When Modern Family returns for a tenth season on Sept. 26, you’ll immediately be hurled into the holiday spirit: specifically that of the Fourth of July. ABC’s veteran family comedy will light up the summer holiday, which will include a hot dog-eating contest gone very, very awry. If that doesn’t sit feelings of patriotism in you, perhaps this one will: Phil (Ty Burrell) believes he’s been duped by the Russians. Things get even more serious from there, as the families deal with the death of a character. Let’s ring up co-creator Christopher Lloyd for all the details about the perhaps not last season of Modern Family.

Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Get ready for some (comedy) fireworks on the Fourth.
The season premiere delves into a holiday that the show has never tackled: July 4th. Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) aren’t feeling so festive when they try to make a video with the new addition to their household, Cam’s sister’s son, Cal, to show her how much they’ve taught him. “They realize that they haven’t managed to teach him much of anything yet,” says Lloyd, “so they have to doctor their video to show him to be more expert at things than he actually is, which doesn’t go so well.” Taking in Cal flings open a new chapter for Mitch and Cam. “The number of children in their house has doubled, and they go through some different problems with raising a boy than they had with raising a girl [Lily, played by Aubrey Anderson-Emmons],” says Lloyd. “But the kid playing Cal [Marcello Reyes] is really cute and really large for his age, so that is reminiscent of Cam’s upbringing, and it’s been really fun. It kind of reminds me of the Dunphy house at the beginning of the series when there were lots of kids with lots of kid problems, and that’s what it’s done to Mitch and Cam’s house.”

Phil turns into a hot(dog) mess.
Also in the premiere, Phil and Luke (Nolan Gould) enter a father-son hot dog-eating contest. “There’s a reigning mother-daughter team that Phil and Luke are determined to beat, but Phil’s chronic TMJ condition — a clicking of the jaw — kicks in at a bad time,” says Lloyd. “If you like Ty Burrell and physical comedy and you can imagine him in a hot dog-eating contest with a painful jaw condition, this is the episode for you.”

Jay turns into a Grand pain in the ass.
When the grand marshal of the July 4th parade is removed due to a #MeToo controversy, Jay (Ed O’Neill) is tapped to replace him and puts his appointment “on the same level of importance of being appointed a Supreme Court justice,” says Lloyd. “It’s quite funny to see him in the regality taking these responsibilities quite seriously…. But many things including a cannon being fired off at the wrong time go wrong to make his debut as a grand marshal less than what he’d like it to be.”

Closet queen Claire is caught between Jay and the new guys.
Jay’s transition out of the closet business as Pritchett’s Closets and Blinds merges with a tech company is a bit bumpy, and his daughter is trying to keep both sides happy. “It’s an adjustment process for Jay, because he’s always been in charge and has a very old-school way of doing business in the closet world,” says Lloyd. “We always imagine its sort of like the guys who started Facebook in their Harvard dorm room, only these people are really into closets. It’s all very tech-based, but it’s mostly a culture clash and Claire [Julie Bowen] has to navigate that. It’s a tough spot for her because she’s trying to be very professional and blend with these new guys but she’s also trying to be a parent to her parent in a way, to prevent him from being an object of ridicule in that office, and it leads to some funny but also very sweet moments between Claire and Jay.”

Phil is caught up in a Russian spy conspiracy.
When Cal Tech senior Alex (Ariel Winter) interviews for a tech job with the government, the Dunphys need to be interviewed for security reasons. During Phil’s interview, “we find out that Phil may have been an unwitting spy for Russians,” shares Lloyd. “He went over on a cultural exchange trip when he was in high school with the tumbling group, and some people made friends with him. They would ask him, ‘Hey, can we stay in touch? Are you going to that air show near your house? It would be great if you could pose in front of the F-14 jet and send that picture back.’” While Phil won’t serve time for treason, it does lead him to examine how gullible he is and question whether he is too trusting. “Many of the things we love about Phil Dunphy — he starts to wonder if those are a negative,” he says. “And the family has to face him with certain truths about himself.”

Manny is becoming a man.
The thoughtful college student is “still taking his microsteps into independence and manhood.” says Lloyd. On a cross-country drive, Manny (Rico Rodriguez) “meets a girl on the road and becomes rather serious with her,” he continues, “although the family is not quite sure she exists.” On his journey of maturity, though, “he increasingly finds himself taking care of Jay and Gloria a little bit more than he’d like to.”

Gloria may be getting political.
Gloria (Sofia Vergara) will be quite involved in Joe’s (Jeremy Maguire) life, but she may become more involved in the school board. “She may be venturing into political waters a little bit later this year,” he says.

The family will mourn the loss of a loved one.
As EW previously reported, death will visit the show this season. “I’m not going to tell you which character that is,” says Lloyd, “but it will be a moving event and an event that has repercussions about several episodes.” Prodded further, he says only the character is “significant.” (Click here for more on that dead-ly development.)

Haley will have a year to remember.
“Quite a bit” happens to Haley (Sarah Hyland) in season 10, including “some pretty big surprises,” but Lloyd is staying mum on those. “It’s a very, very big year for her in terms of sorting out relationships, taking a backward look through many of her relationships,” he says. “Many of the people from her past re-emerge, and she’s viewing what might be best for her future with different eyes as a young adult than she could when she was a teen. It’s a tumultuous year for her, as well for the family as a result of this.”

Phil has a teaching moment.
Dropping Luke at community college one day, Phil discovers that there’s a real estate course being offered, and, wouldn’t you know it, the school is looking for an instructor. “He becomes quite a darling on campus, particularly among some of the coeds,” says Lloyd. “He’s a man of a certain age with a wealth of knowledge. And he takes his role as kind of a don seriously. Like a professor with the tweed jacket, he sees himself as one who’s lived and learned and has much wisdom to impart.” And what about the magic shop? “There hasn’t been as much time for his magic shop,” says Lloyd, “although that does come back into play.”

Season 10 of Modern Family kicks off Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Episode Recaps

Mitch and Cam, Modern Family

Modern Family

Parents just don’t understand… and neither do kids or spouses in this hit ensemble comedy

  • TV Show
  • 10
  • Wednesdays at 09:00 PM
  • ABC
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