The New Normal: Episode 4 review

28 02 2014

No idea what to blog about today, so here’s another review for The New Normal.

Episode 4: “Obama Mama”

Airdate: Sept. 25, 2012

Written by Ali Adler

Plot summary:

Goldie receives a letter but doesn’t mention what it says.  Shania’s class is having a mock election.  She says that most kids vote the way their parents do, but that she’ll be voting for Obama – implying that Goldie will be voting for Romney.  Anyway, Goldie’s not that interested in politics anyway, saying her grandma stole her voting card for the last election and voted for her.

Jane, a Republican, and Bryan and David have an argument about Obama vs. Romney.  She accuses Bryan and David of being racist because they support Obama simply because he’s black.  The gay couple counter by saying they have plenty of black friends – Jane can see for herself at the party they’ll be throwing in a few days.  In the meantime, they frantically try to find some black friends because, lo and behold, they actually don’t have any.

Eventually, Bryan is able to recruit Rocky, someone he works with (who is black).  He tells her to “invite as many friends as you want”.  However, at the party, the only friends who show up are white, and they get into a short argument about how assuming Rocky must have only black friends is actually racist.  After he explains the situation about how he really wants to prove Jane wrong, she says she invited her brother, who’ll be coming soon.

Bryan then goes up to the waiter of the party, who is also black, and discovers that the waiter is also an actor.  Bryan, who works in the film/TV industry, makes the waiter act throughout the night as if it’s an audition for Bryan.  The waiter agrees, and acts like “a black Frasier” (complete with snooty accent).

At the dinner, Goldie and Rocky’s brother, Clint, flirt and get along really well.  She tells him she’s single, and he asks her out.  Jane, who sees that they’re into each other, tells Bryan and David in private that they ought to tell all their friends that they have a baby on the way.  And they do, outing Goldie as their surrogate.  Jane further embarrasses her daughter by telling everyone that Shania, Goldie’s daughter, should be here.  Clint is shocked.  Goldie, humiliated, runs away.

Bryan, David, and Jane all argue yet again after the waiter reveals himself to be an actor.  David says the important thing is to find Goldie.  Shania leads them to a fast food restaurant, as she’s been craving red meat.  Goldie reveals that Clay, her dumb husband, is suing her for custody, and that the letter says she has to take Shania back to Ohio.

At school, Shania votes for Obama.  Bryan, David, and Goldie befriend an interracial couple who have kids, and they agree to have dinner together sometime to talk about being parents.  As the couple walks away, the husband says, “This is perfect.  We were just saying we need some gay friends!”

Comments:

Well, my feeling was right.  This wasn’t as good as the last episode.  Granted, politics and race are a hard thing to write properly, so I give them props for even tackling topics that are still controversial and could alienate viewers.  At the same time, while watching Jane go on and on at the dinner about Republic values while being completely oblivious to her own bigotry, I couldn’t help but think this:

Why are Bryan and David – no, why is anyone – putting up with her?  I realize they have to occasionally run into her because she’s Goldie’s grandmother, but quite frankly, why do they have to talk to her at all, if she’s going to say such mean things to/about them to their faces?  It’s one thing if Bryan and David tried to change her mind by rationalizing with her, but they don’t, and in many ways, this is what frustrates me sometimes about this show.  It’s almost as if the show is a soap box for Jane to spew her anti-everyone agenda with, little or insufficient rebuttal.  Yes, the show is trying to make her look like an idiot, and yes, she is supposed to be an antagonist.  But time and time again, I find myself wanting – needing – someone to give her the same kind of loud, in-your-face argument from the other side.  It’s almost as if the show doesn’t want to come off as overly left-wing (how the frick can it not when it’s based around a gay couple raising a family??) so instead of going on about liberal views, it posits right-wing ones.  I think this is probably because no Republicans are going to be watching this show and enjoying it.  Therefore, the only viewers would/should be those who are more liberal, those who already know that Bryan and David aren’t Sodomites or ruining families or what have you.  But still!  Argh.

Back to this episode.  Like I said, it’s tricky to handle big issues like race, and I don’t think it was quite successfully pulled off in this case.  The plot with Bryan and David trying to find black people for their party, not to mention the subplot with the waiter acting during the dinner, isn’t all that funny.  Yeah, it’s ridiculous, but really, who cares?

There were nice moments between Goldie and Clint, though I’m biased because I thought Clint was unbelievably good-looking…. sorry, I zoned out there for a sec.  The point is, that little scene with her and Clint said a lot about her character: she’s finally happy, she’s enjoying herself, she’s getting back in the dating world.  Good for her!

