TV Review - The New Normal

Bebe Wood (far left), Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha,
and Georgia King (far right) in "The New Normal"
This could be NBC's answer to Modern Family, only with not as many heterosexual couples. Andrew Rannells from the Broadway show The Book of Mormon and Justin Bartha from The Hangover co-star as Bryan and David, respectively, a wealthy, gay couple that hires a woman to be the surrogate for the baby the two want to have. Georgia King plays Goldie, the surrogate who's already a single mom whose baby-daddy is a lying, cheating scumbag, played by Jayson Blair, and whose mother is super racist and super homophobic, basically a bigot with a gun. She's played by Ellen Barkin. Battling the forces of ridiculousness with brutal honesty and uber-sassiness is Rocky, played by Nene Leakes (Glee). Rounding out the cast is Bebe Wood who plays Shania, Goldie's daughter, a little girl who's too wise for her age, as evidenced by the fact that she can do a dead-on impression of Little Edie from Grey Gardens.

Ryan Murphy created the show with Ali Adler. Murphy directed the pilot episode and the show has the abrasiveness and sharp humor that we've come to expect on a Ryan Murphy series. Murphy and his writers do come up with some hilarious one-liners. While the show does get laughs, there are aspects to it, which have been criticized.

Frank Bua wrote an article for The Huffington Post called "What's Wrong With The New Normal." In it, he criticizes the depiction of gay fathers. Being one himself, Bua found it degrading that The New Normal doesn't represent his experience or perhaps the experiences of many or that it doesn't do much to promote the issue of gay adoption in the way that he thinks it should be promoted. Bua seems only satisfied if Murphy were treating this subject with the utmost reality, reverence and seriousness, which is fine for him, but he forgets that this is a sitcom. Yes, Vice President Joe Biden recently cited Will & Grace as responsible for advancing gay rights or at least acceptance, but this show won't and shouldn't bear that burden.

On a grander scale, this show says something about fatherhood that is rarely seen these days. If you look at other sitcoms that are new this year like Baby Daddy on ABC Family or Guys With Kids on NBC, fatherhood is always something that happens to young men. Never is fatherhood something that young men actively seek out. There may be some stereotypes that need to be overcome but the choice to become parents is one that is reasonably being handled. The implication in Bua's article is that gay fatherhood is taken lightly on this show, but in the second episode Murphy and Adler add weight to the situation.

Bryan who is a mix of Jeff Lewis and Brad Goreski and David who is a T-shirt and jeans, lying on the couch, watching football kind of guy, both acknowledge in various ways that they might not be totally ready and things come to challenge them or to challenge Bryan and David's desire to be parents. Any perception of vainglorious reasons that Bryan and David are doing what they're doing will likely be eroded at season's end.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLS.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Airs Tuesdays at 9:30 on NBC.


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