ABC is re-airing Fred Willard's final episode on Modern Family next week, creating a perfect send-off for the character. Willard passed away on Friday at the age of 86, and for many fans, his most recent prominent role was on the hit mockumentary. Fans are ready to revisit his heartfelt goodbye to the show.
Willard played Frank Dunphy, father of Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) on Modern Family. Willard was credited as a recurring star, with appearances in 14 episodes across the series' 11 seasons. To many, his presence felt greater than that at times, as his boisterous humor and unironic smiles took over every scene. His final appearance in Season 11, Episode 11 — "Legacy" — was about his character's death.
ABC is re-airing "Legacy" on May 26, at 9:30 p.m. ET. Whether it is intended as a tribute to Willard or not, it will serve that purpose for many friends and family. The storyline is heartfelt and impactful, yet Willard is the one who brings the most levity to it. It's about Phil visiting his father as he fears he is beginning to show signs of dementia in his old age.
Frank leads Phil on a meandering adventure around Florida, showing signs of that he has become scatter-brained but playing it off easily. The two repair a car together, get haircuts and reminisce about Phil's childhood. In the end, it is revealed that Phil is telling the rest of the family about this day at Frank's funeral, presumably soon after.
The re-run will come shortly before Willard's true last TV appearance premieres. Willard has a starring role in Space Force, the upcoming Netflix original series, where he plays the father of Steve Carell's character. Carell plays the military official charged with heading up the U.S. Space Force initiated by President Donald Trump. The show hits Netflix on Friday, May 29.
For fans who do not want to wait to experience Willard's last performance on Modern Family again, the episode is streaming on Hulu at the time of this writing. Sadly, the service only has Season 11 of the series, which means only one of Willard's appearances is there. For the earlier episodes, fans will need to rent or buy them on a digital store like Amazon Prime Video, or else order the DVDs.
With Modern Family now over, many fans are hoping it will come to a streaming service where they can do a full binge-watch of the whole series. Since it aired on ABC, which is owned by Disney, chances seem good that it will end up on a Disney-owned platform eventually. That could be Disney+ — though it may not match the service's family-friendly branding — or it could be Hulu. So far, the company has no teased any plans to make the series available to stream.
Watch Willard's last Modern Family performance in "Legacy" on Tuesday, May 26, at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.