Give credit to brave ABC. The network is programming an entirely new night of TV on Wednesdays this fall, and, for the first time in years, it has scheduled four consecutive sitcoms, including one of the best new ones to come along in ages.
Even headstrong Braveheart wouldn't trot them all out at once, so two of the series, starring Frasier's Kelsey Grammer and Everybody Loves Raymond's Patricia Heaton, will wait till next week.
Tonight, the Dancing With the Stars results show, a reliable ratings winner, gives a comfy launch to the other two comedies and, at 10, Eastwick, an undistinguished TV remake of the bewitching 1987 feature that starred Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jack Nicholson.
The charming and funny Modern Family goes at 9, followed by Cougar Town, in which Courteney Cox and a talented cast fight bravely to survive in that familiar sitcom world of sex, sex, sex, sex, and sex.
The Census Bureau tells us that the old mom-dad-and-the-kids family is not the majority household anymore, but Modern Family gives us one anyway, a unit featuring Boston Legal's Julie Bowen as a no-nonsense mom determined to shield her daughter from the mistakes she made, and veteran Ty Burrell, who fails pretty miserably at being cool with the kids.
He's so proud that he knows all the dances from High School Musical. His kids cringe when he shows them off.
But wait, there's more. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, first among equals in CBS's late, lamented The Class, and Eric Stonestreet, who has guested on just about every TV series, are a gay couple, Mitch and Cameron, with a newly adopted baby.
Cam asked their friend Andre to paint the two of them as angels on the wall above the little girl's crib. Mitch doesn't like it. "Can you call Andre and have him paint something a little less gay?" he asks. "By the way, we've got to stop having friends with names like Andre."
Still not satisfied? Act now, and you'll also see Ed O'Neill, a more circumspect family man than he was in Married . . . With Children, and Colombian superstar Sofia Vergara as his firecracker young second wife. A hunky guy comes on to her at the kids' soccer game. "Oh, this must be your dad," he says to O'Neill, sitting in his little folding chair.
Any one of these families has the potential to power a decent sitcom, but Modern Family manages to juggle all three in a balancing act that is not just funny, but heartwarming, and when was the last time you saw that on TV?
Even the kids are good here. Sarah Hyland plays Bowen and Burrell's 15-year-old daughter. "Why are you guys yelling at us when we're way away upstairs?" she asks her parents, who are trying to organize family breakfast in the kitchen. "Just text me."
Rico Rodriguez is Vergara's 11-year-old, hopelessly smitten with 16-year-old Brenda Feldman. He writes her a love poem, rhyming "Brenda" and "agenda," and reads it to her at her job at Foto Fun at the mall.
Alas, she's no poetry lover, and she already has a boyfriend. But instead of telling all her friends so they can make fun of the pudgy little kid, she gives him a free trick photo of himself as an old-time sheriff.
There's no such gentle treatment for the lovelorn in Cougar Town, a title that the capable executive producer, Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Spin City), acknowledges might turn some people off. He needn't worry. The show itself has more than enough power to do that.
Cox is fortyish Jules, divorced, persuaded to go back on the prowl by her younger coworker (Busy Phillips). In a flash, she picks up a young guy, and soon thereafter marvels, "We had sex three times without you needing a nap or pills or anything. How fun is that?"
It becomes less fun when her son (the smooth-for-his-years Dan Byrd, late of Aliens in America) inadvertently interrupts them.
"Why don't you ever laugh at my jokes?" mom asks him at one point.
"Because they make me sad," he says.
Last, there's Eastwick, where one of TV's most common threesomes, a blonde (Rebecca Romijn), a brunette (Lindsay Price), and a redhead (Jaime Ray Newman), form a gorgeous, if unlikely, friendship and a mysterious man buys up everything in their old New England town. It's played on the same set that starred as Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls, and a billion other Warner Bros. productions.
Could the new guy be, oh, I don't know, let's see - the Devil?
Whoever he is, Paul Gross is no Jack Nicholson, nor even Ray Wise, the mischievous Old Nick of Reaper, canceled last season on the CW.
Our gals will turn out to be witches, and while they are innocuously enjoyable (as well as hot), it's hard to imagine them generating enough magic to keep this show around very long.