Friends, we've screened the pilot of The New Normal, Ryan Murphy's equal-measures edgy and saccharine sitcom about gay aspiring dads and their quirky surrogate. But is it worth your time? Here are some first impressions that might help you decide.
The New Normal is a single-camera sitcom premiering on NBC this week. Its premise centers around David and Bryan, two young, handsome, and wealthy (!) gay men in Los Angeles who decide to start a family. They cross paths with Goldie, a down-on-her-luck single mom fresh out of a bad relationship and headed toward financial destitution. Her decision to earn money for law school by carrying David and Bryan's baby (the egg was provided by a separate donor) would seem to benefit all parties, but Goldie's conservative, gun-toting, racist nana would love nothing more than to thwart their plans.
The full pilot is available online and embedded below; it will also air Monday, September 10 at 10pm on NBC after the Season 3 premiere of The Voice. The series officially debuts in its regular timeslot on Tuesday, September 11 at 9:30pm with Episode 2.
The truly talented cast includes Justin Bartha (The Hangover) and Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon, Girls) as the main couple; Scottish ingenue Georgia King as Goldie; living legend Ellen Barkin as Nana; and NeNe Leakes (Glee, The Real Housewives of Atlanta) rounds out the ensemble as Bryan's assistant, Rocky. Other notable faces in the pilot include Michael Hitchcock (Best in Show) and a surprise guest-star as the egg donor (a Ryan Murphy regular).
It's impossible to discuss The New Normal without immediately mentioning that it's the new show from our generation's Aaron Spelling, Ryan Murphy. It's his first single-camera sitcom, but like most of his recent oeuvre, he works in collaboration with another partner, in this case Allison Adler whose previous credits include Glee and Chuck.
Good question! Seriously, this show will infuriate almost everyone, from people who are sympathetic to gay parenthood to, especially, people with an aversion to the subject. That being said, the snappy humor and appealing cast count for a lot, so depending on your mood you may be surprised at how enjoyable many of the pilot's absurdities are. (A visual joke involving a Barbie-branded Power Wheels made me laugh out loud.)
The cast, the rapidfire humor, and some genuinely affecting emotional moments. (There are definitely some maddeningly contrived emotional moments, too.) And while many of the characters are broad caricatures in the pilot (in particular, Barkin's Nana who recalls a sort of poor man's Lucille Bluth), the show has great potential to improve once they all become more nuanced human beings. Also, you know, there's the whole message behind the show, which is theoretically laudable. If only it didn't borderline negate that message every few minutes...
Honestly, some of the racist jokes Nana makes—while admirably non-P.C.—weren't clever enough to justify stinking up the script with that kind of negativity. And, this may just be a personal reaction, but as a gay viewer I definitely didn't appreciate the portrayal of the primary couple, whose behavior and decisions somehow managed to be stereotypical, unrealistic, and basically offensive all at the same time. For example, Bryan repeatedly compares his future baby to a fashion accessory? Are these jokes really so funny that they're worth destroying my sympathy for his character over? And don't get me started on the wise-beyond-her-years child character. CUT IT OUT, TV WRITERS.
If you know the premise and you've seen the ads and the show looks appealing to you, then you may enjoy it. But if you have any suspicion that you won't, trust your gut.
How does an entire episode sound?
Maybe one of those cheap, sweet wines you might find in a gas station convenience store. You know, something that seemed like a good idea at the time.
The New Normal officially debuts Tuesday, September 11 at 9:30pm (with a "sneak preview" on Monday, September 10 at 10pm after the premiere of The Voice) on NBC.