It may feel like there’s a channel on your television dedicated to showing Modern Family around the clock, but that’s just your imagination. Now in its eighth season, the show is closing in on 200 episodes, a mark only 32 other fictional episodic primetime shows have achieved. You’re watching a classic, people, even if it’s always on.
Like any other billion dollar enterprise, there are plenty of moving parts and some of them involve pieces that those in charge don’t want you to know about. Some are major, such as just how much money the people who are on the show make and some are minor, like continuity errors in the show, with plenty of secrets thrown in between.
The best part about secrets is when you confront people with them. In Hollywood, there are two routes to take when confronted with a secret. The first is to simply deny. The second is to act like something was never a secret in the first place. Producers of Modern Family and its cast members have taken various strategies when confronted with the secrets in this list. Either way, the cat’s out of the bag now. Here are 15 Modern Family Secrets Producers Were Hoping to Keep Under Wraps.
15. Something looks different here
In an episode from the early seasons of Modern Family, middle child Alex, played by Ariel Winter, was wearing a sweater that belonged to her sister Haley, played by Sarah Hyland. Haley made a joke that Alex was flat-chested which was just weird because even as a 15-year-old, Winter’s breasts were huge and she was not far from her eventual breast reduction surgery when that episode was shot. She decided to get the operation done in June 2015 when she was 17 and explained to Glamour magazine she felt out of place. “I was 15 years old with (size) F (breasts). It’s like ‘How do you navigate that?’” Once Winter turned 18, though, she had no trouble navigating the lens of any camera that was willing to take pictures of her wearing cleavage-busting outfits. Imagine how much crazier it could have been without the operation.
14. The Dunphy Twins that almost were
If you happen to catch the pilot episode of Modern Family one of the 700 times it airs during the week in syndication, check out Julie Bowen’s midsection. While she was playing Mom to three kids who’d all been residents of this planet for years, she was actually just days away from delivering twins when the Modern Family pilot was shot. Since pilots are one-offs, producers knew Bowen wouldn’t be pregnant if the show was actually picked up for broadcast, so they simply did their best to hide her behind the kitchen counter and laundry baskets to hide the fact she was carrying around a set of potential Dunphys. Think how different the show would have been if it began with twins being introduced to the mix and there were five kids living in that household instead of three. We’re glad producers chose to just look the other way.
13. It takes a genius to look this dumb
While Two And a Half Men took a lot of flack for deciding to turn the character of Jake into an idiot after a few seasons of being fairly normal-witted, we have to give Modern Family credit that they’ve never presented youngest son Luke Dunphy as anything other than a not exactly book smart guy. He’s not a moron, and they’ve never gone dark and had him diagnosed with anything, but he’s presented as someone who certainly doesn’t view his grades in school as nearly important as his sister Alex. Ironically, the actor who plays Luke, Nolan Gould, has an IQ of over 150, which makes him a genius on most scales. Think about it. Luke is actually a genius. Why is Nolan Gould not being nominated for and winning an Emmy every year? He’s clearly a brilliant actor because we thought this kid was genuinely stupid and just got lucky with the job…sort of the way we think the same thing with Sarah Hyland.
12. It was almost Coach, not Al Bundy
It’s hard to imagine anybody other than Ed O’Neill in the role of Jay Pritchett, patriarch of the family coming to grips with a changing world and the evolving definition of what “family” means, but if producers had their way, the actor who was best known for his role of Al Bundy up to that point would never have been see on Modern Family. They wanted to have Craig T. Nelson who is probably best known as the lead character in the show Coach and as the father from the Poltergeist movies, to take the role of Jay Pritchett. He liked the role but it came down to money. Cable and the internet had already started eating into ratings and with a new show featuring a large cast, producers simply weren’t able to offer him a per-episode allowance he was looking for. We like Nelson, but it’s hard to imagine anybody but Ed O’Neill in the role.
