The New Normal: Episode 2 review

7 01 2014

Episode 2: “Sofa’s Choice”

Airdate: Sept. 11, 2012

Written by Ryan Murphy and Allison Adler

Plot summary:

Everyone waits on a blood test that will determine whether or not Goldie is pregnant.  In the meantime, Bryan bonds with Shania, who impersonates Little Edie from Grey Gardens.  He tries to get her to confess that she drew on the expensive couch in the house.  David questions whether he’s ready to have a kid in his life.  Bryan and David offer Goldie to live in their super nice guesthouse instead of the run-down (modest, really) place they’re living at now.  Upon Jane’s (Goldie’s grandmother) insistence, Clay, now Goldie’s ex, returns to get back together with her.

Eventually, Bryan figures out it was Jane who drew on the couch (to get Bryan and David angry at Shania).  David is ready to be a dad.  Goldie rejects Clay and asks for a divorce.  After moving in for a bit, she decides that she can’t accept Bryan and David’s offer to live in the guesthouse, saying it’s what they’ve earned, not her.  At the end of the episode, everyone learns that the blood test says Goldie is pregnant.  Group hug!


Well, I like this episode more than I did the pilot, oddly enough.  Yes, most, if not all, the characters are still stereotypes (Bryan getting upset that the expensive, brand-name couch got vandalized, Clay is a Neanderthal straight man), but there are some interesting developments.  We see how David and Bryan met years ago.  Bryan doesn’t seem to have changed (he was the same flamboyant guy), but David, dressed like a geek and fresh out of medical school, is shy, socially awkward and wants to impress his (straight) friends by buying Bryan a drink.  That’s the kind of gay guy I want to see on TV.  Then we jump back to the present, and David is now not dressed like a geek, is well-groomed and handsome.  He’s nice to look at, sure, but he’s not as compelling a character as he once was, it seems.  At least for me.

Shania not fitting in at school is a familiar thing that Ryan Murphy’s been mining on Glee.  It makes sense, though, considering Shania is an oddball.  On the other hand, the Jane as the antagonist is already beginning to feel forced.  Yeah, I get that she’s the personification for all the Republican, conservative beliefs out there, but she’s so evil with no characterization that she comes off as a caricature/cartoon villain.  We know her efforts are going to fail, but that she’ll be back next week to try and ruin things again.  Not sure if she’s actually going to do anything besides be a one-note character (it also doesn’t help that Ellen Barkin delivers her lines in the same tone over and over again).

Maybe this is just me, but I’m beginning to really see Murphy’s writing, to the point where it pulls me out of the scene.  For example, Jane tells Goldie, ““Your daughter has no business spending time with those candy-packers in that Sodom and Gomorrah fudge factory”.  This is meant to be funny, I know, but it’s crass and feels like something Sue Sylvester would say on Glee.  It made me aware of the writing because although it might look funny on the page and be something Jane would say, it’s such an unnatural phrase that it doesn’t work in the show.

Also, maybe I’m just getting used to the pacing, but this episode doesn’t feel as hurried as the pilot.  There are still some cuts that are abrupt, but it seems as if the show is settling down, finding its groove.  I hope so, anyway.

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.


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.

Coast is Queer reviews? Anyone?

29 08 2013

Having trouble trying to find anyone’s reactions/reviews to the wonderful short films at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival’s Coast is Queer last week. I’m super interested in hearing what people had to say about my film, June  (does that make me self-centered?)

Please comment, someoneeeeeeeeee…………..

Les Miserables sucks

30 12 2012

But I’m gay so I must like musicals, right?

Well, yes, I like a good musical every now and then.  But a good one.  And I’m sure Les Miserables on stage is pretty awesome.  I have no doubt about that.

Les Miserables as a film — well, what can I say about that.  I think I can understand why people– well, fans of the musical– love the movie adaptation.  I haven’t seen it so I can’t comment on the adaptation.  However, as a film, it’s really not very good.  Film is a visual medium; the singing is great (aside from Russell Crowe), but the scenes are so static that it’s just boring to watch.  Sure, Anne Hathaway is tremendous and will likely win a well-deserved Oscar (I was crying during “I Dreamed a Dream”, not just because of the song itself), but her performance isn’t enough to sustain a fairly mediocre-ly, very disappointingly shot and edited film.  There were shots, like near the end when Marius and Jean Valjean are standing in a near-empty room together, and the camera angle is skewed that is simply jarring and seemingly a poor choice in framing (I found myself thinking, “Whyyyyyyyy?”).  I could go on about the lack of wide shots that would’ve made use of the fantastic art direction and costumes and how the story (and my attention span) went down after Hathaway’s departure from the film, but I think this review sums it up for me:

Oh, and I finally found this on youtube.  The best part of the film, by far.

