo when he was nine years old (his dream was to be a clown in the circus). By the time he was 11, he was performing at kids' birthday parties. "It was my way then as a young man to express my desire to entertain and perform," he told The Kansas City Star. "I didn’t know what I was saying then was that I wanted to be an actor. I had parents, fortunately, who didn’t think I was weird. They thought it was funny and cute and encouraged me to do it. And I had a grandma who would make my costumes." He's not sure where the name Fizbo came from.

7. THE WRITERS WROTE JESSE TYLER FERGUSON’S ATTEMPT AT COMING OUT INTO THE SHOW.

In real life, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (who producers initially wanted for the role of Cameron) had to come out to his father three times in order for him to accept it. So the writers made that part of Mitchell’s story on Modern Family.

8. SOFIA VERGARA THOUGHT ED O’NEILL SPOKE SPANISH.

Sofia Vergara watched Married ... with Children growing up in Colombia, where the voices were dubbed into Spanish. She didn’t realize that it wasn't Ed O’Neill saying Al Bundy’s lines in Spanish, and was surprised to find that he couldn’t speak her native language when they first met. “He had a very sexy Antonio Banderas voice, the guy who was dubbing him,” according to Vergara.

9. O’NEILL’S CHARACTERS HAVE BEEN READING THE SAME NEWSPAPER FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS.

Eagle-eyed viewers noticed that O'Neill's Jay reads the same prop newspaper on Modern Family that O’Neill’s Al Bundy read on Married...with Children.

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Many shows use the same prop newspaper because all of the photos and text have been cleared, legally. 

YouTube

10. THERE WAS A SECRET DOG SWITCH.

Jay and Gloria’s dog Stella was played by a French bulldog named Brigitte in seasons two and three, then replaced by another dog named Beatrice. The animal acting agency in charge of subleasing Brigitte dropped her as a client for unknown reasons.

11. LUKE DUNPHY IS ACTUALLY A GENIUS.

Nolan Gould’s character may not be bright, but Gould has been a member of Mensa since he was four years old. He has an IQ of 150 and graduated from high school when he was 13 years old.

12. THE SHOW IS ESPECIALLY POPULAR WITH RICH PEOPLE.

Each year, Nielsen tracks data on TV viewership to find out who’s watching which shows. After the company released its 2015 stats, Vulture discovered this interesting fact: rich people love Modern Family. It was the second most popular show among viewers in the 18-49 age bracket whose households earned an average annual income over $200,000. (The Walking Dead was number one.)

13. THERE’S AN INSIDE JOKE ABOUT ED O’NEILL’S JIU JITSU SKILLS.

In season one, Jay shows off his Brazilian jiu jitsu chops when he puts Mitchell in a sleeper hold. “I learned this choke from the Gracie brothers,” he tells Mitch. Jay is referencing the legendary Gracie martial arts family. The Brazilian clan has produced several generations of competitive fighters, who have passed on their techniques through the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in California. O’Neill is actually a student there. He’s a black belt now, but it took him a while to earn that status. Watch him recap his very first lesson here.

14. THERE WAS A FACEBOOK PETITION FOR MITCHELL AND CAMERON TO KISS.

In 2010, the “Let Cam & Mitchell Kiss on Modern Family!” Facebook petition was launched. In September of that year, the characters kissed on camera for the first time in the background of a scene.

15. LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA HAD A PRE-HAMILTON CAMEO.

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A full four years before Hamilton became the hottest Broadway ticket in town, the Modern Family casting team decided to tap Lin-Manuel Miranda for an episode. Miranda, who was little-known at the time, won casting director Jeff Greenberg over with his impressive knowledge of the show. “He came in and quoted episode after episode, line after line, joke after joke, and we loved him,” Greenberg told The Observer. He gave Miranda a part as Gloria’s dog trainer, and was rewarded handsomely. “Thank God we did [cast him] because now he gets me Hamilton tickets,” Greenberg said. “Lin remembered!”

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Revisit Your Teen Years With Vintage Sweet Valley High Editions
Always Fits
Always Fits

The '80s and '90s were a special time to be a reading-obsessed child. Young adult series like The Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High were in their prime (and spawning plenty of spinoffs and blatant knockoffs), with numerous books a year—Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal published 11 books in her series in 1984 alone.

You can't find original Sweet Valley High books on the shelves anymore (unless you want to read the tweaked re-release versions published in 2008), but fans of Jessica and Elizabeth no longer have to trawl eBay looking for nostalgic editions of their favorite installments of the series. Always Fits, a website that sells gifts it describes as “nostalgic, feminine, feminist and wonderful,” has tracked down as many vintage teen series from the '80s and '90s as it can, including a number of Sweet Valley High books.

A stack of Sweet Valley High books
Always Fits

The collection of books was sourced by the Always Fits team from vintage shops and thrift stores, and covers editions released between 1983 and 1994 (the series ran until 2003). While you can’t get a shiny new copy of books like Double Love, you can pretend that the slightly worn editions have been sitting on the bookshelf of your childhood bedroom all along.

Each of the Sweet Valley High books comes with an enamel pin inspired by the cover for one of the series's classic titles, Secrets. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose which installment you want—you’ll have to content yourself with a mystery pick, meaning that you may get In Love Again instead of Two-Boy Weekend. Hopefully you’re not trying to fill in that one hole from your childhood collection. (You may not be able to get Kidnapped by the Cult!, but it appears that Crash Landing!, with its amazingly ridiculous paralysis storyline, is available.)