There was one other thing I thought didn’t quite work.  After Goldie confesses that she has to bring Shania back to Ohio because Clay is suing her, that’s a really emotional moment.  The next scene is at Shania’s school, at the mock presidential election, and suddenly, the tone jumps to excitement and anticipation.  Tonally, it’s a huge jump, and there should have been some other transition scene between these two.  Not only is there such a difference in tone, but Goldie is now suddenly content and no longer weepy, like magic.

So, all in all, race humour, for me, doesn’t really work.  Politics are also tricky.  Try again, The New Normal.





The New Normal: Episode 3 review

13 01 2014

Episode 3: “Baby Clothes”

Airdate: Sept. 18, 2012

Written by Ryan Murphy

Plot summary:

David catches Bryan buying baby clothes and says Bryan broke their promise not to buy any clothes before the blood test results (to see if the baby has any deficiencies or problems).  At an outlet store, a straight couple say some homophobic things to Bryan and David after seeing them kiss.  When Bryan says they’re also going to have a family, the man tells them, “That’s disgusting.  I feel bad for that kid.”

After the incident, David tries to let it go, but Bryan is upset.  It’s one thing to be called names and hateful things when they’re just a gay couple, but would they do if that happened in front of their kid?  As parents, they can’t simply be ashamed or ignore it.  Their kid shouldn’t have to feel that.  “How are we supposed to protect our baby from hate?” asks Bryan.  At the next ultrasound appointment, Goldie reveals that she saw the incident with the homophobic couple and Bryan and David at the store but was too afraid to jump in and tell them off.  She says she will never do that again.  Everyone sees/hears the heartbeat of the baby.  Yay.

Meanwhile, Jane catches Shania, who is wearing a little baby dress as a midriff-revealing halter-top at school, making out with another boy.  Jane immediately becomes concerned for Shania because she had Goldie when she was 17, and Goldie had Shania when she was 17 as well.

At the end of the episode, David shows Bryan a new baby-sized track suit he bought for their kid, despite still not having the test results.  Bryan says they will always be something not perfect about their situation, that there will always be negatives in their lives (there may always be something negative/not ideal when finding out info about their unborn child through tests, and living with two dads is always going to be difficult for their kid), but he needs to “celebrate the wins.”

Goldie, Shania, and Jane come by.  Bryan and David invite them to stay.  Bryan and conservative Jane even share a moment by saying the same punchline at the same time.  Not-so subtle looks of “we might have more in common than we thought!” and the family sits down to eat dinner together.

Comments:

This is by far the best episode yet.  Let me tell you why!

As I’ve stated previously, there are lots of serious issues (still, unfortunately) when it comes to gay families and raising children.  This episode not only gives a hint of the homophobia and intolerance against gay couples, but also couples who have/intend to have children.  That’s really powerful stuff.  I’m thankful that Mr. Murphy handled the scene in the store with the bigot couple really well and not as sentimental as it could have been.  After all, there are people (unfortunately, again) who think exactly like the man in the store.  Good dramatic moment.  And the discussion with Bryan and David about it afterwards and not being parents who are ashamed was pretty touching too.

Last week, Kathleen made a comment about Jamie, the super flaming gay character on The Furies, saying that she didn’t take him seriously because he was so ridiculously gay and like an inferno fire.  That didn’t bother me much because I didn’t expect Jamie to ever have or do anything serious.  He was fun all the time (or maybe he won’t be now…).  In this ep., when Bryan is near-crying and seriously talks to David about not being ashamed to be gay in front of their kid, I couldn’t help but think that was exactly what Kathleen was talking about.  Bryan is so gay and not a serious person that when he’s the one talking about such serious, life-altering topics, the scene doesn’t quite come across as genuine as is intended.  I didn’t take him as seriously as, say, if David had been the one saying all of it.  So that didn’t quite work 100% for me (I still bought it though).

What makes this episode so good is in the way it comfortably demonstrates a very good balance between comedy and drama.  There are serious, dramatic issues with gay couples raising families, but there’s also the funny B-plot with Shania making out with a boy and Jane taking them to Planned Parenthood to get them birth control (the kids are 9 years old!!!  What a hilarious scene).  Even in these two plots, there are both dramatic and comedic elements/incidents that don’t work against each other like they did in the first two episodes.  For example, Bryan comments on a little beanie shaped like a frog and puts it on in the store, while in the other plot, Goldie realizes she should probably talk to Shania about sex so she doesn’t continue the line of 17-year old pregnancies.  Good character development all around too.

This is what I feel the show should be like, were it my show.  Still, I have this strange feeling like it won’t last…





TV show journal

25 12 2013

I’m writing a TV show journal for my TV pilot class and I realized I wrote one last year for The New Normal, which I should post here sometime.

Also, my cat says happy holidays to everyone.