Why the face? Because the Modern era of Family time has drawn to a close. Saying goodbye after 11 seasons, 250 episodes, and 22 Emmys (including five consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series trophies, tying Frasier’s record) was no easy feat for the producers and cast; ask them to describe the vibe while finishing the one-hour farewell that airs April 8 at 9 p.m. on ABC, and analogies flow like the tears did. “It’s kind of like when you’re a kid and your best friend moves away — only it’s 100 best friends,” quips co-creator Christopher Lloyd. Sums up Ty Burrell, who won two Emmys as aspiring cool dad Phil: “It was like a beautiful torture. It was like being at a wedding and a funeral at the same time.”
Neither of those scenarios takes place in the finale, but other emotionally charged events do. The ending also speaks to new beginnings for the Dunphy-Pritchett-Tucker clan. “The family is suddenly dealing with a lot of changes,” says co-creator Steven Levitan, “some of which come from the very nature of kids getting older, the time when you have to say goodbye.”
The finale opens with a Dunphy home so overstuffed with kids and grandkids that Phil and Claire seek shelter in the RV in the driveway (R.I.P, Frank). From there, the plot involves: a soft-sculpture gift from Jay (Ed O’Neill) to Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who are busy parenting Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), considering adopting another child, and still finding time for karaoke; one last sibling hazing ritual performed by Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Alex (Ariel) on their brother, Luke (Nolan Gould); and a bathtub-side scene with Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Gloria (Sofia Vergara).
In addition, “Claire and Mitch have realizations as adults about their old skating routine that they didn’t as kids,” says Levitan. And, yes, an immovable father and his unstoppable son-in-law will share new intimacy. “Jay and Phil finally bond—literally,” hints Burrell.
The tri-family comedy with a sharp wit and wink that redefined the genre aimed to keep the finale flowing with laughs while suffusing it with goodbye gravitas. “There’s a combination of sadness and gratitude, and these are feelings all of the writers had — and I think the actors had too,” says Lloyd. Burrell confirms that hunch. “I hope people will forgive us for breaking character a bit, because it was actually a little tricky to delineate,” he says. “It really has to do with that feeling that this chapter of this family is over. This magical period in their lives won’t be the same anymore, and people are wrestling with a lot of the same feelings we were wrestling with.” And just a few weeks from now, it will be your turn.
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