ABC's terrific freshman sitcom Modern Family continues its laugh-out-loud moments, but it's hard to pick any one character that stands above the rest in this engaging ensemble. Stars include patriarch Ed O'Neill, 64, (Married With Children . . .) as Jay, married to his much-younger second wife, Gloria (the vivacious and hilarious Sofia Vergara), and his stepson, the manchild Manny. The family tree expands with grown kids Mitchell and his partner, Cam; and daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) and son-in-law Phil (Ty Burrell, in a role he was born to play). For Philophiles wondering what makes Phil so discomfiting and hilarious, perhaps the April 28 guest appearance will shed some light. Fred Willard, 70, who plays Phil's dad, shows up in his RV. The actors are only as good as the writing, and that's very good. The new episode airs at 9 p.m. on WFTS-Ch. 28. (ABC often runs a second, repeat episode; this week's is on at 8.)
LIGHTEN YOUR FINANCIAL LOAD
Who isn't trying to ease their debt load these days. Jane Bryant Quinn's straightforward April cover story in the AARP Bulletin lists commonsense ways to tackle debt as we grow into our 50s as well as how to manage our finances long after retirement. Among her tips:
• Plan to own your home free and clear by paying down your mortgage early using an extra annual payment or dividing the monthly payment in two and paying every other week. You can shave a few years off. Check with your bank or mortgage company for details.
• This sounds harsh, but Quinn suggests you skip pitching in on the grandkids' college tuition. She puts it well, though: "The kids have a lifetime to repay their student loans, but you're running out of time."
• Don't collect Social Security at 62. Draw from your 401(k). By putting off retirement benefits until you're older, you'll get a far larger chunk of change. Quinn estimates nearly three-quarters more for folks who wait until age 70 to collect.
• Quinn's final tip is a doozy. If you really need to save money, Quinn suggests you move in with your kids. Well, that's a bit tongue-in-cheek (we hope). But as she says, isn't that motivation enough to do more sensible things to get on track for financial freedom? Read more on the AARP Bulletin website, bulletin.aarp.org.
THE FLORIDA ORCHESTRA'S TRIBUTE TO 007
James Bond is the theme for a night of "Symphonic Espionage" with the Florida Orchestra in its May 21-23 pops series. The cool music from Bond films like Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, Casino Royale, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die and other films will be featured. Tickets are $20 to $67. Call the Florida Orchestra box office at (727) 892-3337 or go to floridaorchestra.org (click on "Upcoming events"). Performance dates and locations:
May 21 in Tampa: 8 p.m. at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place
May 22 in St. Petersburg: 8 p.m. at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S
May 23 in Clearwater: 7:30 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road
EXPLORE THE SOUTHERN CHARM OF SAVANNAH
Make a sojourn to Savannah, Ga., on May 12 through 15 by motor coach for a "Southern Arts and Historic Tour" organized by St. Petersburg College's Lifelong Learning Department. The trip begins on a Wednesday, and for the first two nights' stay, tourgoers will explore the city by carriage and check out historic Savannah's remarkable art and architecture among its lovely squares. Among the dining forays is a 19th century "Tea in the Garden" at the Davenport House and dinner at Paula Deen's Lady & Sons restaurant. The third night is spent at nearby St. Simon's Island, exploring the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, lunching at Skipper's Fish Camp and enjoying a seafood buffet dinner feast at the King & Prince resort. During the return trip Saturday, there's a stop in Micanopy, near Gainesville, for lunch and antiquing, with arrival in Clearwater in the late afternoon. The trips costs $695, which includes lodging, meals, admissions and transportation. Call (727) 712-5443 for more information and registration.