11. Keeping pace with her co-workers
No, it had nothing to do with having to play Adam Sandler’s love interest in her first major role back in Happy Gilmore. Julie Bowen actually had a pacemaker installed before she ever locked lips with the man who got in a fist-fight with Bob Barker in the great golf classic, second only to Caddyshack. Bowen was diagnosed in her 20s with a heartbeat that – while technically not irregular – can drop to dangerously slow levels. If this happens, the pacemaker gives the old ticker a little jolt and causes the most important muscle in her body to get back on a more normal, safe pattern. She doesn’t talk about the condition very much in interviews, although there was an entire episode dedicated to Claire having an irregular heartbeat. It’s just one of many real-life scenarios that has found its way onto the screen, but we’ll get to more of those further down this list. For now, let’s just be glad there’s something that keeps her ticker ticking.
10. This guest star may have been Toxic
The list of guest stars on Modern Family reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood. The latest big name was Peyton Manning as “Coach Gary” who gets Jay to buy into his shed business, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s been Kevin Hart, Greg Kinnear, Shelly Long, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta and even the voice of Barbara Streisand. One person they put an offer out to back in Season 3 was Britney Spears but apparently she was too slow to respond to producers, who had to move on planning out the season so Spears found herself on the sidelines without a role. Producers have never expanded upon what the role might have been for the diva and if it would have been one episode or if she would have been involved for a storyline arc. Either way, we think it was much more Spears’ loss than the show’s.
9. Adoption? Kidnapping? Whatever.
It’s hard to put together a television show, especially when it’s first being put on the air and everybody is giving their two cents on what would make it the best, from the network, to producers, to writers, to the actors, to fans watching at home. Who has the time to make sure that every little piece of information presented is factually? For instance, gay couple Cam and Mitchell bring their newly adopted daughter Lily back from Vietnam in the pilot episode of the series. It’s nice to see how far we’ve come as a society until you realize, Vietnam hadn’t come that far yet. When the pilot aired neither single people nor same sex couples could adopt children. So, if you want to get technical, what likely happened was that the first episode of Modern Family makes reference to a kidnapping, not an actual adoption and we’ve been watching a hostage situation for almost 10 years.
8. There are other fish in the sea
Sarah Hyland is certainly a cutie, although the longer Modern Family is on the air the more she seems to be looking like ET. Hyland, who has always played several years young than she actually is, has had her fair share of health problems in her life, mainly with her kidneys, but never tried to hide it. In most interviews, she talked about how awesome her boyfriend Matt Prokop was in standing by her side. Then he stood a little too close. When things finally went bad, he didn’t take it well and Hyland was forced to file a restraining order claiming he was physically and verbally abusive during their multi-year relationship. At one point, according to court documents, Hyland was in such fear she called cast members over to her house and her TV mom, Julie Bowen, saw Prokop behave in a way you wouldn’t want your daughter’s boyfriend – even if she is just your daughter on TV – to act.
7. Sofia Vergara wasn’t hired for her brains
Sofia Vergara is crazy hot, nobody is going to dispute that and between her hefty paycheck for doing Modern Family and her commercials for whoever will pay her a lot of money to sell their stuff – Pepsi, Head and Shoulders, Aguilera Beer to name three – she was the highest paid woman on television in 2017. But, you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be the highest paid woman. Vergara first became acquainted with Ed O’Neill, who plays her husband on the show, when he played Al Bundy on the television show Married with Children and she saw episodes when she was younger living in Colombia. When she first met Ed she was shocked that he not only didn’t have the same voice she heard on television, he didn’t even speak Spanish. Vergara didn’t realize that Married with Children was dubbed into Spanish.
6. OK, producers, are they even married?
We admit, we love continuity errors. We love sitting in the movie theater and pointing out when an object has moved in a scene or when a stain on an actor’s shirt suddenly disappears or the glass is suddenly full of water even though somebody just drank it. When a show like Modern Family is shown on 20 channels three hours a day, it gives us plenty of chances to study the show far too closely and we’ve found a few inconsistencies that the producers really need to step up and explain. The biggest would be when Claire and Phil were married. In the 2009 pilot they said they were married for 16 years. That would mean they got married in 1993. But, in a 2014 episode, Phil says he proposed in 1994. We know Haley was conceived out of wedlock and she graduated in 2012 (and was likely 18) so that means she was conceived in 1993. We’re confused. We’d like to see a marriage license. Did they kidnap these children like Cam and Mitchell may have done to Lily?
