How the Funny Modern Family Oscar Ad Came Together


Last night's Oscar broadcast was notably lacking in interesting commercials (other than a creepy cervical cancer awareness ad that has instilled in us a deep fear of perfume bottles), so we were happy to be diverted by a promo for ABC's Modern Family, featuring the show's adults engaged in a loopy game of movie charades. "ABC offered the spot to us," grateful show co-creator Christopher Lloyd told us. "And as you can imagine, that’s pricey real estate."

The ad played off an earlier episode that established gay couple Mitchell and Cam as having felt their first spark while playing charades at a friend's party and nailing "Casablanca" with a mere gesture. "That kind of became the germ of the idea, that they’d be whiz kids at it to the frustration of everyone else in the family," says Lloyd, who adds that while the ad was scripted, his cast is deft at improv. "For example, the Sofia Vergara stuff, 'the finger pointing to the sky!' A fair amount of that was written, but she went way crazy it, and when she plays things big and loud, that always comes out funny."

The only instruction from ABC was to keep the promo Oscar-themed, and the only quibble Lloyd had with the final result was that there wasn't more of it. "They ran it twice during the broadcast, and I’m sort of surprised that they didn’t cut a different one for the second spot, as we could have done multiple versions, and I think people would have gotten a kick out of seeing the progress of that game," he says. And they had to cut the original ending for time: "We came back to Cam and Mitchell in an interview, and Cam says, 'It was like shooting straight fish in a barrel,' and Mitchell gives a tiny little clue and put his hands out, and Cam says, 'Casablanca!' It was actually a funnier ending, I think."