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Best (& Worst) Guest Stars of Modern Family

ABC knows what they have in Modern Family and they covet their golden goose, protecting it for their ratings. It's nearly impossible to find episodes online; YouTube has zilch, for example. You can watch both new episodes re-runs with a www.directstartv.org subscription, but if you don't have one, you're resigned to buying the box set (or start watching from the new season, which we don't recommend). It's tough to blame ABC though. They have a gem of a show that's showing no signs of slowing.

"Modern Family" is so cutting edge funny that it makes the lives of American families seem normal. Not because the show is so weird or so off the wall, but because "Modern Family" is so us. If your family is so normal that you can't relate to "Modern Family," you should be worried.

One reason the show has won the last three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series is that the producers of "Modern Family" do extremely well selecting guest stars. Unlike comedy series that seem(ed) to dig for the vaguely recognized, yet incredibly talented talent ("30 Rock," for example), "Modern Family" selects real stars with established talent and runs with their strong suits.

"Modern Family" convinces great actors and actresses to be guest stars and makes them stand out by thinking inside the box. "Modern Family" doesn't grind an actor's talent into dust and blow it into the air with a giant stomp. Instead, they ask guest starts to remain inside their comfort zone. The writers and producers of "Modern Family" run with the strengths of actresses and actors and let the dialog do the image tweaking.

Recognizable Names Equals Big Hit Guest Stars
There are so many big names that have been interested in being part of the comedy series that it's almost a fad. Still, even among the greats, several performances have stood out.

Edward Norton Jr. — One of the (if not the) premier dramatic actors of his generation, Ed Norton Jr. has attacked social issues in some of the most critically acclaimed roles in recent memory and "Modern Family" stuffs Norton deeper into his Hollywood pigeon-hole as a method actor and makes it funny. Norton plays the part of a bassist from the band Spandau Ballet. Norton mocks his melodramatic stigma by playing an overly philosophical '80s rocker that is mind numbingly shallow. Groomed with '80s big hair and half-whining, half-yodeling voice, Norton showed just how funny he can be being him.

Danny Trejo — One of the scariest villains on the silver screen, Trejo's imposing physical presence isn't typical of the guest starts on "Modern Family." Playing an angry janitor somehow makes perfect sense though. While grumpy and funny at the same time, Trejo has the opportunity to show his soft side by befriending Claire as she organizes a school dance. The unlikely duo somehow seem to fit perfectly as accomplishes that save the day.

Justin Kirk — Justin Kirk (the "Weeds" super-co-star) appeared in three episodes as Charlie Bingham. Mitchell's boss. With his typical non-chalant cool, Kirk adds to every scene while letting "Modern Family's" real stars steal the show, much as he did in Weeds. While Kirk wasn't over the top funny, it would be nice to see him on future episodes.

Minnie Driver — As usual, playing the intelligent and sensitive character, Driver takes a step out of her usual girl-next-door role and plays Valerie, a high profile executive living a life of international promiscuity. To make matters worse, she's not only eligible for the one job Clair wants, she gets it. It's Driver's deadpan face and innocent demeanor that makes the notion of her being a corporate turn-style hilarious.

Ellen Barkin — In typical "Modern Family" style, Ellen Barkin does her best playing the pit bull in lipstick. Barkin plays a tyrannical real estate agent the just can't get enough of putting her foot on someone's throat and as usual it's to the irk and ire of everyone around her.

The Flip Side
Producers and writers of "Modern Family" work to the strengths of guest stars. Unfortunately, there are some guest stars without any talent. The following actors and actresses did their best, but landed themselves atop the list of the worst "Modern Family" guest stars.

Matthew Broderick — The light comedy actor simply couldn't keep up with the heavy weights. He always seems to be a half second behind when delivering lines, still goes back to the Ferris-well every time he's trying to show confidence and always seems to be a menopausal-moment away from whining and crying and that's exactly the guy that appeared on "Modern Family."

Matt Dillon — Now that his brother has a bigger house than he does, he seems more lost that ever. A not quite playboy over trying in dramatic parts and underachieving when delivering a line of wit, Dillon was probably "Modern Family's" biggest disappointment. He couldn't even play himself, a needy clown.

Byline: Theodore O'Neil
Theo is a performing arts major and entertainment writer going to school in the Northwest. The only thing he loves more than being on stage is critiquing other people who are.