Fall 2012 Review: The New Normal

14 Sep

Maybe I had this preconception going in, so it’s unfair, but The New Normal felt like it definitely oozed a lot of the Glee Ryan Muprhy sensibility (probably not as much American Horror Story).  Not so much songs, but very slickly and cleanly produced and very quirkly, while also wearing social and racial issues on its sleeve, without a trace of subtlety.  This is exemplified by the grandmother character played by Ellen Barkin whose one note is calling everybody racist or homophobic names, and who comes off as a very poor man’s Jessica Walter in Arrested Development.

Let’s start with our premise.  An otherwise contented and career-wise successful gay couple decides they want a child.  The more flamboyant of the couple does something or other in an office where he has a sassy black female assistant who he lavishes with gifts that she buys with his dime, while the sport-loving more masculine member (played by Doug, the groom from the Hangover’s Justin Bartha) is a gynecologist.  The two find an egg donor they love (she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow) but the original surrogate for their baby attempts to blackmail them, threatening to smoke and drink unless they cater to her expensive needs.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Midwest, Goldie is working as a waitress/bartender (guessing based on uniform) and regretting her past mistakes, having a kid at 15 (her greatest mistake, in both senses of the word, etc, etc) which never let her live out her dream of going to law school.  She’s on her way to work with her aforementioned homophobic, racist, grandmother, and her daughter, when she has to stop back at home after forgetting something.  She finds her douchebaggy husband having sex with another woman, and sees this as a moment to leave everything behind and drive straight to the west coast.  Although she is originally consigned to coming back, having no money, she decides to attempt to stay, forge a new life out west, and make a go of it.

Eventually our two halves are matched up as David and Bryan (the gay couple) get matched up with Goldie who has decided to be a surrogate and as it turned out specifically requested a gay couple.  Everything’s going swimmingly as Goldie and her daughter and David and Bryan get along famously, until her grandmother storms implores her not to carry a gay couple’s baby (using more choice language, I assure you).  Goldie goes through with it, and she’s back with the couple and her daughter and we’re right about to see whether the baby took or not when the show ends (I’ve got a sneaking feeling it did).

It’s kind of Modern Family light.  There’s a big all families are different but loving message and although unorthodox totally the opposite of dysfunctional (well, grandmother aside, maybe).  It’s probably warmer and sweeter than it is funny, and generally quirky without being over the top ridiculous.  It’s not bad at all.  I felt glad for the couple too, and for Goldie to start her new life, in just that episode.  It’s not that good either though.  There’s nothing, after watching it that really pulls me back.  With comedies, it’s not really about seeing a finished product as much as it is seeing signs that can improve into something you want to watch every week.  To its credit, the show seems to come out fully formed.  Unfortunately fully formed, while not bad, is not good enough.  I have a hard time seeing this turn into a show I eagerly anticipate the next episode of .

Will I watch again?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think it’s bad, but there’s nothing compelling enough to come back for a second episode with so many other choices out there.  Even Modern Family, which had strong moments was never really my favorite kind of show.

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