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'Modern Family' Kills Off an Important Character As the Series Winds Down

Gettyimages | Jason Merritt/TERM
By Emily Reily

Spoiler Alert -- Don't Read Unless You Saw Last Night's 'Modern Family'


Spoiler alert incoming.

As ABC's "Modern Family" winds to a close after 11 years, they've decided to kill off a major character.

Giphy | Warner Archive

Here you go:

Fred Willard's character, Frank Dunphy, dad to Phil (played by Ty Burrell) was killed off in last night's episode of the long-running show.

Why would a series, least of all a comedy, kill off a character when we know the show is going to end this season? Who else could be on the chopping block? The show will be over soon -- isn't that enough?

'Milestone Events'

Giphy | HULU

Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, may offer a clue to what the show's creators and producers are thinking.

"[Co-creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan] have created one of the most seminal and iconic comedies in television history. In its final season, there will be more milestone events that anyone who has been a fan of the series won't want to miss."

It sounds like they really want to go out with a bang. Eleven seasons is a long time to follow a show, so it makes sense on some level to make the ending as momentous as possible.

Is Seven Episodes In an 11-Season Series Major?


Some are contesting the phrasing "major character." @KirstenAcuna tweeted:

"#ModernFamily: We're gonna kill off a MAJOR character this season.

Me: Goes to look up who died after all the hype.

Modern Family: We killed off a character that's been on 7 episodes of a 10 season show.

Me: Let me define major character for you."

They've Done This Before

Something similar happened in 2018, when DeDe Pritchett, played by Shelley Long, died in her sleep from a heart problem. That happened in Season 10 in a Halloween episode called "Good Grief."

DeDe Pritchett was a recurring character and was Claire Dunphy and Mitchell Pritchett's mom, as well as Jay's ex-wife.

People didn't buy it back then when it was announced a "major character" would be killed off.

@howaboutafresca wrote in September, 2018:

"And not for nothing, but I'm not buying the 'significant Modern Family character to be killed off' is going to be an actual person. Who's leaving that show? It's going to be Stella the dog."

How Much More Damage Can They Do?

"Modern Family" co-creator Steve Levitan spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about their decision to kill off DeDe.

“She's directly involved with three of our characters and she touched everybody's life in some interesting way. It seemed like the right character to put everybody through something. She seemed like the right character because she so directly affects so many of our characters.”

What else is going to happen in the last two episodes? It's almost scary to think about.

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