The Sweet Valley High book-and-pin set is $18, or you can get a three-pack of random '80s books for the same price.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Love Connection
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Telepictures

Between September 19, 1983 and July 1, 1994, Chuck Woolery—who had been the original host of Wheel of Fortune back in 1975—hosted the syndicated, technologically advanced dating show Love Connection. (The show was briefly revived in 1998-1999, with Pat Bullard as host.) The premise featured either a single man or single woman who would watch audition tapes of three potential mates discussing what they look for in a significant other, and then pick one for a date. The producers would foot the bill, shelling out $75 for the blind date, which wasn’t taped. The one rule was that between the end of the date and when the couple appeared on the show together, they were not allowed to communicate—so as not to spoil the next phase.

A couple of weeks after the date, the guest would sit with Woolery in front of a studio audience and tell everybody about the date. The audience would vote on the three contestants, and if the audience agreed with the guest’s choice, Love Connection would offer to pay for a second date.

The show became known for its candor: Couples would sometimes go into explicit detail about their dates or even insult one another’s looks. Sometimes the dates were successful enough to lead to marriage and babies, and the show was so popular that by 1992, the video library had accrued more than 30,000 tapes “of people spilling their guts in five-minutes snippets.”

In 2017, Fox rebooted Love Connection with Andy Cohen at the helm; the second season started airing in May. But here are a few things you might not have known about the dating series that started it all.

1. AN AD FOR A VIDEO DATING SERVICE INSPIRED THE SHOW.

According to a 1986 People Magazine article, the idea for Love Connection came about when creator Eric Lieber spied an ad for a video dating service and wanted to cash in on the “countless desperate singles out there,” as the article states. “Everyone thinks of himself as a great judge of character and likes to put in two cents,” Lieber said. “There’s a little yenta in all of us.”

2. CONTESTANTS WERE GIVEN SOMETHING CALLED A PALIO SCORE.

Staff members would interview potential contestants and rate them on a PALIO score, which stands for personality, appearance, lifestyle, intelligence, and occupation. Depending on the results, the staff would rank the potential guests as either selectors or selectees.

3. IN 1987, THE FIRST OF MANY LOVE CONNECTION BABIES WAS BORN.

John Schultz and Kathleen Van Diggelen met on a Love Connection date, which didn’t end up airing. “They said, ‘John, she’s so flat, if you can’t rip her up on the set, we can’t use you,’” he told People in 1988. “I said, ‘I can’t do that.’” However, they got married on an episode of Hollywood Squares. As the article stated, “Their son, Zachary, became the first baby born to a Love Connection-mated couple.”

4. IT LED TO OTHER DATING SHOWS, LIKE THE BACHELOR.

Mike Fleiss not only created The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but he’s also responsible for reviving Love Connection. “I always had a soft spot for that show,” Fleiss told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. He said he was friends with Lieber and that the show inspired him to “venture into the romance TV space.” “I remember it being simple and effective,” he said about the original Love Connection. “And I remember wanting to find out what happened on those dates, the he said-she said of it all. It was intriguing.”

5. A FUTURE ACTOR FROM THE SOPRANOS WAS A CONTESTANT.

Lou Martini Jr., then known as Louis Azzara, became a contestant on the show during the late 1980s. He and his date, Angela, hit it off so well that they couldn’t keep their hands off one another during the show. Martini famously talked about her “private parts,” and she referred to him as “the man of my dreams.” The relationship didn’t last long, though. “I had just moved to LA and was not ready to commit to anything long-term," Martini commented under the YouTube clip. "The show was pushing me to ask her to marry me on the show!" If Martini looks familiar it’s because he went on to play Anthony Infante, Johnny Sack’s brother-in-law, on four episodes of season six of The Sopranos.

6. BEFORE THE SHOW WENT OFF THE AIR, A LOT OF CONTESTANTS GOT MARRIED.

During the same Entertainment Weekly interview, the magazine asked Woolery what the show’s “love stats” were, and he responded with 29 marriages, eight engagements, and 15 children, which wasn’t bad considering 2120 episodes had aired during its entire run. “When you think that it’s someone in our office putting people together through questionnaires and tapes, it’s incredible that one couple got married, much less 29,” he said.

7. CHUCK WOOLERY WAS AGAINST FEATURING SAME SEX COUPLES.

In a 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the interviewer asked him “Would you ever have gay couples on Love Connection?” Woolery said no. “You think it would work if a guy sat down and I said, ‘Well, so where did you meet and so and so?’ then I get to the end of the date and say, ‘Did you kiss?’ Give me a break,” he said. “Do you think America by and large is gonna identify with that? I don’t think that works at all.” What a difference a quarter-century makes. Andy Cohen, who is openly gay, asked Fox if it would be okay to feature gay singles on the new edition of Love Connection. Fox immediately agreed.

8. ERIC LIEBER LIKED THE SHOW’S “HONEST EMOTIONS.”

When asked about the show's winning formula, Lieber once said: “The show succeeds because we believe in honest emotions. And, admit it—we’re all a little voyeuristic and enjoy peeking into someone else’s life.”

9. IN LIVING COLOR DID A HILARIOUS PARODY OF THE SHOW.

In the first sketch during In Living Color's pilot—which aired April 15, 1990—Jim Carrey played Woolery in a Love Connection parody. Robin Givens (played by Kim Coles) went on a date with Mike Tyson (Keenan Ivory Wayans) and ended up marrying him during the date. (As we know from history, the real-life marriage didn’t go so well.) The audience had to vote for three men: Tyson, John Kennedy Jr., and, um, Donald Trump. Tyson won with 41 percent of the vote and Trump came in second with 34 percent.

10. A PSYCHOLOGIST THOUGHT THE SHOW HAD A “MAGICAL HOPEFULNESS” QUALITY.

In 1986, People Magazine interviewed psychologist and teacher Dr. Richard Buck about why people were attracted to Love Connection. “Combine the fantasy of finding the perfect person with the instant gratification of being on TV, and the two are a powerful lure,” he said. “There’s a magical hopefulness to the show.”

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