Modern Family: 10 Things You Didn't Know About The First Episode

The cast of Modern Family (Image via ABC)
The cast of Modern Family (Image via ABC)

Modern Family is one of the most-watched sitcoms in American television history. A hilarious mockumentary-style sitcom, the show was an instant hit since the release of its pilot episode 'Pilot.' Since its premiere in September 2009, the show has gained popularity with dedicated fans globally, who still watch it on repeat.

Directed by Jason Winer and written by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, the pilot episode introduced the world to the Pritchetts, the Dunphys, the Delgados, and the Tucker-Pritchetts. The show revolves around the family members, their relationships, and the hilarious misadventures and chaos that ensues.

Here are ten things that you may not have known about the pilot episode.


10 things about the pilot episode that every Modern Family fan must know

1) Phil and Claire Dunphy were almost played by Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow

Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen as Phil and Claire Dunphy (Image via ABC)
Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen as Phil and Claire Dunphy (Image via ABC)

Although fans of Modern Family cannot imagine anyone replacing Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen as Phil and Claire Dunphy, the initial choices for the iconic roles were Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow of Friends fame.

LeBlanc chose to pass on the role as he felt he would not fit the character, while Kudrow passed on the chance after reading the script and not connecting to it.


2) Julie Bowen was pregnant while shooting the pilot

Julie Bowen in the pilot episode (Image via ABC)
Julie Bowen in the pilot episode (Image via ABC)

Julie Bowen was eight and a half months pregnant while shooting for the pilot episode. During an interview with People, she revealed that she doubted the chances of getting the role because of her pregnancy and even cried during her auditions.

In the pilot episode, Bowen wears oversized clothes and always carries a laundry basket, cereal boxes, or other objects to hide her pregnant belly.


3) Craig T. Nelson almost played the role of Jay Pritchett

Ed O'Neil and Craig T Nelson (Images via IMDb)
Ed O'Neil and Craig T Nelson (Images via IMDb)

Ed O'Neil plays the character of Jay Pritchett masterfully. From the very beginning, he portrays all the nuances and complexities as the patriarch, who starts as a narrow-minded, complex man who later softens and learns to accept the different members of his big family.

However, Craig Nelson was the initial choice for the role of Jay. Nelson refused the role after producers refused his demands for a higher salary, and O'Neil replaced him later.


4) Modern Family was pitched to three different networks

Modern Family (Image via ABC)
Modern Family (Image via ABC)

The creators of Modern Family had pitched the show to ABC, CBS, and NBC. While NBC reportedly rejected the script since they already had mockumentary-style shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, CBS passed it on as the network did not feel ready to do the series. ABC finally agreed to air the show.


5) The pilot episode won two Primetime Emmys

A still from the pilot episode (Image via ABC)
A still from the pilot episode (Image via ABC)

Modern Family's pilot episode was a hit among audiences and instantly propelled the show to stardom. Owing to its popularity, the pilot won two Primetime Emmys in 2010 for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing in a Series.

The director, Jason Winer, also won the Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series.


6) Lily’s adoption was not legally possible at the time

Cam and Lily (Image via ABC)
Cam and Lily (Image via ABC)

The pilot episode starts with Mitchell and Cam bringing their new baby home after adopting her in Vietnam. However, this would have been realistically impossible since Vietnam had strict adoption rules at the time.

At the time of the episode's airing, it was still illegal for single parents and same-sex couples to adopt children in Vietnam, which meant Lily's adoption was legally impossible.


7) The show was initially named 'My American Family'

The cast of Modern Family (Image via ABC)
The cast of Modern Family (Image via ABC)

The creators initially named the sitcom 'My American Family' while pitching the script to different television networks. The script was supposed to have a character called Geert Floorjte, a documentary filmmaker staying with the Pritchetts as an exchange student.

According to the initial script, Floorjte would document the lives of the three families, referring to them as his 'American family,' hence the title. However, the idea was dropped, and the show was renamed Modern Family.


8) Some of the sets were changed slightly after the pilot episode

The solid wall in the Dunphy house in the pilot (Image via ABC)
The solid wall in the Dunphy house in the pilot (Image via ABC)

Eagle-eyed fans have noticed that some of the sets seen during the pilot episode seemed slightly different in later episodes. One changed set was the Dunphy household. In the pilot, there is a solid wall next to the stairway. However, in later episodes, there appears to be an office space next to the stairway.

Similarly, Jay and Gloria's house also appears to have changed architectural structure as well as furniture.


9) The lead actors had made an award-show pact

The cast at an award show (Image via ABC)
The cast at an award show (Image via ABC)

The cast of Modern Family shares a deep bond, one maintained even after the show wrapped up. Since the sitcom functions as an ensemble show, the lead actors decided early on that they would all appear at award nominations as supporting actors.

This was to maintain the idea that all the cast members were equally important to the show's storyline, allowing them to work on an even playing field. Over the years, most of the lead cast members were nominated and awarded in Supporting Actor categories.


10) Baby Lily was played by twins

Baby Lily in the pilot (Image via ABC)
Baby Lily in the pilot (Image via ABC)

The Tucker-Pritchetts form an integral part of the sitcom's storyline, with special attention to the difficulties and pressures that Mitch and Cam have had to face as gay men from society as well as their own families. Their adopted daughter, Lily, becomes the focal point in their relationship, with the entire show tracking Lily's growth over the years.

During the pilot and first two seasons, the character of Lily was played by twin babies, Ella and Jaden Hiller. Since there are strict laws regarding child actors, two babies were required to shoot Lily's scenes. Aubrey Anderson-Emmons replaced the twins and played the character until the end of the show.


Although many years have passed since its release, Modern Family remains beloved by viewers. From its heartwarming storylines to the beautiful bond between the cast members, everything about the show contributes towards its success.

Modern Family is a must-watch for fans of the comedy and family life genre.

Quick Links

Edited by Sankalp