5. It’s a different dog
If there’s one thing we love, it’s French Bulldogs, but that’s probably for a different list our editor would claim nobody would read. People tend to make a big deal when actors get switched and the characters just pretend it’s the same person – take Becky on Roseanne for instance – but it really bothers us when they switch animals on TV shows and everybody acts like it’s the same darn pet. They did this at Modern Family with Jay’s French Bulldog, Stella, but we were actually able to find out a reason. It turns out that the dog (real name: Brigitte) was dropped by its agency. We can’t imagine how it was that difficult to deal with, but instead of trying to track down the real Stella, producers seemed to be under the racist belief that all French Bulldogs look the same. The imposter Stella is now played by a dog really named Beatrice.
4. A modern family tragedy
Before she turned 18 and started to court as many photos of her butt cheeks and cleavage as possible – not that we’re complaining – the only headlines Ariel Winter could get were about her dysfunctional home life. At age 15 she sought emancipation from her mother charging both mental and physical abuse, along with mishandling of her daughter’s funds from the show. Winter’s mom, Chrisoula Workman, said the allegations were baseless and invented after she caught Winter in bed at 14 years old with her 18-year-old boyfriend. Winter’s brother took Mom’s side and her sister took hers. The courts agreed to allow the emancipation and Winter moved in with her sister Shanelle Gray, who served as her guardian until Winter turned 18. Winter told Good Morning America that she has not spoke to her mother or brother since the judgement came down and didn’t expect to reconcile.
3. A lot of the stories are based in reality
One of the reasons Modern Family has been so successful for nearly a decade is because there is a believability factor despite the craziness that is seen in every episode. It’s because it’s realistic craziness taken from the actors’ and producers’ real lives. We mentioned earlier that an entire episode made reference to the fact Julie Bowen actually has a heart condition, but that’s just scratching the surface of the things that have snuck their way into scripts. One of the biggest was the running joke that Jay kept forgetting Mitchell was gay. Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson told producers he had to come out to his father multiple times and producers loved the story so much they made it part of the character, the same way they made Cameron a clown named Fizbo after they found out actor Eric Stonestreet actually played a clown when he was younger. Producers are very tight-lipped on what might be inspired by real life when it comes to sharing their inspiration.
2. Watch the reruns, writers!
If we can sit there and barely pay attention to the USA Network airing Modern Family 20 hours per day when wrestling and NCIS isn’t on and pick up on continuity errors, how is it that none of the people who make the show can pick up on them? We’re going to include Ty Burrell on this once, who plays Phil Dunphy. In one of our favorite episodes when he’s feeling down on himself, he decides to teach himself to walk on a tightrope 10 feet above the ground, making his family proud and giving us all a warm family deep inside. It also gave us a warm feeling two seasons earlier when, in one of those interviews they do with the camera, he told us that he was an expert tightrope walker, having mastered the art at trapeze camp. Granted, this was a private one-on-one interview the rest of the family couldn’t hear. Maybe this is just a dark little joke that those of us who pay close attention are supposed to enjoy. Phil’s not an honest family man. He’s a liar. He probably has something on the side with Gloria, too.
1. We’re in the wrong business
If there’s one thing producers like to keep quiet, it’s how much cast members earn, especially among other cast members when you’re look at an ensemble show. When they get popular, like Cheers or Friends did, they suddenly get very, very expensive to make. Like Ted Danson on Cheers or Courtney Cox on Friends, Ed O’Neill was brought in as the “name” making more money than any other cast member, but once the show took off, everybody wanted more money. O’Neill supposedly took a cut, but got a piece of the syndication money on the back-end, likely making him crazy rich. Eventually, all adult cast members reached the point they were being paid $150,000 per episode. If you figure there are six adults and 26 episodes per season – and that’s before you pay any of the half-dozen kids – or anybody else in the crew – you’ve got a very, very expensive show. No wonder the producers don’t like to talk about money.