TV First Impression: “The New Normal”
This year, instead of the typical TV Review of new Fall Television series, I thought we’d change the direction of the site’s look at new shows. I was speaking with fellow my doser, the very funny Kelly Stitzel, and we agreed that it’s difficult to judge a television show based on it’s pilot episode because there are times when a pilot is hilarious and the rest of the series is drek, or, on the flip side, a series finds its creative footing a couple of episodes in, after many people have written it off. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I used to write a column called “The Three Strike Rule,” which was a look at a TV series after viewing the first three episodes. My theory then was that you could usually tell after three episode whether a show had originality, durability and entertainment value. Unfortunately, some shows, like Lone Star, don’t last three episodes, and having to sit through more than one airing of Whitney could prove lethal.
What we’re going to do this year is give our first impressions and offer a humble prediction as to whether a show will make it until the spring. Hopefully, at the end of this television season, we’ll be able to look back at what was written and offer a little analysis.
With that out of the way, today I give you my first impression of NBC’s controversial new sitcom, The New Normal. Controversial because the conservative group, One Million Moms, has already made a rallying call for all upstanding families to boycott the show, and an NBC affiliate in Utah has refused to air it. Mind you, tonight is the premiere and in most cases, the people calling for the boycott of The New Normal haven’t even seen the show! Why would they react in this way over a TV comedy? Because the main characters are David and Bryan (Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells, respectively), two gay men in a committed relationship who want to have a baby. They hire Goldie (Georgia King) to act as a surrogate. Comedy and tugged heartstrings are supposed to ensue. The New Normal was created by Ali Adler and Ryan Murphy. Adler may not be familiar to many of you, but Murphy should. He’s a powerful figure in Hollywood, having helped create Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story.
At issue, of course is that the series depicts two gay men trying to lead a “normal” domestic life. Honestly, with the success of Modern Family and the outpouring of love for that Emmy winning’s show’s gay couple who are raising a child, you would think that The New Normal would be able to get on television without much controversy. Last year, One Million Moms had a hand in getting NBC’s The Playboy Club pulled from the air. Will they be able to flex their mom muscles again? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here is my first impression of The New Normal, which will air on NBC, Tuesday nights at 9:30 PM.
The series has a heart, that’s for sure. Bartha and Rannells are lovely as a couple, with Rannells playing the more fashion conscious of the two and Bartha the “jock” gay father. The series opens with Bryan recording a video for his future baby and nearly crying as he considers that his unborn child will call him “daddy.” The show then cuts back to a time when Georgia is still living in a very fake looking Ohio. She’s married to a no-good husband, raising her precocious eight-year-old daughter, Shania (Bebe Wood), and still indebted to her grandmother, Jane (Ellen Barkin), who raised Georgia ever since she was a little girl.
After Georgia catches her husband cheating, she’s inspired to take charge of her life. She steals Jane’s car and drives Shania and herself as far west as they can get: Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Bryan has announced that he wants to have a baby, which sends David soul searching. Although he’s a gynecologist, he claims to have never held a baby more than four minutes old. IS he ready to be a father, especially after how his own father screwed things up? He decides that he’s ready. Bryan and David are set up with an egg donor (who looks conspicuously like Ryan Murphy’s friend, Gwyneth Paltrow) and they begin their search for a surrogate. After one failed attempt, they meet Georgia and immediately know that she’s the right choice.
The pilot ends with Georgia holding a pregnancy test and everyone holding their breath to find out whether she’s preggers.
For the most part, The New Normal was really cute. It was more a dramedy than a flat out comedy series. As is the trend, this is a single camera series, shot more like a movie, rather than your traditional “filmed before a live studio audience” three camera sitcom. Everything about David and Bryan and the pursuit of being fathers was genuine. Everything about Georgia and her wanting to make a better life for herself and Shania felt real. What didn’t feel real and actually felt quite forced was everything given to Ellen Barkin to say. Jane is modeled after Archie Bunker and her prejudiced remarks are meant to be provocative. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if everything she said wasn’t something off color. I mean everything. In the pilot she had no redeeming values. She’s just a plain old bitch and so unlikable that it’s going to take a lot for me to even care when she’s on screen. This is a shame because Barkin is a great actress.
Someone who isn’t so great in the pilot is NeNe Leaks, as Bryan’s sassy assistant (is there anything other than a sassy assistant anymore?), Rocky. Leaks, a cast member of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, appears out of her league with the rest of the cast.
I could watch this whole series if it was just the story of David, Bryan, Georgia and Shania as they become a family. The appeal of these characters and the actors playing them will inspire me to watch at least a couple more episodes.
The New Normal isn’t groundbreaking and it certainly isn’t controversial, unless you count Jane’s remarks, which are clearly meant to make her look like a horse’s ass. One Million Moms and that Utah station are fools for protesting this series as it’s really a family show. Perhaps they’re upset because the depiction of Jane hits a little too close to home? I can see this series lasting for the duration of this television season because it has the same kind of heart and sincerity as Glee and Modern Family. It’s definitely not as funny as Modern Family or even The Middle, ABC’s other wonderful family sitcom, but I think it’s one of those shows that will grow on viewers as the season progresses.
What do you think? Did you like The New Normal? Will you watch future episodes? Leave comments below, and check back tomorrow when I give my first impression of Matthew Perry’s newest comedy, Go On. Thanks for reading!