By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES — The iPad snagged a starring role in an episode of ‘Modern Family‘ on the brink of the tablet computer’s retail debut.
Apple Inc.’s latest device figured prominently in Wednesday’s episode of the ABC series as a sought-after birthday gift for one of the characters. The iPad goes on sale at Apple stores Saturday.
On ‘Modern Family,’ Claire (Julie Bowen) is eager to buy an iPad for husband Phil’s (Ty Burrell) birthday and sets her alarm to make sure to get one. She snoozes past the opportunity, enlists her family’s help and, by episode’s end, is able to get hold of the prize item.
“It’s like Steve Jobs and God got together to say, ‘We love you, Phil,’” says her tech-geek husband.
Walt Disney Co., ABC’s parent company, announced Thursday that it would offer applications for all its businesses on the iPad. About 20 ABC series will be available to iPad users through a Wi-Fi connection, the company said.
Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is the largest individual shareholder of Disney Co., with a 7.1 percent stake worth nearly $5 billion, and is on its board of directors.
The ‘Modern Family’ showcase for iPad may have had the appearance of masterful product placement, and Apple did provide an iPad for the episode.
But the company doesn’t pay for product placement, said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling.
There were no iPad commercials during the episode, and ads often are part of placement deals.
ABC declined to provide details on how the iPad came to be featured but called it a good creative match.
“It was a fun opportunity and organically fit with the story line and Phil’s character, who loves the latest technology – and birthdays,” the network said Thursday in a statement.
The iPad’s TV debut may have won over at least one person – ‘Modern Family’ actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell.
“I will say that no `Product’ has been `Placed’ in my itchy little palm,” Ferguson said in a Twitter posting. “I am excited about the iPad & will probably break down and buy one.”‘
Watch a clip from Wednesday night’s episode: