Modern Family Modern Family

ABC's Modern Family might look a bit different when the clan returns tonight at 9/8c. "Lily gained about 700 pounds," says Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell, one of the tot's adoptive pops. "OK, I'm exaggerating. But it's amazing how much she's grown in such a short amount of time."

He could easily be describing the show itself. In a mere year, the hilarious and unabashedly emotional family comedy has evolved from promising newcomer to TV royalty, embraced by critics, viewers and, most recently, Emmy voters, who in August crowned it Outstanding Comedy Series.

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The challenge now is to keep the momentum going. "We don't want to fix something that isn't broken," says cocreator Christopher Lloyd. "But everybody knows the next shoe to drop is when people say, 'Oh, it's not as funny as it used to be.' We're trying to stay ahead of that as best we can."

To that end, the writers took only two weeks off before reconvening to start work on Season 2. That commitment has resulted in an array of upcoming story lines that should keep fans happily tuning in. An earthquake will rattle the extended clan, with sensitive Manny (Rico Rodriguez) experiencing a crisis of faith, Mitchell and partner Cameron (Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet) exaggerating the extent of damage to their house to get out of attending a costume brunch hosted by their friend Pepper (guest star Nathan Lane), and Phil (Ty Burrell) trying to conceal some very real damage at the Dunphy abode from wife Claire (Julie Bowen). "I forgot to earthquake-proof something," says Burrell, "and it's a race against the clock to fix it before she sees it."

It's Phil himself who needs a little TLC after daughter Haley (Sarah Hyland) breaks up with rocker Dylan. "It hits Phil harder than it hits Haley," says Lloyd, "so he continues to see Dylan behind Haley's back." Also coming up: Cameron's "blowsy, openhearted" mom visits, wealthy patriarch Jay (Ed O'Neill) is revealed to be "the kingpin of shutters and blinds," Mitchell introduces Claire to his fitness obsession Troga (as in yoga on a treadmill), and brainiac Alex (Ariel Winter) gets her first kiss.

But it's another upcoming liplock that's already generating headlines. Producers insist they had plans for a Mitch-and-Cam kiss even before fans launched a Facebook campaign last May lobbying for one. How does it finally happen? Lloyd explains: "It becomes a debate — is Cameron too open with affection or is Mitchell too uptight? They're determined to get to the bottom of this in front of the family. It's one thing to kiss publicly — but it's another to kiss in front of Mitchell's dad."

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