At last, death is coming for the Dunphys (and Pritchetts, and Tucker-Pritchetts). After 10 seasons of annoyingly easy, first-world-problem living, the cast of Modern Family is finally going to face a little goddamn tribulation and hardship, with Variety revealing that a “significant” character will be killed off on the show’s upcoming 10th season. Co-creator Christopher Lloyd refused to slake our bloodlust by just naming the upper-class sitcom corpse-to-be, though, so we’re going to have to do this the old-fashioned way: Baseless guessing and internet detective work.
First off, let’s take it as read that nobody with their name in the opening credits is likely to go; while ABC might be secretly delighted to lighten the aging series’ payroll a bit, Lloyd described the character’s death as “significant,” but not, like series-shattering—the way it would be if, say, Ed O’Neill’s Jay finally popped his cranky, aging clogs. No, we’re clearly in supporting character territory here, a bench from which the show has a pretty deep roster of potential corpses to pull.
Now, the reaper will probably spare any of the show’s assorted love interests; most of them are teens or otherwise youthful, and that’s a level of tragedy that we can’t see this series engaging with. We can’t see them killing off Manny’s dad/Gloria’s ex Javier, either; not only would that be incredibly grim, but it would be asking audiences to believe that the clearly immortal Benjamin Bratt is capable of death.
And while you could make an argument that Nathan Lane’s recurring Pepper might be a possible candidate, we also can’t see a friend of the family’s death having the proper impact you’re aiming for when hyping a sitcm death. No, we’re clearly in grandparent territory here, which means that Fred Willard’s Frank and Shelley Long’s DeDe had both better start watching their backs. If we’re handicapping things, we might go ahead and give the nod to DeDe; she has a closer relationship with more characters, meaning the series could milk her eventual demise for more drama. (On the other hand, Long is 9 years younger than Willard, so who can say?)
Meanwhile, the wider question of when death will come for Modern Family itself remains an open one; the show’s contract is up this year, and co-creator Steven Levitan has said it’s probably done. Lloyd sounded more optimistic, though, noting that, “There’s goodwill on both sides to make it happen.”