Could The New Normal become just the norm?

The New Normal

The television landscape welcomes a new kind of family to our homes this season, but will viewers accept David and Bryan as ‘The New Normal’?


It’s been quite some time since a TV series has featured a gay character as its lead, much less two of them … and I can’t think of a time when the two were a committed couple. Ryan Murphy’s new sitcom, The New Normal, breaks all kinds of new ground with its premise, even while sticking to tried and true sitcom tropes — the sassy sidekick and the mature beyond her years child among them. Some of the hoariest sitcom cliches were on display in the show’s pilot — and our own An Nicholson felt these cliches really needed to be addressed for the show to truly succeed — and I’m happy to say that things started to smooth out a bit with the second episode. Personally, I felt both episodes that have aired delivered on the set-up and the comedy, and managed to have some touching moments as well.

If you’ve been living under a rock the last few months, the premise of The New Normal is this: a gay couple, David (Justin Bartha) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells), decides they want a baby, so they hire a surrogate, Goldie (Georgia King), against the advice of Bryan’s assistant Rocky (NeNe Leakes) and the objections of Goldie’s abrasive grandmother Jane (Ellen Barkin). When the guys hear Goldie’s life story and her dream of going to law school, they know she is the one because they can help her with the money and she will help them with their dream. Goldie also has a precocious daughter, Shania (Bebe Wood), who generally is the voice of reason — even when she’s pretending to be Little Edie from Grey Gardens (and Wood was amazing inhabiting that character). It has all the trappings of a traditional sitcom — think Modern Family meets All in the Family — but the subject matter had outraged some people even before the show aired.

It has all the trappings of a traditional sitcom — think Modern Family meets All in the Family — but the subject matter had outraged some people even before the show aired.

The NBC affiliate in Utah refused to air the show (surprise … but another station picked it up), and many organizations that are actively campaigning against marriage equality and the LGBT community in general are protesting the show sight unseen. But in our current political climate, what with the Prop 8 fight in California on the verge of being resolved once and for all, and the Democratic platform in favor of marriage equality and general equal rights for the LGBT community (unlike the Republican platform which wants to deny any and all rights to gays), isn’t the time right for this show to maybe make those people who are fighting against the issue — mostly because someone else told them to — see what a real gay couple is like instead of just basing their thoughts on sermons from the pulpit or Fox News?

I’m going to be honest with you all, and I’ve not really put this into any of my other posts here on CliqueClack: I’ve been in a relationship with the same person for twelve years, and we were married in the state of New York on October 31, 2011 (because same-sex marriage is still not legal in my home state). I can identify with David and Bryan, I want people to watch this show and stop thinking that all gay people are flaming queens (and I do hope they continue to tone Bryan down a bit from the pilot), drag queens, leather daddies, and any other stereotypical types you generally see in the media. Except for the baby, my husband and I are pretty much exactly like David and Bryan. We work, we have a home, we have pets, we sit around and watch TV … it’s a pretty “normal” life just like any straight married couple. This is what Ryan Murphy is trying to portray on the show, and this is what people need to see. David and Bryan are average guys who happen to love each other, and they want to have a “normal” life just like everyone else. They will face adversity, especially from the Archie Bunker-ish Jane, but they will also find love and happiness. That’s all they, and we, really want out of life … and these characters could, and should, be representing that to the viewing audience.

David and Bryan are average guys who happen to love each other, and they want to have a “normal” life just like everyone else.

On its first two airings, The New Normal pulled in fair but not great numbers. I hope viewers actually give the show a chance to get into its groove (it’s so hard to judge a show solely by its pilot since those are usually a collection of high concept ideas put together to sell it to the network), but I was happier with the second episode. Bryan was less queeny, Rocky was used sparingly (NeNe is basically playing the same swim coach character from Glee, but this time in heels), and the relationships seemed more realistic. Yes, Jane is still scheming to get Goldie back with her cheating ex while trying to drag both her and Shania (whom she refers to as Goggles because of her glasses) back home and out of this appalling situation she’s gotten herself into. Yes, Jane speaks loudly for those very same people that have decided to boycott the show, so maybe they find her more offensive than David and Bryan. It’s not easy to have a mirror held up to your own bigotry.

The real question is will the show be given a chance to grow, and can Murphy keep things on an even keel and not go completely off the rails like Glee did in season two? It’s really up to the viewers at this point. The cast and crew are delivering a quality product that is both entertaining and enlightening, so people need to watch. Right now it’s “preaching to the choir” for the most part, so if you are watching the show and know someone who should be watching, tell them to give it a shot because they just might see that gay couples aren’t that different after all … and eventually The New Normal can simply be renamed “The Norm.”

Photo Credit: NBC

13 Comments on “Could The New Normal become just the norm?

  1. Like with well-written minority and female (and female minority) characters on television and movies, the trick is going to be variety. Show a variety of characters and personalities in these often ignored demographics and the overall cultural perception of that group changes. It’s about exposure and a variety of exposure.

    (Personally I want to see more shows with more than one complex female characters so the public can see that intelligent and strong women aren’t in a 10 to 1 ratio with men, but that’s just one example.)

  2. I personally found both the pilot and the second episode to be both funny and heart warming. The clear winner for me is Shania… I love her already!!! I hope it does well and if enough of these crazies protest it, it just might!!

    • She deserves an Emmy just for that performance! I wonder how many times they made her watch Grey Gardens to get it just right?