One more review to go…

31 08 2012

I’m so behind everything, and so tired at the same time.  Still need to get my textbooks and I got word today that some poems I submitted for a literary magazine didn’t get chosen, which is a little disheartening.  Oh well.

My Last Round (Mi ultimo round)

25 08 2012

Synopsis: a closeted, retired boxing champ and his partner come across difficulties when moving to a new city and starting a new life together.

Super awesome things: a gay boxer!  In South America!  Awesome!

One of the best things about this slow, observant film is that the gayness presented from the protagonist doesn’t feel like the crutch of the film.  Rather, it is merely a part of his identitiy.  He just happens to be a gay boxer who loves a man.  I like the the film tackles the macho world of boxing too.  Although I don’t really like boxing or violent sports, I understood how it can be someone’s passion.  It’s also particularly interesting how Octavio, the boxer, goes after the more effeminate man (who looks like the Latino version of Rufus Wainwright, I swear), as we constantly see the other way around in movies.  Despite nabbing a boyfriend, Octavio doesn’t seem super-in love with him.  As the film progresses, however, and Hugo has a kiss with the obligatory evil straight woman, Jenny, there’s a sense that even though Octavio isn’t affectionate, he’s still loyal and wouldn’t cheat on Hugo.  I think his character is one of the deeper characters at the Queer Film Fest this year, and it was cool to see him on screen, played exceptionally well by the actor.

Not so awesome things:  Sigh.

Why, ending, why??

It doesn’t feel like an ending, and certainly for Hugo, it’s a double whammy of deaths.  I suppose it’s a slight twist on the convention of the macho gay guy getting involved with another woman and ruining things between the two men by having Hugo be the cheater, but why must women always be a source of conflict in gay films?  Why must gay menin movies be torn apart by such negative portrayals of women?  At the very least, Hugo knows what he’s done is wrong and doesn’t pursue Jenny after their awkward kiss.  I just wished there was a better, happier ending, where gay men would actually solve their problems instead of being killed off.  Dying is not a solution, people.

Good for watching: if you’re feeling down.

Overall: nicely made, slightly unconventional save for the unfortunate ending.

Grade: B



20 08 2012

Synopsis: three Muslim-Germans deal with issues of their faith in different ways.

Super awesome things:  The intersecting narrative structure, like that of Crash, can be a useful and effective structure, if employed correctly.  Otherwise, like Crash, it can feel gimmicky and work against the film.  Fortunately, in Shahada, the character intersections feel quite natural and develop naturally as well.  Although the three main characters never interact with each other directly, they’re never that far from each other, which is an interesting observation.  The thing I like about this film the most is that it has a very modern way of looking at Islam.  Three young-ish people who are all Muslim to varying degrees have to juggle their identities to fit the modern, Western world , which is still a relevant topic and source of conflict in this world.

The three stories involve a young woman named Maryam who seems to be yet another clubber in Berlin’s night scene, but quickly becomes a devout and traditional Muslim following an illegal abortion; Sammi, who is conflicted with having feelings for a patient, quiet co-worker (who also likes him back and is so adorable); and Ismail, a cop whose life gets confusing when he starts having relations with a woman he shot once.  All three of these stories involve a lot of conflict from the self (save for Maryam, who faces conflict from her peers and father who believe she has gone too far into fundamentalism), which I think is interesting.  The events here are also shown to be fairly neutral, and leaves things for us to decide if the characters are right or wrong.  There’s no judgement here (well, again, except for Maryam’s story).  It’s well-written and moves at a very good pace.

Not so awesome things:  Just because all three stories are mostly handled well, doesn’t mean they’re all believable.  When Maryam regresses from being a liberal-ish clubbing young woman to a near fundamentalist, the change is too abrupt.  Sure, she may have witnessed “signs”, but she doesn’t seem to question their validity and instead accepts them as a call to be more religious.  I don’t know about you, but if I were singing and dancing in a club to a song about equating the need to fuck to breathing, it would take me a while –if ever — to become super religious like Maryam.

