TV Show Journal: The New Normal

5 01 2014

Did this last year for my TV pilot class and thought I’d post it.

TV Journal: The New Normal

Genre: Half-hour, single-camera comedy (like Glee); some talking heads, like Modern Family

Broadcaster: NBC (network); the show made news when the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, refused to air the series because the representatives were Mormon because, well, the show focuses on a gay couple and they don’t get killed instantly.  Fortunately, it did get picked up by the CW affiliate in the city, and airs on the weekends.

Timeslot: Tuesdays at 9:30pm EST, after another new comedy series, Go On (NBC’s comedy hour)

Stars: Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha, Georgia King, Ellen Barkin, Bebe Wood

Creators: Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler

Season 1,

Episode 1: Pilot

Airdate: Sept. 10, 2012

Written by Ryan Murphy

Plot summary:

We are introduced to the main characters in the show.  One half of the gay couple, Bryan (Andrew Rannells) spots a cute child one day in a store and tells his partner David (Justin Bartha) that he wants to have a child.  After Bryan shows David how non-traditional families are “in”, the two decide to go on a hunt for the right surrogate.

Meanwhile, Goldie (Georgia King) finds her long-term boyfriend (of nine years) in bed with another woman one day.  This prompts her to change her life and to live her life the way she’s always wanted but never has, namely becoming a lawyer.  Goldie’s grandmother, Jane (Ellen Barkin) is a conservative who’s not fond of gays, and disapproving of just about anything Goldie does.  Goldie has a young, clever daughter, Shania (Bebe Wood), who follows in the tradition of being an unplanned child in the family.  After seeing a happy gay couple with a child on the street, Goldie realizes she wants to help other happy gay couples have a child.

Through an agency, she meets Bryan and David, who immediately love her and want her to be their surrogate to their child.  Bryan and David decide that they should use Bryan’s sperm, since Bryan is an only child and David thinks “the world needs more people like you.”  Just as Goldie is about to proceed with the implantation, her grandmother interrupts the procedure and reveals that Goldie’s father was actually gay, but that she put up with it anyway, despite being offended and grossed out by the thought that he was gay.  They go on with the procedure anyway.

The pilot ends with Bryan and David presenting Goldie a new lawyer’s suit for Goldie’s dream to go to school and become a lawyer.  Everyone is happy.  She checks the pregnancy test, and the show cuts to black.

Comments:

Well, Ryan Murphy does it again – or rather, tries to.  With Glee, he was interested in sharing his view about the importance of music and arts education in public high schools.  With The New Normal, he basically gives his flamboyant, stereotype Kurt his own show – if Kurt were a few years older and had a slightly less gay boyfriend.  It seems he thinks stereotypes are fun to watch, but quite frankly, I’m personally tired of them.  At the very least, a stereotypical gay character would be slightly less annoying to watch if he were actually different in some way.  But in the Pilot, this isn’t the case.  Bryan is the typical fabulously dressed, shopping-crazed gay.  The other characters seem fairly dull as well: David is “masculine” because he watches football and… that’s it.  Nene Leakes, who seems to be some sort of parental figure to Bryan, reprises her role, albeit with a different name, as sassy black woman (she first starred in the last season of Glee), while Bebe Wood, who plays David and Bryan’s surrogate saviour, walks around with the same wide-eyed, sad look the entire episode.  The only honourable mention in the show’s acting and characters is Goldie’s clever-beyond-her-nine-years daughter, Shania, adorably quipping lines like, “No one plans to have a kid when they’re 15, unless they’re in an extremist Christian cult!”  She easily seems to be the most logical and sanest member of the ensemble, which isn’t saying a lot.

Characters aside, the show’s pacing is way too fast.  The editing is too brisk, which makes the passage of time between scenes seem like days, or even the same day.  For example, David originally questions (but not opposes) Bryan’s plan to conceive and raise a child.  Good.  Room for lots of conflict.  This is quelled so easily – in fact, in one neat scene taking place in a playground – via Bryan’s argument that traditional families are no longer the only types of family in the world.  And magically, David is convinced, in what seems like the same day.  Other logical factors, such as financial matters, whether or not both of them are mentally ready to be parents, knowledge of how to actually care for a child, etc. don’t seem to matter, which is so frustrating to see.  If David and Bryan are representatives for gay couples everywhere, regardless of parenting ability, having a child for “cute little clothes” has got to be one of the lamest reasons out there.  In the Pilot alone, we go from gay couple thinking about having a kid, signing up to have a kid, meeting a surrogate, implantation, and finally seeing if she’s pregnant.  Sure, we’re on our way with the show, but the show spends so little time on breathing room that it’s almost as if someone pressed fast forward on this.

Still, I’m interested in seeing where the conflict will be, especially when, at this point, it all seems to be with Goldie’s Republican grandmother.  I wonder if the characters will be given more depth, as the premise of the show – gays having kids – is still a hotly-debated issue that is miles deeper than the shallowness presented thus far.

David Hinckley, of The New York Dailey News, says “The New Normal wants what Modern Family is having. But if we’re going to catapult from South Park to a Hallmark movie, we need a smoother ride.”  I really agree with this.  The pilot is so corny and gimmicky that when it presents genuine issues, these scenes feel fake. If they’re going for a comedy-drama, there needs to be something worth caring about, not just laughing about.


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