  3. I’m really into comedy shows but this… It boggles the mind that shows like “Bent” aren’t on the air but this is.

    Somebody should give Jane Espenson a call and make “Husbands” into a TV show. The way “The New Normal” portrays stereotypes is just completely offensive compared to “Husbands”. Good for you if you can find the humor, I’m just completely annoyed. I don’t even even want to think about how much money went into this. Bleg. I sincerely hope this gets axed within the next two weeks.

    • It’s been two weeks! A lot of shows, especially comedies, take time to develop a rhythm and to iron out all the kinks (look at The Seinfeld Chronicles!). If we were 13 weeks in and there was no character development, I’d say there was a problem, but I’m willing to give the show a couple more weeks to smooth away all the high concept rough edges, especially if it helps open people’s minds.

      • True. I remember how I hated TBBT for the first three episodes. With a vengeance. And I said they need to re-tool and fast. And they did and now they are number one.

        But still. I think there could be fun show in the concept especially because the mom and the kid are very fun to watch but the way they paraded the lesbian couple and the… what the hell is the right way to call a person that’s in the “little people” group and also a mom? The “little people mom with the kid”? Gah. It’s all just so completely over the top. Who talks like that? I mean I like how Louis CK does it on his show but this here portrays it as “normal” how everybody behaves (sans mom and daughter who seem to be the only regular people on the show). Everything else is just such a caricature. And I don’t want to watch that. I don’t need that. I’d rather read troll comments on the internet because then I can at least leave feedback to call the obnoxious person to shut the f up. What am I supposed to do here? Yell at the TV telling the great-grandma not to act so racist and the gay guy not to act so faggotty self-entitled ass-holy? What use is that?

        On “Louie” nobody expects me to like anyone but in the end the show makes you think. “The New Normal” really doesn’t in all the scenes without the mom and daughter.

        Anyway, we’ll see. Maybe it’ll get better but I doubt it. There’s better comedy on TV. I just laughed my ass off watching Seth McFarlane on Saturday Night Live. There wasn’t a single bad scetch. What a season premiere – and the musical guest was great as well. Loved the joke on Weekend Update about “Goon”. That new comedy with Matthew Perry is another train wreck. Which reminds me what failure Andrea Anders is on this season. Has Hollywood finally figured out that she’s comedy poison?

        I’m so glad I didn’t go off topic.

        Speaking of which there’s a “news sitcom” in the first paragraph, better get rid of the gratuitous s ;-)

        • Well, SNL was fair to good, hardly great, and Frank Ocean was so bored with his own song that he got up to play an arcade game so Jon Mayer could take over.

          • Fair is ok if you ask me considering some of the shows they did two or three years ago where I wanted to gauge my eyes out and had to skip every other skit because it was so inane and the musical guest was so shrill I had to skip the song completely.

            Oh and about the songs – if people were asking you to perform your song hundreds of times a year you’d be bored too ;-)

            Which reminds me of the thing Chris Hardwick said on this podcast the other day – you can perform a song a thousand times but when you repeat a joke ONCE people boo at you because they heard it before. Comedy is a strange animal.

            Now let’s just press that button and watch Gangnam Style again :-)

    • I’m surprised nobody’s come out to say ‘Husbands’ is offensive, actually. Not about the general topic at all, but the sheer number of blowjob and ass fucking jokes. Gay or straight, isn’t talking about that on a show offensive on its own? I’m no prude but it seemed over the top the couple of times I saw it.

      • I’ve never seen it … and I never heard of it until one of the Clackers mentioned it! Guess I’ll have to give it a look. If I knew where to look for it!

      • I guess you must love “2 broke girls” then :-)

        I just re-watched the whole show (all of S1 and the two episodes of S2 that are available) and I found three references to oral and two to anal. S1 has one reference to oral in Ep 2 (If they don’t like us they can suck it – You can suck it – no you can suck it).

        In the two episodes of S2 we have one for each when Cheeks is being overly gay on the interviews. In Episode two we have one oral reference in bed by Cheeks and one to just regular sex (which per definition is anal for gay men) by Brady in another interview (witch John Cryer). All of these are in the story about Cheeks downlplaying his “gay-ness” in interviews/the public (with ep. 1 showing the extreme side for Cheeks and Brady trying to make a stand in the interview in ep. 2 by showing his “gay-ness” in public)

        So that’s three times oral and two times anal in 45 minutes. I think it’s ok if you can’t handle that.

        I mean you’re not getting younger…

  4. I have to assume the show has its heart in the right place, despite evidence to the contrary. It has talented actors like Rannells and the actress playing the girl. And I like the idea of having two gay leads (characters as well as actors!). But I watched the first 2 episodes, and nearly every minute felt like nails on a blackboard. The tone was so arch and shrill, and the grandmother was such a horrible walking hatemonger (Sue Sylvester on “Glee” at least occasionally shows some humanity). I didn’t notice much of a reduction in Bryan’s queeniness, and I really don’t understand why that creature from the Housewives show keeps getting “acting” roles when she’s talentless and annoying. As a gay man, I want to like this show, and I want it to do well. But I also want it to be GOOD, or at least not promoting hateful stereotypes. I’ll keep watching, hoping it will improve, but if it continues along these lines, I’ll be hoping for its ratings to dive. I don’t want America seeing gay people the way they’ve been portrayed in this show.

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