Likewise, Ismail’s strange relationship with a woman he shot in the past, is weird (he seems to know that, at least) and a little too unbelievable.  I can understand being inexplicably drawn to someone, but neither he nor the woman he shot seem to acknowledge just how damn strange it is.  At least he calls her out on not being sent by God to get rid of her baby, which in turn, raises some good questions about fate vs. religious calling, but then their relationship ends so abruptly he he returns to his family with such a blank look in his eyes that we wonder if he really even cares.

And the ending… well, there’s open-ended, which I appreciate.  And then there’s really open-ended.  For me, the ending of Shahada was too open.  Why did Maryam leave her hospital room anyway?  Where is she going?  Just too many questions.

Good for watching: instead of Crash.

Overall: entertaining and brings up a lot of questions of faith in the today’s society.

Grade: B

Mosquita y Mari

17 08 2012

Alright, so here are my famous reviews for this year’s Queer Film Festival.  I won’t be going to see the big-name movies (ie. Tomboy, North Sea Texas, Invisible Men), as I’ve seen those already (all three of those are fantastic films, btw).  Nevertheless, I have a pretty full schedule lined up ahead of me.  Let’s get this thing goin’!

Mosquita y Mari

Synopsis: two Latina girls in the US deal with a friendship that may be more.

Super awesome things: I needed to think about this film.  I left quite quickly after because I had to run off to the next film of the night, and didn’t have much time to really absorb this very good debut feature film from Aurora Guerrero until, well, about now.  I left the theatre having really enjoyed what I watched, but why?  Could it be the obvious fact of a story between two Hispanic teenagers that wasn’t at all cliched or follow the typical formula of other gay teen romance films?  Could it be the pauses and silences between characters, ones that leave audiences wondering what the people on-screen could be thinking?  And then I realized it: it’s all of these things.  Moreover, all of these things are simple things.

What I like best about Mosquita y Mari is the simplicity.  Guerrero knows the formula (or at least, should be familiar of it) of other gay films, and having the film between the two, wonderfully-acted leads be more about a confusing but rewarding friendship than a super dramatic romance thing was a probably the best choice she made.  From the simple plot point of Mosquita (her real name is Yolanda, but Mari calls her Mosquita, which translates to “little fly”) helping Mari with math, to simply framed shots of the two girls lying in side by side in the abandoned car lot while the sunlight pours in from the open roof — there’s a very great sense of sincerity and genuineness for reality in this film.  It doesn’t strive to have everyone win.  This is a simple, realistic story of two girls.

Not so great things: the film is noticeably low-budget, but frankly, it’s so charming and well-made for an independent film that it doesn’t really matter.  I also didn’t quite understand why Yolanda, who says she is a sophomore, is given college pamphlets by her math teacher.  Really?  I mean, yeah, she’s super smart, but it’s just a tad early, isn’t it?  The dynamics between both sets of parents and their daughters is not excavated much, either.  We see Yolanda’s parents getting in a huff about a “boy” they think is the cause of their daughter’s declining grades, but when her mother makes the discovery of looking out the oft-looked-out-of-window by Yolanda to Mari’s place across the street, there’s a look of realization on her face.  It’s not a boy after all.  Unfortunately, there’s never a confrontation between parent and child, and in a film about an ethnic community said to have voted in large numbers in favour of Proposition 8, the infamous bill that kicked same-sex marriage back in dreamland in California a few years ago, there was a clear opportunity to explore the how and why the Latino community feels about queer issues.  But this film is about Mosquita and Mari, yes, and most, if not all of the conflict in this little film, comes from them, not from external forces such as homophobia.

Good for watching: as an exercise in what you can do with an independent production.

Overall: an excellent, simple first feature from Guerrero.

Grade: A-

Review for On the Bus

22 03 2012

Just something interesting I found, even though it’s about 3 years old.  Four upside-down triangles out of five!  Yay!

Riding On the Bus (), young Jeremy agonizes over his crush on super-hunky classmate Sean, carrying on an imaginary conversation with the object of his unspoken affection. With some prodding from both the imaginary and the real, he may be ready to make his feelings known. Cute.


I was supposed to post a review

24 10 2011

of a film but I have left this again to the last minute of the day and am unable to do that.  Instead, here’s a somewhat creepy-sounding tune from– you guessed it– Vanessa Carlton to set the Halloween mood.  Really digging this song right now.

“Hear the Bells”