The upcoming 10th season of “Modern Family” looked as though it would definitely be the show’s last. Earlier this year, while celebrating the 200th episode, “Modern Family” showrunners Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd said as much.
“Our plan is to end it at 10,” Levitan told the Hollywood Reporter in January. “If we can leave with most of our audience wanting more, I think that’s the right way to do it. Never say never, but I just can’t imagine that we’d go past that.”
Well, start imagining. This is network TV, and “Modern Family” remains an extremely important show for ABC. The network uses the series, which continues to draw ratings, to anchor Wednesday nights and launch other series. Plus, it won five best-comedy Emmys and still carries the air of network prestige.
Now, according to ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey, ABC would really, really, really like an 11th season. “I think that there is a sense that we all would like to do one more season if we can find a way for a deal that makes sense,” Dungey said at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. “This current season is the last season that we have the cast, so if we are to do another season there are more deals to be made, and we are trying to work through all that.”
It seems like now is the time for me to remind you that resisting network pressure — i.e. lots of love and money — is a rare thing. Back in 1997, Jerry Seinfeld made headlines for his exceptional behavior — refusing a 10th season of “Seinfeld,” despite NBC’s offer of $5 million per episode. ‘I wanted to end the show on the same kind of peak we’ve been doing it on for years,’’ Seinfeld told the New York Times back then. ‘’I wanted the end to be from a point of strength. I wanted the end to be graceful.’’
Seinfeld said he was committed to the stand-up comedy notion of leaving the audience wanting more — a notion Levitan also cited when he spoke of ending the series at 10.
While I hope Levitan and Lloyd stick to their guns, I’m betting they will cave. And that would be too bad. “Modern Family” hasn’t been in top form for a few seasons now, as the cast ages and their characters just seem to keep going through the same motions. As the networks come up with fewer and fewer hits, they are clinging to the oldies — CBS’s reported efforts to extend “The Big Bang Theory” to 13 seasons, for example, as it enters its 12th.
I get it. But the thought of network TV as a lineup of antique series, revivals, and reboots, all harkening back to better times, is a sad one. Are the networks becoming the Miss Havishams of TV?Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.