For finale, ‘Modern Family’ goes hug wild

The Pritchetts and Dunphys close out an 11-season run by embracing the show’s traditions — and each other

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Claire (Julie Bowen) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) say goodbye on Wednesday’s episode of “Modern Family,” a series finale full of hugs and life-changing moments.

ABC

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

To the very end, it was a family affair.

Like so many other series finales, the two-part “Modern Family” was a jam-packed affair filled with landmark, life-changing moments in the lives of virtually every major character. It was a fittingly appropriate exercise in closure — for the three families and for those of us who welcomed this group into our own living rooms for more than a decade and saw so much of us in them.

The legendary motto of “Seinfeld” was “No hugging, no learning” (though that rule was sometimes broken), but on “Modern Family,” nary an episode went by without hugging, learning and often crying as well — not to mention a steady stream of laughs. In the finale, the show had fun with its penchant for heart-tugging moments, as a series of unexpected events kept prolonging a group goodbye for hours.

“Please, no hugs,” says Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) after the family had already embraced a few times, only to see an extension of their time together.

“You know the drill,” adds Jay (Ed O’Neill) in his trademark gruff tone. “Love, kiss, hugs, see ya Thanksgiving.”

In the usual “Modern Family” and classic sitcom formula, we had three running, sometimes interconnecting storylines. At a time when Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen) should be empty nesters, they’ve taken to living in the RV in the driveway, because their nest is overcrowded with Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Dylan (Reid Ewing) and their twin infants; Alex (Ariel Winter) having moved back home after taking a low-paying job, and Luke (Nolan Gould) still there because, well, he’s Luke and he’s as aimless as always.

Meanwhile, as Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and Manny (Rico Rodriguez) prepare to spend the summer in Colombia, Gloria is worried about Jay, who seems to be losing touch with reality. (The eventual explanation — Jay has been wearing an earpiece because he’s listening to an app teaching him to learn Spanish — conveniently ignores Jay started taking Spanish lessons way back in Season 6.)

As for Cam and Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), they’ve adopted a son and have settled into their dream home — and that’s when the University of North Central Missouri comes calling. Cam had been the runner-up for the head coaching job and graciously sent a bottle of scotch to the new coach, but as the athletic director informs Cam: “He drank it. Then he did a press conference where he used some colorful language to address a female reporter and blamed some things on the Jews.” Bottom line: The job is Cam’s for the taking.

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Alex (Ariel Winter, left) and Haley (Sarah Hyland) prank their brother, Luke (Nolan Gould), into playing a dog on video on the series finale of “Modern Family.”

ABC

We won’t get into other plot machinations, other than to say the extended family that for more than 10 years has spent nearly every holiday, every graduation, every birthday together, is suddenly facing a tomorrow in which they’ll be hundreds and even thousands of miles apart from each other. The poignant drama is lightened by a sprinkling of silly comedic detours, which are funny enough but also a reminder this show has reached its natural conclusion.

One of my favorite things about “Modern Family” was how each episode ended with a character providing a little narration summing up the events and life lessons learned. (Often there’d be a sharp twist, and the narration wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be.) The series finale has fun with that conceit as well, before ending on lovely visual note. “It’s hard [to say goodbye] because not everyone has what we have,” says Jay, and in that same vein, not many shows have ever had the heart and warmth and grace and humor of “Modern Family.”

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