“Do we pick up our Emmys tonight?” joked Modern Family writer/executive producer Brad Walsh, hanging out with the team just before co-creator Steven Levitan, actors and writer/producers took the stage for tonight’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences panel on Emmy’s 5-time winner for Outstanding Comedy Series at the Zanuck Theater on the Fox Lot.
Despite the obviously heavily sarcastic remark from Walsh there were no Emmys tonight but ATAS members were treated to an advance screening of the season finale episode, American Skyper, followed by a lively panel hosted by Deadline’s own Dominic Patten. On the panel: Co-creator Steven Levitan; cast members Ed O’Neill, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Ariel Winter and Nolan Gould, and writer/EPs Walsh, Danny Zucker and Abraham Higginbotham and writer/producer Elaine Ko (writer of American Skyper).
Cast member Rico Rodriguez appeared to greet guests on the carpet before the panel, but left before the event. Other cast members were off working on other projects. And co-creator Christopher Lloyd worked the carpet but, as is his habit, disappeared before the panel (he hates awards shows and similar public appearances).
No spoilers — but as the episode title suggests, American Skyper (airing Wednesday) follows the Modern Family tradition of playing off the latest technology. It also takes the relationship of Haley and Andy to an even higher level of frustration.
Last season was bookended by Mitch and Cam’s engagement and wedding. Levitan said that this season involved multiple stories but the writers decided to make the Haley-Andy saga the cliffhanger.
The writers said they would continue to mine their own lives for material. In answer to an audience question, Higginbotham said that he is most proud of the Mitch and Cam story, which mirrors his own. After joking: “The gay will talk,” Higginbotham said Mitch and Cam’s struggle to be perfect parents “Is just funny.” He said the relationship was never intended as social commentary added to applause that he is proud this flawed marriage reveals that gay couples can be “as f *** ed up as everyone else.”
Bowen praised the writers for being able to turn out a full network season of 24 episodes, as compared with the 10 or 13 ordered by cable TV or other viewing platforms. In turn, Higginbotham praised the team of actors for being genuinely funny human beings compared with other shows where the cast includes at least one “dolt who doesn’t know how to land a joke.”
Prompted by an audience question, the actors offered a few acting tips, such as getting as much theater experience as possible. Advice from Levitan to his cast and crew? “When in doubt, take Olympic.”